Sixers draft target: G Dante Exum

Sixers draft target: G Dante Exum
June 9, 2014, 9:00 am
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When he was 15, Dante Exum was invited by Brett Brown to train with the Australian National Team. (AP)

In the first installment of our series before June 26's NBA draft, John Gonzalez analyzes an international point guard who may or may not fit well with the Sixers' reigning Rookie of the Year:

Dante Exum
Position: G
Height/Weight: 6-6, 196
Country: Australia

The international man of mystery. Exum, who won’t turn 19 until July, has played most of his basketball in Australia, with a few timeouts for international stops and various camps. At last summer’s FIBA U-19 World Championships, he averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. It’s tough to place those numbers in context or really know what Exum is currently capable of because, to date, he hasn’t faced the same consistent level of competition he would have by playing college ball in the States.

There’s a fair amount of projection that goes into any evaluation of Exum. His enthusiasts, a faction to which I happily belong, have spent hours watching grainy YouTube videos of Exum just to catch a glimpse of him. He is Bigfoot with a better handle. (Toss-up on who has the better jumper.)

There had been some debate about which guard position Exum will play in the NBA, but at the recent pre-draft combine in Chicago, Exum said he sees himself as a point guard. He also insisted that those videos we’ve been watching on a loop for the last year are no longer an accurate representation of his game. He’s grown. He’s better. That’s what he said. But in the absence of new footage, we’ll stick to what’s currently available.

If anyone knows Exum’s skill set, it’s Brett Brown. When he coached the Australian National team, Brown invited a then-15-year-old Exum to train with the squad. Brown also coached Exum’s father, Cecil, when Exum was an assistant with the Melbourne Tigers.

Strengths
He measured well at the combine: 6-6 in shoes, big wingspan for the position, bulked up to 196 pounds, and had the third-best lane agility time. His vertical leap could have been better, but it wasn’t terrible.

That basically tells us what we already suspected: He’s big for a point guard and quick with his first step. He has an excellent handle and body control, and shows an understanding of when and how to change speeds. Should give opposing point guards fits at both ends. He’s good in transition and can finish. Has good court vision and passing ability. And he’s regarded as a pretty good rebounder.

Here’s just about the best preseason scouting profile you’re likely to find on Exum. I’ve watched it countless times. It’s better than Mad Men.

Weaknesses
He needs to get bigger. But that will come in time. He’s only 18. He can also be more careful with the ball -- sometimes he’s turnover prone. That should improve when he plays with better teammates who are capable of helping him.

Then there’s the jump shot. That’s the biggest concern. The actual shot from the perimeter needs to be better, as does his shot selection. At the aforementioned FIBA U-19 World Championships, he hit 33.3 percent from three in nine games. And in an interview with DraftExpress, Exum admitted that his outside shot needs polish.

How he’d fit with the Sixers
Glad you asked. Here’s a long look at that question and an attempted answer.

NBA comparison
In that DraftExpress interview, Exum compared himself to Derrick Rose because of his ability to find the open man or break down the defender, get to the rim and finish. If you look at his strengths, weaknesses (particularly his perimeter shot) and body, he’s a Michael Carter-Williams type with more upside.

Draft projection
Top four.