Dante Exum is draft combine's biggest mystery

ap-sixers-dante-exum.jpg

Dante Exum is draft combine's biggest mystery

CHICAGO -- Dante Exum walked to his assigned table at the NBA draft combine Thursday and was immediately swamped by reporters.

There is plenty of mystery surrounding the 18-year-old from Australia and those in attendance were eager to learn more about the prospect.

Exum did not play college ball like the majority of his peers. He has also spent the past three months in seclusion, working out with personal trainers in Los Angeles.

Yet, the 6-foot-6 point guard is still projected by numerous mocks to go as high as the fourth pick in the NBA draft and no lower than seventh.

“They all have an idea of what I am about, but the college players they have seen play 40-game seasons and they haven’t seen me play a lot,” Exum said. “When they try to look at tape, they can’t see a lot of tape of me.”

In Exum’s opinion, even the game footage that does exist of him is no longer an accurate depiction of his game.

“My game has changed a whole lot from those clips,” Exum said. “I am a take-it-to-the-rim type of player and I beat my man off the dribble and try to draw help to find other players.

“I guess that is what puts me in a good position to be a point guard. Also, I can be that vocal leader. I have that voice that can be used to say what needs to be done on the court in that moment.”

While Exum’s size (6-6, 188) makes it enticing to play him as a shooting guard, he was emphatic about where he views his best chance to succeed in the NBA.

“I see myself as a point guard. I have always played the point guard position and I am comfortable at that position,” he said. “That is what I am entering myself into the draft as and that is what I want to play.”

Exum is talked about as lottery pick mainly because of his showing during last summer’s FIBA U-19 World Championships. He averaged 18.2 points, 3.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists. Exum’s scoring spiked in the last nine games of the tournament as he averaged 25.5 points.

That performance boosted the Melbourne native’s draft stock, so he decided to forego collegiate hoops and focus on turning pro.

Upon arriving in Chicago on Wednesday, Exum met with the Sixers, Phoenix Suns and Detroit Pistons.

While the process is new to the young PG, he saw a familiar face in head coach Brett Brown when he sat down with the Sixers.

“I have had a good relationship with him,” Exum said of Brown, who coached his father Cecil in the Australian National Basketball League. “He brought me into my first Australian national team camp a couple years ago and it was good to catch up with him and see where we have gone in these years.”

The Sixers have their own 6-foot-6 point guard who also happens to be the newly-minted Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter-Williams. Exum explained that the two could co-exist if the cards fell that way.

“Most teams that are looking at me are trying to look at a two point guard setup,” Exum said. “The way that system works is where you can get it to either point guard and they can kind of run the show.”

The Sixers experimented with that scenario at times last season when playing Carter-Williams and the 6-foot-6 Tony Wroten together.

The comparisons of Exum to Carter-Williams because of body size are understandable. However, unlike MCW, Exum is said to have an incredibly quick first step, a characteristic he thinks will help him make the adjustment at the next level.

“My game defensively is pretty good. I have great foot speed and that is definitely something we have been working on the last two months,” Exum said. “I want to be a point guard, so I am going into a league where there are a lot of fast point guards. Working on my foot speed is something I am going to have to keep working on but also my strength. We have been in the weight room working on getting a strong core base so that I am doing the hitting and not getting hit.”

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Sixers free-agent fits: Point guards

Over the course of this week, we will look at the Sixers' free-agent possibilites at each position. First up is point guard.

Sixers point guards for 2016-17
T.J. McConnell (non-guaranteed, $874,636)

Kendall Marshall (non-guaranteed, $2,048,257)

Current PG situation
The Sixers' biggest hole is at the point guard spot. Brett Brown has deemed this position the most important on the court, yet it has been the most changing. 

Last season, the Sixers did not establish a consistent starting point guard until they re-acquired Ish Smith in December. Smith wasn't brought in as the long-term point guard of the future, though. He is an unrestricted free agent again this summer and should receive interest from other teams after a solid season stepping into the starting role. 

There are several young point guards on the market, but the Sixers would benefit the most from bringing in someone with veteran experience to be a leader on the court. While incoming rookie Ben Simmons can play point-forward, the team plans to start him off at the four spot and let him learn the NBA first before assigning him ball-handling duties. With that in mind, a good free-agent fit would be able to play off the ball when Simmons does run the floor. 

Of the current players, McConnell has developed into a backup option after emerging as the sleeper of last season's team. The Sixers would be getting a bargain with his contract value (see below). The sparingly-utilized Marshall has a non-guaranteed deal at just over $2 million for next season and the team could get more return spending that money elsewhere. 

Reach free agent
Mike Conley (unrestricted)

Even in spite of his injuries, Conley is the best point guard available in free agency. He averaged 15.3 points, 6.1 assists, 2.9 rebounds and 1.5 turnovers for the Grizzlies last season. Conley has a high basketball IQ and is playoff-tested. He will garner big money on the market, and the Sixers are not necessarily looking to break the bank this summer to fill the role. Conley could stay with the Grizzlies, who put together a Justin Timberlake-led video to express their interest in keeping him. He will turn 29 in October. 

Possible fits
Matthew Dellavedova (restricted, $1,434,095 qualifying offer)
Could there be another Australian on the Sixers next season? Brown, who coached there, is a fan of Dellavedova's game. Dellavedova, 25, averaged 7.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.1 rebounds for the championship-winning Cavaliers. Dellavedova could have double value to the Sixers: he could run the floor and give Simmons a sense of familiarity being from Australia. 

Jeremy Lin (unrestricted)
Lin was a backup for the Hornets last season and could earn a paycheck this summer as a starter. He would like to find a long-term team, which may not fit into the Sixers' plans for the future. Lin, though, does have six years of experience and averaged 11.7 points, 3.0 assists and 3.2 rebounds mostly off the bench for the Hornets. 

Greivis Vasquez (unrestricted)
Vasquez's sixth season was cut short after only 23 games because of foot surgery last December. Coming off of injury, could he be available at a discount? When healthy, he is a high-energy ball handler. Vasquez averaged 5.7 points, 4.0 assists and 2.0 rebounds per game last season. 

Ben Simmons favorite to win Rookie of Year, Joel Embiid not far behind

Ben Simmons favorite to win Rookie of Year, Joel Embiid not far behind

Last week, the Sixers used the No. 1 overall pick to take Ben Simmons out of LSU. 

This week, Simmons is the favorite to be the NBA's Rookie of the Year in 2017, according to Bovada

Simmons, 6-10, 242 pounds, beat out Buddy Hield (11/2), Brandon Ingram (13/2), Kris Dunn (15/2) and Jamal Murray and Denzel Valentine (both 12/1) among the top six. 

Right after them? Joel Embiid. Embiid was the Sixers' third overall pick in 2014, but foot injuries haven't allowed him to play in either of his first two NBA seasons. Now 22, Embiid's odds to become Rookie of the Year are 14/1. 

The last Sixer to win Rookie of the Year was Michael Carter-Williams in 2013-14. He was the last since Allen Iverson in 1996-97. 

Here are this year's full Rookie of the Year odds from Bovada:  

Ben Simmons (PHI)

13/4

Buddy Hield (NO)

11/2

Brandon Ingram (LAL)  

13/2

Kris Dunn (MIN)    

15/2

Jamal Murray (DEN) 

12/1

Denzel Valentine (CHI) 

12/1

Joel Embiid (PHI) 

14/1

Wade Baldwin (MEM)

16/1

Marquese Chriss (PHO) 

16/1

Thon Maker (MIL)     

16/1

Taurean Prince (ATL)      

16/1

Dragan Bender (PHO)    

20/1

Jaylen Brown (BOS)

20/1

Brice Johnson (LAC)   

20/1

Caris LeVert (BKN)   

20/1

Malachi Richardson 

20/1

Jakob Poeltl (TOR)    

25/1

Domantas Sabonis (OKC) 

28/1

 

Cousin of Sixers' Ben Simmons killed in hit-and-run accident Saturday

Cousin of Sixers' Ben Simmons killed in hit-and-run accident Saturday

The cousin of Sixers No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons was killed in a hit-and-run accident early Saturday morning.

Zachary Simmons, 21, was struck by a black SUV around 3:30 a.m., CBS New York initially reported. Ben Simmons confirmed the death of his cousin on Twitter.

Zachary Simmons' mother, Monique Steel, said she was told by police that the driver was going at least 70 miles an hour. She also told CBS2 in New York that her son was out Friday for a friend's birthday and was celebrating the night before with his first cousin, Ben, following the NBA draft.

Investigators are analyzing pieces of the SUV and checking surveillance video in attempt to find the driver.

Ben Simmons, a native of Australia, has roots in New York where his father Dave was born.