Dante Exum is draft combine's biggest mystery

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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 Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

Sixers Mailbag: Joel Embiid's return, signing Kyle Lowry?

This week I tweeted asking for questions for a Sixers mailbag, and the replies came pouring in. (Thanks, everyone!)

So we changed it up and in addition to answering the questions in these articles, we also discussed some of the topics on PST Extra. Read below and watch the video for the responses.

If you tweeted a question with #CSNSixersMailbag and don't see it on here, there will be plenty more answered leading up to the draft and free agency.

Both players are planning to return to the court during the offseason.

Joel Embiid recently said he intends to be ready for opening night and to play all 82 games next season. That would mean he has a lot of work to do before then. Embiid, who underwent knee surgery in March, has been pleased with his rehab and is scheduled for another scan. He has not been jumping and plans to be cleared for 5-on-5 this summer.

"Every day I go in and do some rehab on my knee, on my whole body basically," Embiid said last week at the draft lottery. "Then [I] get on the court, shoot a little bit flat-footed, and then lift. After lifting, I go in the pool and [on the] treadmill and then start running in the pool. Usually, I'm there for about four, five hours every day."

Covington underwent surgery for a right meniscus tear in mid-April. He actually began his rehab before the procedure, which doctors told him could cut down on his recovery time. Following the surgery, the Sixers announced Covington was expected to "resume basketball activities" this summer.

Training camp is still months away. The players will be closely watched during that period before their availability and minutes are determined for the start of the season.

Rye.

And for the non-question, I'll give that a reply too. I see this point of view: draft a young small forward and bring in an experienced guard. I could envision an opposite scenario, though.

The Sixers could bolster their perimeter play through free agency or a trade. They lacked depth at small forward last season. A player with years on his résumé could fill that void faster than a rookie who will need time to develop into an NBA player.

As for Lowry, there's no question he can improve any NBA team. As I noted a few weeks ago, he is at a different stage in his career than the Sixers are in their progress. The Sixers also have Jerryd Bayless on the books to provide that veteran leadership to Ben Simmons as he learns how to play the one spot.

If I had to go with adding experience at one position or the other, I'd lean toward small forward over point guard.

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

NBA Notes: Cavs-Warriors III joins past championship trilogies

It never happened between Magic Johnson's Lakers and Larry Bird's Celtics. Same for Michael Jordan and Karl Malone or Jerry West and Bill Russell.

While there have been 14 rematches in NBA Finals history, this year's meeting between LeBron James' Cleveland Cavaliers and Stephen Curry's Golden State Warriors will be the first trilogy in league history.

After the Warriors beat the Cavs for their first title in 40 years in 2015, Cleveland got revenge last season with a comeback from 3-1 down to give the city its first major championship since 1964. Now they meet for the rubber match starting June 1 in Oakland.

While this may be unprecedented in the NBA, it has happened once before in the NFL, NHL and Major League Baseball with matchups that included some of those sports' biggest stars.

There was Babe Ruth vs. Frankie Frisch in the 1920s and then a pair of memorable three-peat matchups in the 1950s featuring Otto Graham against Bobby Layne in the NFL and Gordie Howe against Maurice Richard in the NHL.

Warriors: Durant once team’s 2nd choice
Truth be told, Golden State's former coach wasn't sure the Warriors needed Kevin Durant.

The Warriors were already small-ball sensations, capable of piling up the points with their daring drives and sizzling shooting. So rather than add another scorer, Don Nelson figured Golden State might be better off getting a dominant man in the middle to shore up the defense in the 2007 NBA draft.

Nelson thought the Warriors needed Greg Oden.

That was 10 years ago, leading up to the heavily hyped draft in which the Oden-Durant debate raged throughout basketball. And now, as Durant leads the league's most potent team into the NBA Finals while Oden is long gone from the NBA spotlight, it's easy to forget that a lot of people agreed with Nelson.

"I think everyone felt that there were two players there that were going to be prominent players, but one thing you can't count on is injuries," Warriors executive Jerry West said. "So Greg really never had a chance to have a career, where Kevin's obviously been more than advertised."

Celtics: Thomas unsure if he’ll need surgery
Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas wanted to keep playing in the Eastern Conference finals, but team doctors and officials convinced him he needed to shut down his season for his long-term health.

"They had multiple people come in and talk to me about what's more important," Thomas said Friday, a day after the Celtics were eliminated by the Cleveland Cavaliers. "But I definitely wasn't trying to hear that at that point in time."

Thomas injured the hip in March and aggravated it in the second-round series against Washington. He played three halves against the Cavaliers before limping off the court in the middle of Game 2.

The Celtics lost that game by 44 points to fall behind 0-2 in the best-of-seven series, then announced the next day that Thomas was done for the season. Still, they beat the Cavaliers in Cleveland the next game before falling easily in Games 4 and 5.

"Eastern Conference finals, that's the biggest stage I've ever been on," Thomas said at the team's practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts. "To not be able to go back out there in that second half and continue that series was painful. Like it hurt me."

Speaking for the first time since the end of his season, Thomas said he might need surgery but it's "not the No. 1 option right now." He will have to wait for more tests until the swelling goes down, he said (see full story).