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 draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

Sixers draw high praise from Warriors after loss to NBA leader

BOX SCORE

The Warriors are the blueprint of a total team in the NBA. They have a star-studded starting lineup and a top sixth man with the positional versatility that creates hard-to-combat matchups.

Yet, as the Warriors notched their 50th win of the season, 119-108, in a collaborative effort against the Sixers, they gave credit to the potential they see in their opponent, even when Brett Brown didn't have his key pieces on the court Monday (see Instant Replay).

"They play hard," Stephen Curry said. "They have some talent to work around. Hopefully they have some consistency with their roster going forward and getting guys healthy. One thing about them, you've got to compliment their energy and effort and fight every night they play."

Facing the Warriors with a full squad is challenging enough. The Sixers did it shorthanded without Joel Embiid, who is out indefinitely with a left knee contusion (see story). They also are less than a week removed from trading starting power forward Ersan Ilyasova and the defensive-minded Nerlens Noel.

"You've got to give this team a lot of credit," Draymond Green said. "They're going to be really, really, really good. I mean, they're missing Embiid and Ben Simmons and they're really on their way."

With 10 available players, including Justin Anderson, who has had just one shootaround to actually get a run in with the team, the Sixers fought until the final buzzer sounded. Dario Saric led the Sixers with 21 points and seven assists, while also collecting seven rebounds. Gerald Henderson scored 16 and both Robert Covington and Richaun Holmes added 15 (see feature highlight). Covington also grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.

"They play the right way," Klay Thompson said. "They made it tough on us tonight. I'm excited to see their team when Embiid and Simmons are healthy. It should be a scary frontcourt, and with Saric. They're heading in the right direction. They'll only get better this June because they have some high picks. It's a bright future in Philly."

The Sixers held the Warriors to 6 for 29 three-point shooting (20.7 percent), including an 0-for-11 outing by Curry. This was the third time this season and only the 37th time in his career Curry missed all of his three-point attempts.

"I think he had an off night," Brown said. "I think at times we got lucky with them as a team. They didn't shoot it the way the team normally would shoot it. Some of it is I give our guys credit."

Curry took his uncharacteristic performance, which included a pair of air-balls, in stride.

"The weatherman said it was a low-pressure system that was coming and I forgot to adjust," Curry said. "One thing, [I] don't ever get down on myself. Obviously that's why I got 11 of them up and not make one. You still have confidence the next one's going in."

Still, the Warriors turned to team basketball to pull away with the win. While they struggled from long range, they found other ways to run up the scoreboard, including shooting 33 for 39 at the free throw line.

Kevin Durant led all players with 27 points to go with eight rebounds. Green recorded a 14-point, 11-assist double-double and six boards. Thompson scored 21 points and Zaza Pachulia added 16. And at the end of the night, Curry still finished with 19 points in spite of his three-point woes.

"We've been doing this for a while together now and just try to find ways to get it done," Green said. "Obviously you've got to do a lot more on the defensive end to get stops, and try to create more offense. I think it was a good effort from everybody tonight to chip in."

Added Curry: "For us to still have the moxie to withstand that and still pretty much have the lead the whole game and allow our defense to get us a win tonight was kind of our M.O."

The Warriors are a perennial title contender thanks to their balanced roster and depth of weapons. The Sixers are in the beginning stages of working toward that goal. After Monday's game, the NBA's strongest example of "team" appreciated the direction in which Sixers are moving.

"Putting this franchise back together," Green said, "it's amazing to see."

Best of NBA: Mavs top Heat, improve to 2-0 with Nerlens Noel

Best of NBA: Mavs top Heat, improve to 2-0 with Nerlens Noel

DALLAS -- Seth Curry scored 29 points, Harrison Barnes added 24 and the Dallas Mavericks beat Miami 96-89 on Monday night, handing the Heat just their third loss in 19 games.

Curry looked a little like famous older brother Stephen Curry of Golden State by hitting two long 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the latter giving Dallas a 90-89 lead. The Mavericks rallied from 14 points down in the first quarter and let an 11-point third-quarter lead get away.

Two games after scoring a career-high 31 points in a loss at Minnesota, Curry was 5 of 7 from long range to help the Mavericks improve to 2-0 with forward-center Nerlens Noel, who came from the Sixers before the trade deadline.

Goran Dragic scored 24 points for the Heat, who went scoreless over the final 4:37 as a three-game winning streak ended (see full recap).

DeRozan tops Knicks with late jumper, scores 37
NEW YORK -- DeMar DeRozan made a turnaround jumper with 1.9 seconds remaining, finishing with 37 points and leading the Toronto Raptors to a 92-91 victory over the New York Knicks on Monday night.

The Raptors won their fourth in a row, doing it with DeRozan and defense after learning earlier in the day that All-Star Kyle Lowry will have right wrist surgery that could sideline him the rest of the regular season.

Carmelo Anthony scored 24 points for the Knicks, but finished a 9-for-26 night when he missed a long jumper as time expired.

Newcomers Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker were on the floor down the stretch as the Raptors clawed back from a 17-point, first-half deficit. Ibaka finished with 15 points.

Toronto moved percentage points ahead of Washington for third place in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors host the Wizards on Wednesday.

Derrick Rose and Courtney Lee each scored 16 points for the Knicks (see full recap).

LeBron leads Cavs over Bucks in return from strep throat
CLEVELAND  -- LeBron James returned from a bout with strep throat and scored 24 points, Kyrie Irving added 25 and the Cleveland Cavaliers held off the Milwaukee Bucks 102-95 on Monday night.

James missed Saturday's loss to Chicago -- the Cavs fell to 0-4 this season without their superstar -- and was listed as questionable before arriving at Quicken Loans Arena. He looked fit from the start, delivering an early dunk and adding one in the fourth that he capped by screaming, "That's and one!" at MiIwaukee's John Henson, who fouled him.

James' dunk triggered an 11-0 run that helped put away the Bucks, who were within 86-85 midway through the fourth.

Malcolm Brogdon scored 20 to lead Milwaukee, and Bucks All-Star Giannis Antetokounmpo scored just nine on 4-of-13 shooting (see full recap).