Dante Exum. You’ve heard the name, but come with us as we explore his strengths, weaknesses and phenomenal upside.
To many, Dante Exum is an international man of mystery.
The 6-6 point guard from Australia has been near the top of draft boards all season and seems to be next in line in the series of athletic point guards taken in the first handful of picks. Exum, who doesn’t turn 19 until July, possesses tremendous athleticism and a diverse skill set. Put those factors together and his tremendous potential is quite apparent.
In seeing him live at the Nike Hoop Summit in 2013, Exum showed an impressively quick first step that allowed him to get to the rim and finish. His length (he tested a 6-9.5 wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine) was on display defensively, as he picked up a pair of steals against the highly touted guards of the USA squad – a cast featuring the Harrison twins, Kasey Hill and Demetrius Jackson. While Exum was squarely on the radar of many scouts before the game, his efficient 16-point outing at the Nike Hoop Summit was his coming out party toward becoming a top-five selection candidate.
Exum went to high school at the Australian Institute of Sport, putting up tremendous numbers. Additionally, he participated in the FIBA U-19 World Games in Prague, helping Australia to a fourth-place finish. During the tournament, Exum scored north of 18 points per game, while pitching in nearly four rebounds and four assists in roughly 30 minutes per game.
The greatest strengths to Exum’s game are his quickness and athleticism, ball handling, scoring ability and defensive potential. While his vertical numbers at the combine were slightly underwhelming to prior expectations, Exum has shown the ability to finish acrobatically around the rim with dunks and layups, while maneuvering around big men. His long reach aids in his ability to finish at the rim.
Exum has the “killer instinct” in scoring the ball that is coveted in many top scorers and has an improving jump shot to round out his offensive game. Defensively, Exum excels in reading passing lanes, which he often can turn into points in transition on the other end.
The biggest weaknesses to Exum’s game are an inconsistent jump shot, lack of strength and a propensity to commit turnovers. While his jump shot, (his 3-point shot, in particular) show a form that should lead to a higher shooting percentage, Exum has struggled from deep for a majority of his early career. After shooting 33 percent from 3 at the FIBA U-19 World Championships, there is reason for optimism. Exum was forced to do too much at times for his teams at the point, in terms of scoring and distribution, which resulted in too many turnovers. Playing in Prague, Exum had a turnover percentage of 12.3. Also, like many young prospects, Exum needs to commit to the weight room.
With a body type similar to Michael Carter-Williams, Exum looks poised for a long and fruitful career in the NBA, likely highlighted by multiple All-Star appearances. While finding the right fit is important, Exum has all of the tools to be successful in any city he finds himself in. Soon, he will not be all that mysterious anymore.
Expect for Exum to be off the board in the top five picks of the draft, with Orlando at pick No. 4 being his most likely destination at this point. He belongs in the top tier along with Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid.
Player comparison: If everything works out for Exum, he could be a 6-6 Russell Westbrook. In the worst-case scenario, he is a more dynamic version of Michael Carter-Williams.