The Cleveland Cavaliers will have the No. 1 overall and No. 33 overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft on June 26th. Today, we profile Australian guard Dante Exum. Click here for more draft profiles.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Dante Exum
Position: Point Guard
College: Australian Institute of Sport
With news of the injury to Joel Embiid breaking yesterday, one of the interesting stories that followed the news was that of the Cavs wishing to schedule Dante Exum for a workout and meeting. Exum is thought of as a pure point guard, but his measurables lead many to believe he could play either guard spot, and at just 18 years old, his potential could be limitless on both ends of the floor.
Exum is basically a pure point guard in a shooting guard’s body. He’s 6’6” and has a wiry frame, and while he’s currently very thin, his youth means that it’s not out of the question to potentially see Exum put on muscle and play at around 215 or 220 lbs. at his peak, which would solve a lot of his strength issues. Exum is very quick for his size, and has the lateral quickness and length to be a very good defensive player. Really, strength is his only physical issue at the moment, and that should get better as he gets on an NBA weight program.
Exum looks like a potentially dominant force as a pure point guard at the next level, but he is quite raw at this point. Nearly every ability Exum has on the offensive end has a weakness attached to it. Exum is a great passer, especially out of the PNR. However, he does turn the ball over a fair amount, and struggles with defensive pressure. That’s something that’s fixable, given every 18-year old point guard has the tendency to make bad passes now and again. Exum also finishes at the rim well, especially in transition, but struggles to finish against contact. This is a strength issue though, and Exum’s body control and touch at the rim leads one to believe that this won’t be an issue in a few years. Exum’s a decent shooter when he is unguarded, but his form needs some work, and he’s not a great three point shooter. This is the biggest issue with Exum’s offense at this point, because he’s further behind with his shooting than anything else. Exum has a couple of intriguing qualities that will make up for that though, and they’re both directly related to his size. Exum is an excellent post-up option at this stage in his development, and has the potential to abuse smaller guards in the way we have seen Shaun Livingston and Gary Payton do in the past from the point. He’s also an excellent rebounder, a quality that should improve as Exum gets stronger.
Exum’s overall makeup as an offensive player could vary dramatically in five years. If his shooting improves and he gets stronger, he could be a 6’6” Russell Westbrook, able to score in a variety of ways and being a regular producer of offensive statistical pornography. If he doesn’t, and his passing takes the forefront, a Rajon Rondo or Jason Kidd role could be his future. Either way, with his combination of size, rebounding ability, and passing, Exum should be a triple-double threat and commander of an offense for years.
Exum’s size and quickness make him a potentially destructive defensive player. He could really defend anyone from quick point guards to small forwards, thanks to his lateral quickness, quick hands, and wingspan. Exum’s also a fairly smart defender for his age, and while he certainly needs to improve in this regard, he’s ahead of the curve when it comes to rookie on-ball defenders. He is also a strong defensive rebounder, which will give him even more use on this end. Strength becomes a concern defensively as well, because he can be posted up with relative ease, but his understanding of positioning and effort on defense should still make him very useful immediately.
While potential is a tricky thing to hinge your bets on with a top pick, one has to think that because of how good Exum looks now, and because he’s just 18, that the sky is the limit for him. Exum may not be great immediately, or even two years from now. However, it’s around his age 23-24 years where Exum should enter his peak potential. Development is going to be key for Exum, particularly as a shooter. However, with a strong basketball IQ and his physical traits, Exum will likely have great value in the interim, even if he isn’t a star for a few more years.
Exum is likely going to be a combination of players we’ve seen before, as his size really doesn’t have a good comparison in the NBA to match with his abilities. Jason Kidd is probably the safest bet for a similarity to his game offensively, as he projects have that sort of impact as a passer and doesn’t look like a great shooter, at least yet. A player like Chauncey Billups could also be a fair comparison, given Billups’ defensive capabilities. However, I don’t think we’ve seen a player like Exum before, which makes him that much more enticing.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Exum could potentially be a strong third guard for the Cavaliers, even though they already have a good point guard and a developing shooting guard. What they lack is a primary ball-mover, someone who looks to distribute first and shoot second. Exum would be a pick for the future for Cleveland, as it will take him time to develop into a solid player, and the Cavs could afford Exum that time, because they have a strong D-League infrastructure and guys like Jarrett Jack and Matthew Dellavedova ahead of him on the depth chart. However, Exum doesn’t fill an immediate need for the Cavs like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid would. The Cavs would be smarter to take one of those guys, who are more natural roster fits, even if Exum might have the brightest future of any of them.