Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Dante Exum Benefitting from Not Having Played College Ball
Dante Exum’s draft status appears to be improving as a result of not having played college basketball in the U.S.
“When Dante doesn’t play, he’s just fine, right?” ESPN draft analyst Tom Penn said Thursday on ESPNU from the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. “He’s just fine. In fact he gets better and better and rises. It’s sort of the nature of the beast here because of the human nature here. We look for faults and we look for things that are wrong.”
The 6-foot-6 Exum is No. 4 on Chad Ford’s Big Board and on the DraftExpress.com Mock Draft, behind Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid –– all of whom are not in Chicago. Exum is there for interviews but is not working out.
But while Wiggins, Parker and Embiid all had their games picked apart in college, Exum — who is the son of former North Carolina player Cecil Exum and who doesn’t turn 19 until two weeks after the draft — came straight out of the Australian Institute of Sport and thus has maintained an aura of mystique around him.
“The top of this draft was ballyhooed as just the best maybe ever going into the season and then we systemically start picking apart Wiggins and his drive, Parker and his ability to defend, his footwork and his quickness, Embiid and his health and his ability to translate,” Penn said.
The ESPN guys even suggested that Exum — who has a wingspan of almost 6-10 — could potentially end up being the No. 1 overall pick in the June 26 NBA Draft.
Exum has reportedly already met with Phoenix, Philadelphia and Detroit and said Friday he met Thursday with the Lakers, Orlando, Sacramento and Milwaukee.
The Bucks have a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick in the Draft. The Draft Lottery is Tuesday.
“We’re excited, this is a great opportunity for us as an organization to inject a player of this potential caliber into our team,” Bucks GM John Hammond told ESPN’s Andy Katz.
“In case you happen to slide in this lottery, we still think we can come away with a very good player in whatever slot we end up.”
Exum, who has been working out in Los Angeles, claimed he wasn’t really an international man of mystery to NBA GMs.
“They know a lot about me, they’ve watched me over the last year or so,” Exum told Katz. “It’s just I haven’t had the exposure that these college players have, so I guess that’s kind of the mystery behind me. But they have seen me play.”
Exum’s highest-profile game was in the Nike Hoop Summit in April 2013 when he scored 16 points and Wiggins went for 17 points and nine rebounds in a 112-98 win for the World Team.
“The Nike Hoop Summit definitely helped me,” he said. “It was a weeklong camp where NBA teams got to see me and then the game definitely helped my stock at the end of the week.”
Exum is the latest Australian export to American basketball, where he hopes to follow Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs.
“Coming back in the summer and seeing how hard he’s worked and how’s gotten into the position he’s in now, I think that’s one thing I’m going to have to do frequently,” Exum said. “That’s one thing I’ve been working on for the last two months and it’s been working out well for me.”
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Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.