The Curious Case Of Dante Exum

Updated: Friday, September 27, 2013 10:07 AM

Dante Exum is an electric 6’6″ guard with incredible athleticism, ball handling, and intangibles.  The Australian has been rising up draft boards after impressive performances at the Nike Hoop Summit and the FIBA U19’s. At DraftExpress, we currently have him rated 3rd in our top 100 rankings. Should the 76ers miss out on Andrew Wiggins next spring he’s clearly an option, should he enter the draft.

The link between the 76ers and Exum is already established. With Exum being a native of Australia, having been in the Australian Institute of Sport that Brett Brown spoke so fondly of Wednesday, Brown has already worked with him.  Brown has already raved about him.

“He is highly skilled and he will represent Australia one day,” Brown said, a year before Exum was on Australia’s U17 team.  “He is a long, athletic wing with a high degree of skill. It’s been a real plus for him and for us.”

But there’s a catch.  There’s always a catch.

Because Exum won’t finish high school until October, he could not enroll in college until December.  Exum has gone on record saying that if he decides to go to college, it won’t be until 2014-2015 season.

So that leaves Sixers fans in a bit of a bind.  On the one hand, Brown’s previous history with Exum should give the Sixers a competitive advantage, having more information on Exum the player, and person, than other teams possess, and you would want Exum to enter the draft in case the Sixers miss out on Wiggins.  But in order for that to happen. Sixers fans won’t be able to see nearly as much of Exum as they would if he were to play in college.

Right now, if I had to guess, I would predict Exum will be in the 2014 NBA draft, and that’s a good thing.  I just wish the situation was different and we could see him in a college setting.

(Note: this brings up a good discussion on how Michael Carter-Williams impacts your 2014 draft strategy, if at all.  But that’s something I’ll leave for another article).


Derek Bodner

Derek Bodner is a credentialed reporter covering the Philadelphia 76ers independently for He is also a college basketball scout for, and an NBA contributor for The Ringer. Contact Information: / @DerekBodnerNBA

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  • CM

    The sixers are “all in” in this draft, you gotta pull for everybody to declare – push as much quality as possible back toward the 2nd pick (NO).

    MCW was the 11th(?) pick in a bad draft…not typically the type of talent level that effects who you would choose in the top 5 of a strong draft. He’s got a lot to prove…be better than Tony Wroten first, then we’ll worry about bigger fish.

    • Derek Bodner

      The short version: I agree 100%.

  • tk76

    With the league adding so many big/athletic PG’s, do you think we will ever see teams playing multiple PG’s (or essentially no PG’s.) Thinking back to the Bulls when they had MJ and Ron Harper starting- it gives a tremendous advantage on defense.

    It was something that came up when people talked about Jrue playing more SG, and it definitely could apply to guys like Exum, MCW and even ET. The main limiting factor is that typically guys labelled as big PG’s are not great shooters.

    • Derek Bodner

      I definitely think you’ll see more shared-ballhandling sets, partly because of the trend for bigger point guards and partly because the movement towards using the pick and roll has made most sets something that can be initiated from either guard spot.

    • Xsago

      Not only do i think this is going to happen, but i think it’s something that has already started. There a lot of PGs in the league who spend some time at the 2 guard spot alongside the 6th man of the team (usually an undersized combo guard).

      Of course the reason for that is the heavy use of the P&R and the more P&R initiators you have the better, as long as you have the needed spacing. Players that can provide both (P&R initiation and spacing) will be at a premium and i think they are the future of the SG position. This is also part of the reason why it appears that old SG position is dead.

      Many teams (especially the advanced stat savvy ones) have already experimented using 2 PGs (or about to) or at least 2 players with some PG ability:

      Harden + Lin (Beverly) in Houston
      Curry + Jack in GSW
      Parker + Neal in SA
      Westbrook + Harden in OKC
      Miller + Lawson in Denver
      Crawford + Bledsoe in LAC

      and many are about to go in the same direction:
      Calderon + Ellis in Dallas
      Dragic + Bledsoe in Phoenix
      Lillard + Williams/McCollum in Portland
      Irving + Jack in Cleveland
      Teague + Williams in Atlanta
      Rose + Hinrich in Chicago etc.

      And now to return on topic, all this is precisely why i am very high on Exum. I think he is a SG in the NBA (or a combo guard if you prefer that), that will hopefully develop into a player with a skill level somewhere between Wade and Harden. The raw talent is there. He needs experience and he needs to work on his jump shot.

      Guys like Harden, Irving and Holiday are probably the future of the NBA SG position and Exum fits that perfectly.

      • Xsago

        Btw, all this right here is probably why i haven’t given up hope on Turner yet. If he can learn how to better approach the game from a mental stand point (keeping it simple on the offensive end, not losing focus defensively), he could be a solid player in the future.

      • tk76

        Thanks for the detailed reply.

        The only things I don’t quite agree with are your listing Harden and Irving along with a bunch of combo guards. I see one as a prototypical SG and the other a PG who has a complete game. I think both of them are pretty much classic for their positions of you look back historically at previous starts at their positions.

        I do see how both have good size and P&R capabilities. I think most combo guards are guys who lack the skill set to be ideal at either position.

        • Xsago

          Well, i was talking more about ability rather than how they look statistically. I know the popular definition of a combo guard includes the word “undersized 2 guard”, and maybe i shouldn’t have used that term but in general i am talking about players who can effectively play both guard positions i.e. both on the ball and off the ball on the perimeter. The modern NBA includes 3 main abilities on the offensive end (P&R initiator, spot up shooter, isolation player). The focus nowadays in on the first two, whereas in the past it was more on the third. All of the guys i listed above can do that. Also, i think both Harden and Irving fit this description completely. I don’t think Harden resembles SGs from the past all that much in terms of his game, despite similar statistical appearance and Irving is really more of an all-round scorer who can effectively play PG.

          You can technically put Lebron on the list as well, but he can be used in so many different ways that it’s pointless to brand him as anything. To me positions are about skillset rather than anything else and the difference between PGs and SGs is diminishing because of it, since you need players that can have both “positions” on a given possession.

          • tk76

            I don’t know. I see Kobe and Lebron as great one on one players who can kill you either with scoring or with passing once they draw the defense. They utilize picks, but also isolation. Same with Rose, Wade and even Jrue (IMO his best skill is breaking down his man without the need of a quality pick.) That is not to diminish your point about the league go more to P&R sets, but to point out that the true stars separate themselves by not really needing a great pick to create havoc.

            I guess I disagree that isolation is getting de-emphasized. Maybe defenses are better at handling it, but the greats still can put a ton of pressure on a defense through isolation as wel as P&R. While teams without that level star absolutely need P&R to compete. Maybe there is less cllear outs and classic post plays throughout the course of the game, but it still is a skill that separates good from great.

  • macmurdo

    Ok, so let’s assume Exum doesn’t declare for the current draft. Regardless of if the Sixers get Wiggins or Randle (or Parker or Harrison or Gordon), they still will be a bad team next year (a la Durant’s rookie season). Could Exum realistically be the Westbrook to Wiggins’s Durant? I suppose it depends on exactly HOW bad the Sixers are if they are able to draft Wiggins.

    • tk76

      I don’t get the sense that Wiggibs is a guy who gets you a ton of wins on his own in year one. He still needs to grote into his game and would benefit from being on a roster with some talent. The type of guy who takes you out of the top of the lottery in year one is a pitiably nature big like Shaq, Duncan our David Robinson. But those guys almost never come along as nba ready as they were.

      • tk76

        Should read: physically mature big. I’ve never really been good at posting on the phone and a swipe style keyboard makes it both better and worse.

      • Xsago

        It’s not just about Wiggins. Who’s to say Hinkie won’t go all out and trade the other assets for a star? I’m not entirely sure the Sixers will tank next year. And i am pretty sure they won’t tank in year 3. his is a 1 or maybe 2 year deal depending on the situation.

        • tk76

          That raises an interesting question. When do start adding the pieces to round out your core into a potential contender?

          The Sixers clearly were previously on the wrong track back when they brought in Brand. they tried the current “Indiana” (or formerly the Pistons) method of trying to mix together a bunch of complementary players to get the whole to be greater than the sum of the parts. But I think most believe that the first step is to get the franchise superstar(s)- and then fill in the gaps.

          But it is still up for debate whether you should act as soon as you know you have the franchise player (like what the Sixers did with AI in 2001) or should you try and emulate OKC and the Bulls (back when the got MJ, Pippen and Grant 3 years after MJ(5th pick through trade and 10th pick.) The risk with waiting is that if it takes more than a few years then you are at huge risk of having the coach and front office fired and then eventually losing your star to another team.

          Hinkie is trying to address this my compressing 4 lottery picks into 2 seasons. But he’ll have to knock at least 2 of the balls out of the park to be in a position to move out of the tanking stage. My guess would be that he will take at least 3 years of lottery picks, but I could be wrong. They certainly have the cap space to aggressively add more stars- if having a guy like Wiggins is enough of a drawing card to attract top players (ie Harden with Dwight.)

          You ultimately have a 4 year window to accumulate talent. After that you have to start paying your lottery picks big extensions and start getting up against the cap. Like Derek pointed out, your young players are only great values while they are on their rookie contracts. soon you end up being up against the tax- and you better have the key players in place by then or you start losing room to maneuver.

          • Xsago

            This is actually a very big issue and is why i am not a huge fan of tanking in general. Basically you can never know whether a player/players are worthy of being a franchise centerpiece in their first 2-3 years in the league, possibly much longer. At some point you need to take a risk. And, with the current CBA, i don’t think there are enough incentives for prolonging the rebuilding phase. Almost every championship level team has acquired at least half of it’s core via trade and free agency. I’ve always said that i am a big believer in building a contender via trades.

            Essentially there are four roads a team can take with their rebuilding plan:

            1. Don’t do anything in free agency, amass as many lottery picks as you can in order to build a young core that will develop into a contender. Example of a championship team: Chicago. Teams trying this model: Oklahoma City, Washington, Charlotte, Cleveland

            2. “Tank” for a year or two, and than try to immediately become a contender via free agency or trades. Example of a championship team: San Antonio, Miami (2006 title). Teams trying this model: Chicago, New Orleans

            3. Amass as many assets as possible and trade all of them for established players/stars/picks. Example of a championship team: Boston, Detroit, Lakers. Teams trying this model: Houston, Brooklyn, New York

            4. Build slowly towards a contender gradually improving your talent base, fit and chemistry. Example of a championship team: Dallas. Teams trying this model: Indiana, Memphis,

            Option 1 is of course the sexiest of them all, but i also think it’s the most difficult to accomplish because it involves too much luck and most teams will simply lose out. Option 4 can ofter look like “no plan” and it also involves a lot of luck drafting later in the first round. That leaves options 2 and 3, both of which i am on board with, and i think Hinkie will go via one of these two routes. My preference is route 2. As for the worst option (where at least half the league generally ends up), it’s taking route 1 and after 4-5 year of being terrible and realizing it’s not working switch to route 2 or route 3.

          • Well, the difficult thing is the current state of the Roster:
            The roster might as well not even exist.

            Or in other words, who do you think will be a part of a Sixers title team? MCW? As I said before, cautiously optimistic but very very pessimistic. I see the dude as a backup.

            Everyone else would likely be another team’s third stringer, save for Thaddeus Young who if he can’t translate to SF will likely be the Sixers sixth man, as he wouldn’t be a strong component next to Noel.

            So it’s Noel, Thad and I like Lavoy more than Hawes/Moultrie but that’s it…(and the other 3 aren’t worth that much to me anyway).

            So there is no “core”, anyone thinking this roster identifies even slightly what Hinkie thinks about basketball is mistaken. This is a pure tanking roster, anything that occurs that’s positive is gravy(if not entirely fools gold).

            The “core” starts to come into place next year. And what I hate about the MCW pick, is that because it does nothing for the PG position it was a wasted pick. You don’t pick back-ups at #11, no matter how bad the draft. I liked a few wings like KCD
            or Shabazz Muhammad(despite character questions).

            But no, PG is still a need, wing is a gapping need.(In spite of the many scrubs that seek to make us think differently) and a compliment to Noel in the front court is a crucial need.

            Hinkie blew it at #11 IMO, there were at least 5-6 other guys I would’ve drafted before MCW. To be more specific, I only draft MCW if we kept Jrue.

            • briztoon

              What’s the point of drafting MCW if we kept Jrue?

              • Did you notice where I called MCW a back-up PG? Yeah…Jrue needed one. I suppose I’ll be fair to MCW and not judge him based on this year, but IMO he played with his college peers at Syracuse and there were many segments(and overall his season play) was just god awful for a 35 MPG starting G. A 7/3.5 TPG ratio is miserable, along with the mediocre percentages, poor finishing, etc.

                Nothing MCW did last year screamed “starter” in the NBA. If MCW becomes a starting caliber PG in the NBA, all the credit in the world to Brett Brown. I had him 15/20ish on my board even in a weak draft.

  • briztoon

    If Noel returns from injury with the same athleticism and defensive skills as he showcased at Kentucky, then my view is we have 1 building block in place.

    I rate MCW even lower than I rate Turner. As far as I’m concerned MCW is a walking bust and a blown pick. But at pick 11 there was only one player I rated, Dennis Schröder. In three years time I expect Schröder to be spoken about as one of the point guards who’s got “next”. MCW, I expect to be viewed as Turner “Lite”.

    Personally I want the Sixers to be very bad for two season. Look at the next two drafts.

    2014 is supposed to be top heavy, with potentially the top 5 or 6 picks being game changers for any team. Personally I question this, but I’m not by any means a talent evaluator. Just reading their DX scouting reports, a lot the top projected picks have a lot question marks.

    Wiggins is a freak athlete, but without the appropriate skills, that’s all he’ll be. Can he handle the ball well enough for a top wing. Can he shoot consistently from the outside, etc.

    The prospect of pairing Randle and Noel intrigues me. A big man with elite offensive skills and a big man with elite defensive skills.

    I don’t believe Exum has elite athleticism. In fact, I would say he has average athleticism (for the NBA that is). What he does have is a growing skill set, that drive to improve and to win. He will put a team on his back and carry them. He pretty much has done this with the Australian junior teams for the last couple of years.

    Then I look at the 2015 class and it’s loaded with big men at the top. Along with a couple of quality wings and point guards.

    Our 2014 Pelicans will be very important. Depending on our first pick we can add either a complimentary wing or big man. And this will go some way towards dictating or 2015 draft direction.