The NBA craze of international players ebbs and flows, depending on the strength of the collegiate class for a particular draft, and this year, the college group is about as strong as ever.
That doesn't mean international players won't make an impact next season or in the draft, but there certainly won't be as many international picks in this year's draft as there were in last year's (19).
The problem with international selections, sometimes, is their delayed arrival to the NBA - only 10 of the 19 selected players suited up for NBA action last year. Seven of the nine, though, were second-round selections. The draft-and-stash strategy is common for second-rounders because this saves their NBA team money while giving them time to develop with their current team in another country.
The 2014 Draft will assuredly have its fair share of some stashed prospects, but there are a few players who might be ready to make a more immediate impact.
There is one player in particular, though, who is stealing the international thunder: an 18-year-old Australian named Dante Exum.
If you haven't done much research about this draft, you've almost assuredly heard about Exum but probably don't know much about the kid. If you've been following along the draft process intently, you may know everything there is to know about Exum, but there's really not much out there about the Aussie.
Still, Exum is slated to be a top-five draft pick (or at least top 10 at his worst-case scenario). With the unfortunate news about potential-number-one-pick Joel Embiid's stress fracture in his right foot, Exum is almost a sure lock for the top-five.
But without playing in the NCAA Tournament or on American soil like the other top picks in the Draft, Exum's enigma precedes him. The mystique of the unknown is more appealing than the nitpicked weaknesses of some of the other potential lottery picks. After the incredible emergence of the once-unknown Giannis Antetokounmpo last year, Exum has plenty of reason to intrigue NBA franchises.
Here's a look at what you need to know in case the kid from Down Under piques your interest, all without any terrible Australian jokes.
Exum is a big prospect both in tout and in size. He's 6'6" and weighs 196 pounds, ostensibly making him a problematic match-up for point guards and smallish shooting guards. For reference's sake, Michael Carter Williams is listed at 6'6" and 185 pounds. Carter-Williams was able to use his length and height this year to average 16.7 points, 6.3 assists, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.9 steals en route to Rookie of the Year honors.
Exum has a bit of bulk on a guy like MCW - even while being nearly four years younger than MCW. However, as seen from his on-court ability, Exum would likely have a quickness advantage over the reigning Rookie of the Year. Carter-Williams would hold the explosiveness advantage, though. Both of their standing vertical leaps measured the same: 31.5". Carter-Williams, though, recorded a maximum vertical leap of 41". Exum's best? 34.5".
Before leaving the MCW section of the discussion, it's possible the 76ers, who love Exum, could draft him third overall and look to trade Carter-Williams. How's that for context?
Here's a bit more context for you. This is how Exum matches up with some point guards you've likely seen more from this year, point guards likely set to go in the first round of the draft.
|Player||Height||Weight||Standing Vertical||Max Vertical||Lane Agility||¾ Court Sprint|
Exum stacks up well against his peers, and his quickness is top-of-the-top for potential rookie point guards even with his bigger frame.
While combine numbers and measurables are intriguing, they don't tell the whole story. There are plenty of other numbers in play that shed insight into Exum's NBA prospectus.
Numbers to Know
Exum is undoubtedly the international gem of the draft and earned All-Tournament Team honors at the Under-19 World Championship in 2013. Exum tallied 18.2 points to go along with 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals in Australia's 9 tournament games. His assist tally was the 8th-highest in the tournament, and his steal numbers were good for 13th. But even better was his scoring output: his 18.2 points were 6th-best among all players in the tournament, a tournament in which Exum was a superior athlete to most of his competition.
That wasn't the case, though, when he faced the USA squad, which boasted plenty of studs (including Aaron Gordon, Marcus Smart, Jarnell Stokes, Elfrid Payton, and Montrezl Harrell). Exum tweaked his ankle and played just 11 minutes, scoring 7 points and adding 2 assists against the U.S. (You can see a detailed breakdown of Exum's role in the game, courtesy of DraftExpress.net.)
Even though foreign players tend to be spectacular shooters, Exum isn't. His perimeter shooting is, by far, his biggest knock. In the tournament, the Aussie attempted 5.67 3-point attempts (ranking 11th) but converted on just 33.3% of them (tied for 42nd). Exum also struggled with his 3-point shooting in the 2012 Under-17 World Championship when he shot just 17.1% on 4.4 attempts in eight games. He still made the All-Tournament Team in 2012 after scoring 17.2 points per game over 8 games.
Last year at the Nike Hoops Summit, Exum came off the bench to score 16 points in 22 minutes against the USA Select team, a group featuring Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, Aaron Gordon, and the Harrison twins. Exum went 6 of 8 from the field: his only misses being a 3-point attempt and a missed dunk. With just a single 2-point jumper and a 3-point make, 17 of his 22 points came as a result of getting to the rim and either drawing contact or converting.
Here's a video of his highlights, albeit a grainy one.
What to Expect from Exum
With a game predicated on attacking the basket, Exum will have a big adjustment coming from the literal and figurative basketball underground in Australia directly to the NBA, but he's shown the ability to do it against the top of the class in his age group whenever he's had the opportunity to play such talent.
There are talks that the Cleveland Cavaliers might draft Exum first overall. If so, he'd be able to re-join Matthew Dellavedova, a fellow Aussie and former teammate of Exum's. Also, he'd likely play more shooting guard than point guard, considering Kyrie Irving is still on the team for now.
If he slips, it looks like he won't drop past number three overall (currently owned by the Sixers) - if he even gets past the Bucks at number two.
Exum clearly has a lot to offer whichever NBA franchise drafts him, and he clearly has done his part to reinvigorate this 2014 NBA Draft with the intrigue we all thought we'd be getting for the past few years.