Sunday, March 30, 2014

2014 Draft Scouting - 1st Round - Dante Exum

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**2nd Round: Mitch McGary, Johnny O'Bryant

While most of this season's ire has been directed at Josh Smith (and rightfully so), Brandon Jennings has also failed to live up to his contract.  The importance of the point guard position in basketball needs no explaining, and it stands to reason that the Pistons' failures this season start with the play of Jennings and Will Bynum.  Jennings is having one of his worst seasons this year scoring the ball, and his defense has been practically non-existent.  Jennings' Defensive Rating of 111 is the worst of his career, and while that number is partially a reflection of the units he plays with, anybody who has seen Detroit play this season could tell you that Jennings hasn't played a lick of defense.  He's not big enough to body up the bigger PGs and he gambles too often to take advantage of his quickness.  At both ends of the floor, the Pistons could certainly find an upgrade.

Seeing as the Pistons have been a flaming pile of garbage the past few weeks this season, they just might be able to find that replacement in the draft.  This year's point guard crop features a few potentially elite names such as Dante Exum, Marcus Smart and Tyler Ennis, before sharply falling off into less desirable options.  There's a reasonable chance that only one other PG goes in the first round outside of the three mentioned above.  The popular choice for the cream of this year's PG crop is Dante Exum, an 18 year old Australian guard with massive upside.  Let's look at the specifics on Exum and how he might fit in with the Pistons if Detroit gets a chance to take him.

Click "Read More" for the rest of the scouting report...

Exum was a name on the international scouting radar for a while before his showing at the 2013 Nike Hoops Summit, but he became a household name after his performance there.  Exum scored 16 points on 6-8 shoooting to go along with two steals, two assists and a block in 22 minutes played.  His highlight film from the 2013 NHS shows just about everything from his game that makes him so coveted.  Exum shows great speed with the ball, while still managing to keep his head up and stay under control.  He also (despite not finishing either tip slam) shows elite athleticism for the PG spot by playing above the rim.  With added lower body strength, Exum likely profiles out as one of the more athletic guards in the league.  Also on display is a clean, low crossover that Exum uses to create space and get to the hoop.  In my opinion, Exum's ballhandling is the sharpest aspect of his game at this stage in his development.

This second video provides further proof of Exum's abilities as a passer.  Exum displays great court vision in transition, half court sets and even out of the post.  His ability to pass well out of the post should help him utilize his size (after he gains some weight) when taking advantage of smaller defenders on the block.  One thing you'll notice about Exum, that doesn't always appear to be there with other young PGs, he always stays upright when dribbling and keeps his vision strictly ahead of him.  To go with Exum's excellent court vision, is his ability to thread the needle with passes.  Exum is a crisp, accurate passer and gets creative to fit passes in windows that don't always seem to exist.  This may come back to bite him in his first few years in the NBA as he adjusts to bigger, faster defenders who can close lanes quicker.
The third video here shows Exum's exploits as a scorer, showcasing the highlights of a 33 point performance against Spain in the FIBA U-19 Championships.  Exum isn't an elite jump shooter; but when he's on, he's practically unstoppable because he's also capable of getting to the rack.  Exum's size and scoring ability should allow him to play SG in the NBA, if he's drafted by a team who is already set at PG (Boston?).  Exum's length and good ball-handling give him a first step advantage to the rim against almost any defender.  Once he's there, Exum shows good ability to finish through contact, which should only be enhanced with added strength and explosiveness.  I don't believe it's a stretch to say that Exum has the talent to be a 25 PPG+ scorer in the NBA if he wants to be.

If you've seen Dante Exum play before, you know there are more strengths to his game than weaknesses.  However, one glaring weakness for Exum for the time being is his lack of strength.  Looking at both his upper and lower body, it's apparent that Exum needs to add a good amount of mass to his frame.  As he is now, Exum stands to be bullied by bigger NBA guards.  While his length will be an asset on defense in the long run, he will probably be a negative on defense until he bulks up.  Another area Exum stands to improve is his three point shooting.  He isn't as far behind as most young, big point guards, but he would do wonders for his game with improved consistency from behind the arc.

Exum figures to be a top five pick, with some suggesting that he may even get consideration to go first overall.  This means that the Pistons will require some luck to have a chance to take him.  If Detroit can get into the top three picks and are able to pick Exum, he would fit in nicely at either backcourt spot.  I would prefer that they played him at PG and shipped Jennings out, but his length and playmaking would also be appreciated at SG.  Exum is just the type of player that the Pistons need to truly become one of the premier fast-paced teams in the NBA.  This season, the Pistons feature the league's 4th most efficient fast break offense, but only play at the league's 10th-fastest pace.  Part of playing faster for the Pistons would be getting stops and creating more turnovers, but another part of that would be showcasing a PG who is both a threat to score or pass on the break.  Exum fits the mold there, moreso than Jennings.  Regardless of whether he would be a fit or not, Detroit just doesn't have a guard with the type of talent that Exum has.

Dante Exum may not still be there when the Pistons pick, but if he is, he should warrant serious consideration from whomever the new GM is.  His length, court vision and ability to create in transition could provide the Detroit backcourt with the spark it needs, and free up the Pistons to trade Brandon Jennings.  Dante Exum has star potential and would make for a great young tandem with Andre Drummond for years to come.

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