In less than one week we will know exactly where the Sixers will be selecting in the 2014 NBA Draft.
If they land in the top two, it is likely that they will take one of the highly-touted and talented perimeter players, such as Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. If the pick slips back to fourth or fifth however, their choice becomes a little less clear and concrete.
Julius Randle is a potential pick and Joel Embiid is intriguing, injury issues aside.
Then, there is the draft’s biggest question mark, Dante Exum.
Exum is a fresh-faced 18-year-old point guard from Australia who was born toward the end of Bill Clinton’s first term in office, but when it comes to the court, he remains somewhat of a mystery.
By all accounts, Exum is a long, explosive, athletic guard, reminiscent of Penny Hardaway, who can be a nightmare to contain in the open court. He is credited as being excellent in transition and at attacking the rim, and his length is something that coaches love at the point guard position.
The issue is, very few people have had the opportunity to watch him play in full basketball games (internet video clips don’t count). For those that have been privileged enough to watch him play, the sample size is small.
In April 2013, Exum played in the Nike Hoops Summit, which was televised on ESPN. At the Summit he caught the attention of quite a few by posting 16 points, three rebounds and two assists on the USA Junior Select Team.
Exum graduated from high school in the fall of 2013 and had the option to play college ball in America, but chose against it. At the start of 2014, he competed in the Australian National High School Basketball Championships, eventually taking his team to the title. Shortly after, he signed with Landmark Spots, and declared for the 2014 NBA Draft. And here we are.
Exum is a top-five pick on basically every board, but, if it came down to it, would he make sense on the Sixers?
Projecting Exum’s pro potential is particularly problematic considering the lack of the common college schedule and opposition that most pro prospects deal with. However, considering a multitude of scouting reports, video clips, and the little bit of Aussie ball that was televised in America, it seems that Exum could make sense as a selection for the Sixers, in the absence of the other top perimeter players.
The idea that Exum could fit on the Sixers doesn’t hinge on the preposterous proposition that the team should trade their freshly-minted Rookie of the Year, but rather that the duo would work together.
A lot of the "trade Carter-Williams and draft Exum" talk stems from their similarity in size and style. Carter-Williams is listed as 6’6'' and 185 pounds, while Exum’s listing is 6’6'' and 188 pounds. Neither is an exceptionally solid shooter and both need to add some strength. The concern then becomes, how can the Sixers build a backcourt with two such similar players? Who will play the off-guard spot since neither is a spectacular shooter?
These are issues I can’t pretend to know all of the answers to, and while there is potential for problems if the Sixers select Exum, there is also potential for it to work really, really well.
Think about it. Defensively they could be dynamic. Two long, lanky guards to pressure the perimeter and make things difficult for the opposing point. They both have the size to cover an off-guard, and thus they could seamlessly switch on ball screens and not miss a beat. This size would allow for them to make other switches as well, and would fuel a whole lot of defensive flexibility.
The duo could be incredible in the open court as well. Brett Brown’s affinity for pushing the ball and getting out on the break is no secret, as his team played at the league’s fastest pace last season. Carter-Williams demonstrated his capability to operate on the break this past season (he was 27th in the NBA in total distance traveled), while pushing the action and finishing around the rim are credited as some of Exum’s best abilities. Together, they could tear down the court before the defense gets slightly settled, as the ball could be outleted to either, or quickly, and the break could be ignited by either of them.
Of course, for such a marriage to work well, both players would need to improve upon their shooting in order to space the floor and keep the defense honest. Carter-Williams shot inconsistently last season, and the addition of a consistent catch-and-shoot would greatly expand MCW’s game and allow him to play off the ball. An outside shot is listed as one of the biggest detractors from Exum’s game, but it is an issue he has already begun to address.
Dante Exum has an opportunity to be elite at the next level, as he could develop into a serious backcourt building block. Despite a size and style similarity with Michael Carter-Williams, Exum could be an intriguing option for the Sixers’ first selection in the absence of the top perimeter players.