Sometimes in life, you just have to take your shot. With the 2014 NBA Draft looming, the Utah Jazz could have the opportunity to take theirs by selecting Dante Exum at No. 5 overall. The Australian combo guard has been dubbed the International Man of Mystery by many and little exists in the way of tangible evidence that he can reach his potential at the highest level of competition. But the upside for the 18-year-old Aussie is hard to ignore.
This year’s draft is probably the best and deepest of its kind in the last decade. And yet, despite the limited game footage and a lack of familiarity with him here in the U.S., there are some who have speculated that Exum could be in play as the No. 1 pick. Few have him slipping past the Orlando Magic at No. 4, especially given the situation with Joel Embiid‘s injured foot. However, if the buzz is to be believed and for some reason he is there when the Jazz are on the clock (the Magic have long been rumored to really like Marcus Smart), could Utah really pass up the chance to swing for the fences and maybe, just maybe, hit one out of the park with Exum?
His combination of size, court vision and basketball IQ has some comparing him to a young Anfernee Hardaway. I may be dating myself here, but Penny Hardaway was a superstar in the league before injuries eroded his ability to perform. People compared him to the likes of Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan. Together with Shaquille O’Neal, he took what had been a hapless Magic franchise and carried them all the way to the NBA Finals.
In a market desperate for an alpha dog to lead them back to prominence, this kind of player makes all the sense in the world for the Jazz if he is equal to the challenge.
Though he considers himself a point guard, at 6-foot-6 and now just under 200 lbs. (with a 6-foot-9 wingspan), many in the NBA see his future at the two. If the Jazz remain committed to Trey Burke, this may be their course of action with Exum. However, if he ends up in Utah with the intention to make him the point guard, he would be a match-up nightmare for essentially every other team in the league.
His ability to use both hands, get into the lane and finish over big men or find the cutters and open shooters in traffic could be special. He should be able to get to the line in the NBA and score under duress. In U19 competition against U.S. teams that included the likes of Smart, Jabari Parker and Aaron Gordon, he was able to have great success in this regard. His rebounding ability at the guard spot and for his size is also elite.
Again, the question marks related to Exum are whether or not he will be able to do this consistently against top-flight talent, especially on the defensive end. With his only experience coming through Australian high school ball and U19s, he’s basically never had to do it. It could take time and coaching for him to be take that step at the NBA level.
Exum has stated that he patterns his game after Derrick Rose, and Rose was the MVP of the league a few years back. Whether Exum will have similar success or be a complete and total bust is probably anyone’s guess. But if you’re the Jazz and he is there with the fifth pick, it could be hard to not pull the trigger on that kind of potential.