Dante Exum was supposed to be in an Orlando Magic uniform right now. Many NBA Draft experts and Magic fans all thought that Exum would be the Magic’s answer to their point guard woes. Yes, I was one of the “please draft Exum!” boosters, as I thought the Australian would be the key to getting Orlando back on track.
But the more I watched Exum in summer league play with the Utah Jazz, the more I have come to the conclusion that the Magic were right by taking Aaron Gordon over Exum with the fourth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. It’s not that Exum was bad or anything, but he looks like a player who has a lot to learn before he can make an impact in the NBA.
In contrast, Elfrid Payton, the point guard the Magic traded for in the draft, looked spectacular in summer league play, and he looks like a player who can contribute immediately in the NBA. Payton was the point guard I thought Exum would be but so much more. Payton is a better defender than Exum and possesses the same offensive moves as his Aussie counterpart. Exum may have a better outside game, but Payton provides the intangibles that can make a difference in games.
I’m not saying that Exum is going to be a bust. Once he figures out the NBA, he is going to be a talent in this league. But he has a long way to go in areas where Payton is a player who is ready to go now. That is what the Magic saw in the draft war room, and that is what led the Magic to pass on Exum.
Were fans shocked at the time? Yes, but now it is crystal clear that the Magic made the right choice on draft day.