The 2014 NBA Draft class is already drawing talent level comparisons to that 2003, a class that included game changing names such as LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, and Dwayne Wade. The NBA’s incoming talent pool has succeeded in shaking up the college game, as players like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid, Julius Randle, and Aaron Gordon have dominated the corridor that leads to the largest stage in basketball. Undisputable as the college talent level may be, one of the most protrusive plot twists entering this season’s draft is that the player with quite possibly the most promise is a prospect that the majority of fans have never heard of.
Dante Exum first began turning the heads of NBA talent seekers in 2012, when the 16-year-old led his Australian national team to a silver medal at the FIBA World Championships. The following season, the ultra-skilled combo guard proved that his showing was not a fluke, leading his team to a 2013 bronze medal and dazzling NBA scouts in the talent packed Nike Hoop Summit.
Now 18, the Australian possesses all of the size and athleticism to make a big splash at the highest level. A natural born scorer, Exum uses his 6-foot-6 frame and pogo stick legs to effortlessly lift himself above defenders in order to employ his ever improving jump shot. The future star is anything but a spot up shooter, however. Should he choose (and he chooses quite a bit), Exum uses his spring and agility to beat multiple defenders off the dribble in order to attack the basket, around which he is particularly keen on dunking or finishing with a flashy layup. If this scoring methodology and body type sounds familiar, that is probably because it is. Dante Exum’s skill set is strikingly similar to that of Michael Jordan.
Though somewhat blasphemous to compare an unproven teenager from the Outback to “His Airness”, Exum owns a few more qualities that are essential for basketball elites. First, Exum has an extremely high basketball IQ. The young man is smart with the ball, drawing defenders to himself in order to free up an open teammate and finding the best, most selfless ways to put points on the board. Second, the Aussie is tenacious and intense on defense, constantly badgering ball handlers, and fashioning himself as a human blanket when guarding an open man. Finally, Exum is a natural leader. Not only can the court general be seen perpetually coaching teammates, but he also recovers extremely quickly from his own mistakes, not reserving himself to break mentally under pressure. It is with this unwavering confidence that Exum publicly declared that he has high hopes of being selected in the coming draft by a team that will hand him the reigns as the primary playmaker. He wants that pressure.
Of course, skepticism surrounding Exum does exist. After all, the player’s exposure to the fast paced, physical style of American basketball has been minimal, and he simply has not been competing against the high caliber competition that exists in the NCAA. But Exum’s arsenal of basketball tricks is undeniable, his mental capacity is unquestionable, and his promise of great things is unparalleled. True, it is far too early to label Exum as the future face of the NBA, but anyone who has seen the way the future pro handles himself on the court can not help but speculate that they may just be witnessing the beginning of something great.