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Fantasy Basketball: A look ahead to the 2014 NBA Draft

Dante Exum

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As we are all aware, one of the keys to winning your fantasy league is drafting players much later than what their actual value turns out to be.  We’ve seen that this season with guys like Trevor Ariza, DeAndre Jordan and Michael Carter-Williams.  In 2012-13, I’m sure Damian Lillard was on many a championship-winning roster.

One of the best ways to get a leg up on your competitors is to draft a rookie.  Not just any rookie, though.  It has to be the right rookie.  In 2012-13 it was Lillard.  This yeah, MCW has been the best of the first year players in fantasy and is also the front-runner for NBA Rookie of the Year honors.  Next season, that player may very well be Australian Dante Exum.

The 2014 NBA Draft is being touted as a potential super draft.  With guys like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid all expected to declare after their freshman seasons, the league is bracing for an influx of high end talent.  Consequentially, “Tankapalooza” is on in earnest for a number of teams.  Dante Exum is the least known of the top prospects, because no-one in America has seen him play.

Exum hails from my home town, Melbourne, Australia, so I feel I’m in a fairly good position to give a bit of a preview of his fantasy stock for next season.  I don’t know the kid personally nor have I met him, but I do know people who have and they have nothing but good things to say about the 18-year-old.

Exum is the son of former Tar Heel, Cecil Exum, whom I remember from his playing days in the NBL, where he played for the Melbourne Tigers, North Melbourne Giants and the Geelong Supercats.  I remember watching him on TV back in the late 80’s and early 90’s – the NBL’s heyday.

In Chad Ford’s latest mock draft and on his big board on ESPN.com, Exum sits at number four.  That leaves him in play for a number of teams.  The Milwaukee Bucks, the Boston Celtics, the Orlando Magic and the Los Angeles Lakers among others could find themselves with a top five pick come June. Obviously, a lot of the fantasy value of all the incoming rookies depends on the situation in which they are drafted into.  If Exum goes to the Celtics, he may sit behind Rajon Rondo until Danny Ainge finds a way to move Rondo on.  If he is snapped up by Orlando, he may share ball-handling duties with Victor Oladipo.  The ideal fit would be in Los Angeles, but no-one (cough.. Adam Silver) has any control over that.

But what about Exum as a player?  Here in Australia, Exum attended the Australian Institute of Sport and played high school ball in the nation’s capital, Canberra.  Late in 2013, he guided his school, Lake Ginninderra, to the Australian High School Basketball Championship.  The first thing you’ll notice about Exum is that he is tall and skinny.  He’s a 6’6″ point guard with a 6’9″ wingspan and reminds many people of Carter-Williams. From what I’ve seen of him and what I’ve heard from draft experts and evaluators is that he is a better on-ball defender than MCW and a marginally better shooter.

From DraftExpress.com:

An adapt passer with speed to burn in the open floor, a great motor and an exceptionally high basketball IQ, the rest of the game comes easy to Exum. He plays with his head up, fills lanes on the break, and rebounds well for a guard. He’s a versatile defender with great quickness, improving physical strength, and a team-first mentality.

At this stage, Exum’s perimeter shooting remains his most glaring weakness. He shoots the ball from the perimeter with better balance than he did last summer, but his confidence and consistency still leave something to be desired. The next step for Exum as a prospect is becoming a more consistent threat from the outside, something that will give him a legitimate claim to being able to play both guard positions.

Exum is considered by nearly all draft talent evaluators to be a top five player in the upcoming draft and probably would’ve been a top two player if he was drafted in 2013. What does this mean from a fantasy perspective? Exum is not well known across the USA and his talent level may fly under the radar of fantasy owners.  He has a legitimate chance to challenge for the Rookie of the Year award and should be able to put up some very appealing stats.  I think his rookie ceiling is around 18 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals, but a lot of that is dependent of the team where he winds up.

If you are going to take one thing away from this article, remember this.  Exum is next years Michael Carter-Williams, but a better all-around prospect and player.  If you think that MCW’s numbers would’ve looked good on your team this season, don’t shy away from the Australian kid just because you haven’t seen him play.  This kid is the real deal!


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