The danger of drafting Dante Exum of Australia was that he was too much of an unknown and his game was too much unfamiliar to the NBA scouts who have never seen him play in an actual high-competitive game against real high-quality opponents.
After his first NBA Summer League outing some of those fears were allayed, as he was impressive for the Utah Jazz in his SL debut on Saturday.
Unlike his peers atop the 2014 NBA Draft, Exum did not play in the US NCAA Division I schools but rather stayed in his home country playing for the junior national squads and at the Australian Institute of Sports (AIS).
Provided it was “just” a Summer League” game—very far from the challenges of a real regular season match-up, the 6-foot-5 combo guard from Melbourne, Victoria nonetheless impressed fans and observers during the Jazz’s game versus the Philadelphia 76ers.
This was ESPN’s evaluation of the Australian before the Vegas Summer League:
“Dante Exum, Utah Jazz: Perhaps no player in Vegas will garner as much interest as Exum, the Australian mystery kid who skipped college ball and spent the past year preparing for the draft. We've seen sparse video of Exum, and what exists is hard to judge, given the caliber of competition. He sparkled in international events, but that was against fellow kids. Now Exum will be exposed to a few bona fide NBA players for the first time, and we'll get a feel for how he compares athletically. Fellow Jazz guard Trey Burke is also on the summer league roster for Utah, so we should get our first taste of them working in tandem.”
And this was how ESPN graded Exum after the Utah-Philadelphia game.
“Dante Exum, Utah Jazz | Grade: A- Hype machine, activate! Comparisons to a young Kobe Bryant, Penny Hardaway and Brandon Roy were flying around after Exum’s first game, and his displays of smooth athleticism and skill were often breathtaking. Although there were better overall performances elsewhere, no one flashed more star potential than Exum did. With his vision and first step, he has lead guard written all over him.”
Here are the highlights of the Australian in his SL debut where the Sixers beat the Jazz, 74-70.
(Video credit: YouTube/memoismoney)
For the record, 19-year-old Exum’s statline was average finishing with 10 points (4-of-10 field goals), 3 rebounds, 3 assists and 1 steal in 27 minutes on the floor. However, he already showed his versatility—scoring, passing and rebounding—and athleticism in his first-ever NBA experience.
Is Dante Exum the next Australian great? Or the next international bust?