As we near the 2014 NBA Draft, opinions on Australian guard Dante Exum remain divided. Earlier this week, one league executive compared him to a young Kobe Bryant. Another NBA scout, speaking on the condition of anonymity, is a bit more cautious about what Exum could turn out to be.
Via Ryen Russillo of Grantland, one of the three scouts he spoke to expressed concern about Exum:
I’m not putting my nuts on the line for this guy. I’m not drafting the next Tskitishvili. Now, the guys that saw him in Prague, if they’ve seen enough, then fine, but I can’t do it. There is no frame of reference. He’s going top five or six. But if you think it’s a lock to Orlando, they like Marcus Smart too.
Nikoloz Tskitishvili, you might remember, played for Mike D’Antoni at Benetton Treviso in Italy before entering the draft. Even though he played just 13 games in Italy, scouts were impressed by his workouts, and enamored by Tskitishvili as a potential big man to build around. The Nuggets selected him fifth overall in the 2002 Draft. He was one of the more memorable draft busts in recent years, playing 172 games in six seasons for four different teams with a career average of 2.9 points per game.
It’s a cautionary tale, and there are many when you look back on previous drafts. While the scout isn’t comparing Exum’s actual skill set to Tskitishvili, being intrigued simply because we don’t know enough about a player can be a pitfall. In that regard, Exum definitely fits the bill.
Exum’s rise from an unknown commodity to lottery pick happened over a four-game sample at the U-19 World Cup tournament in Prague last July. In the game that won over scouts, Exum scored 33 points against Spain. Here are the highlights:
Or, as Russillo himself said in his draft piece:
I swear we should just replace the word “upside” with the phrase “we don’t know how bad he could be.” Like everyone else, I’m not sure. He is a product of human nature; we don’t know enough about him, so we assume he is going to be good.
If he had played in the States this year and were listed as a shooting guard who can’t shoot, would we be as excited? Because that is what he looks like.