So, if the Sixers decide to trade Michael Carter-Williams, who will be the next point guard of the future?
There happens to be a potentially great one in the NBA draft: Dante Exum of Australia, a player with whom the Sixers already have some interesting connections.
Exum, 18, who played in the under-17 and under-19 world championships and was impressive at point for the World Select Team at the 2013 Nike Hoop Summit, is projected to be taken around No. 5 in the draft.
On sheer athletic talent, the 6-foot-6 Exum might be the best player available in the draft. But because he didn’t play college ball, there is some leeriness among NBA executives who haven’t seen him perform very often against elite competition. Leading his high school team to the Australian national championship might not count for much in their eyes.
Exum is fast, strong, and tough, a dynamic finisher, and can play off the ball, too. He is still developing his perimeter game, but his shot has improved significantly in the last year. Exum is a No. 1 talent, according to many draft analysts, but he will slide a little because this is a deep draft at the top and because of those lingering questions.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has studied Exum intently and has undoubtedly gotten some insight from coach Brett Brown, who, while coaching the Australian men’s national team, called in Exum for a look-see when the point guard was 15 years old, the youngest player ever invited to a Boomers camp.
Oddly enough, when Brown was assistant coach of the Melbourne Tigers, he also coached Cecil Exum, Dante’s father. Cecil, who won a national championship in 1982 at North Carolina with a little help from Michael Jordan and James Worthy, was drafted into the NBA but played his professional career in Australia and settled there.
Dante Exum has a better upside than Carter-Williams, according to most, but how would Hinkie pull off the switch if he agrees with that assessment? Well, he has two high draft picks; some potential trade pieces, including Carter-Williams; and a pocket full of second-round picks with which to maneuver. Could he come away from the draft with one of the prized frontcourt players available – Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, or Julius Randle – and Exum?
It would take a very creative general manager to pull that off. So far, it looks as if that’s just what the Sixers have.
– Bob Ford