Australian teenager Dante Exum is almost a sure bet to be a top five lottery pick when the 2014 NBA Draft rolls around, but it doesn’t mean Lakers fans should be blowing up about Exum’s recent comments and connection to Los Angeles.
Just days after signing with the agent of Lakers’ star Kobe Bryant, Rob Pelinka, Exum seemingly threw his support behind the idea of joining the dwindling Los Angeles franchise.
Definitely L.A. is one option,” Exum told Bleacher Report on an extensive interview. “I’ve been to L.A. many times and I love the city, and it is a great city. If I get the opportunity to go to L.A. and play for the Lakers, I know I’ll have love for the city. And their fans are loyal and they have the rivalry with the Clippers. But just to be in an environment where you have a great player like Kobe, where you have a mentor in a way as a rookie, I think that would be the best option.”
Touted as one of the highlights from one of the more talented draft classes in recent decades, Exum is set to pick the brain of his agent’s star client.
“I just want to know his work ethic, what he’s done to be where he is at the moment, because he’s definitely in the talk of one of the greatest of all-time,” Exum said of Bryant. “So I want to just pick his brain, what he’s done, how he’s adapted over the years and still been able to average over 20 points in the league.”
But the idea that Exum is anywhere near a lock to end up on the Lakers boarders on the absurd. Firstly, the Lakers downward spiral would need to continue for the team to have a chance of moving higher into the lottery. That might be difficult with the eventual return of Bryant and the possibility of former All-Star Pau Gasol remaining with the franchise until the end of the season.
Exum is also all but powerless in this situation. Yes, Pelinka can decide who his newest client will work out for (and who he won’t) and the prospect of drafting a stud who doesn’t want to play in your city may be off-putting for a franchise or two, but talent dictates the draft.
Exum has a chance at being the first or second selection if the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker continue to struggle with rough patches. Team needs and overall talent will ultimately decide where the lottery winners make their picks and turning down five to seven years with a perennial All-Star (thanks to the 2011 lockout and subsequent new Collective Bargaining Agreement) simply isn’t going to happen just because a 19-year-old may not originally like the idea of playing in a mid-market destination.
The other rarely spoken of aspect to the Exum story is his connection to the Orlando Magic. The Aussie is reportedly good friends with the Magic’s 2013 lottery pick Victor Oladipo and is apparently also open to playing with the Florida team, stacked with far greater young talent and assets.
Dante Exum hasn't been subject to the (over) exposure that the other predicted 2014 lottery picks have, but his performances on the international stage confirm he belongs this high in the pre-Draft rankings. Predicting where Exum ends up is, right now, an impossible task, but in the meantime let's remember that the youngster was most likely baited into his L.A answer and expecting him to head there this early in the draft process is simply too optimistic.
Photo: Stefan Postles, Getty Images