Jun 27, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; NBA commissioner David Stern (right) shakes hands with deputy commissioner Adam Silver after the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Drafting Dante Exum: Is Like Drafting Kobe Bryant

Before I start, allow me to state this.

There will never be another Kobe Bryant.  There never was another Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, or Larry Bird.  Every individual player is different.  Some players get close to resembling their heroes.  Some, don’t make it into the NBA.

Let’s start with size.  Exum is listed at 6’6″, 200lbs., with a 6’9.5″ wingspan.  While the details of Kobe Bryant’s wingspan aren’t easily found, believe me I’m still looking, he doesn’t have the wingspan of Kevin Durant or Tracy McGrady.  It’s fair to assume that his wingspan is between 6’8″ – 6’10″.  They are similar in size by age.

Athletically, Kobe Bryant was on a different level out of high school.  The following year, he won the dunk contest.  While he’s not known as one of the best dunkers of all time, the body control, quickness, and vertical ability were all there.  Dante Exum, at age 18, shows similar quickness and body control, and it shows with his NBA floor skills as a point guard and shooting guard.

Kobe was 15 in this highlight reel

Skill-wise, Kobe Bryant was on a different level as well.  As he entered the Summer Pro League, defenders could not contain that level of aggression and skill level.  Time after time, he attacked the basket, drawing And-1′s, and kept getting into the paint.  Time after time, he kept getting fouled, because defenders couldn’t stick to him.  That was just a sign of things to come.

Dante Exum Against Team USA

Dante Exum has a different mentality when it comes to his skill level.  He does a better job protecting the basketball, creating plays for teammates both in the paint and kicking out to three-point shooters.  Sometimes, he’ll utilize pivot work that is reminiscent of Mr. Bryant himself.  Sometimes, he’ll drive baseline for a tw0-hand dunk, which catches fans by surprise.  They expected a layup, not a two-hand flush in traffic.  Exum has a few isolation moves of his own, using a quick first-step, a crossover, jab-steps, and pivot work to create space.  It makes for a great foundation of tools to be put together later in his career.  Kobe had the isolation game early. Exum wants to beat you with five.  In each case, they resemble high basketball IQ.

Kobe Bryant was all about making the right moves, playing chess instead of checkers.  Almost every game winning shot he took had been practiced and calculated thousands of times, so he knew they would go in. Remember the lob dunk to Shaq against Portland in 2000?  A left-to-right crossover put Pippen out of position.  He drew a 2nd defender.  Shaquille O’Neal was wide open for that lob.  It was perfectly executed.  Off the floor, Kobe Bryant hired Tim Grover, Michael Jordan’s previous athletic trainer.  While Kobe Bryant is currently healing, he still had one of the most productive and longest running careers to date, just like MJ himself.

People may dislike Dante Exum for hiring Kobe’s agent.  What a copycat, right?  But, who better to get access to one of the all-time greats than to hire someone he trusts?  Right now, Dante Exum is working in the gym, getting stronger, improving his jumpshot, and rounding out his varied skills.  This is no different from Kobe Bryant’s off-season regiment.  The difference is, Exum isn’t tied down with NCAA basketball games, so he has a longer timetable to gain quickness, strength, and skill-set, and retain it.  That is making the right move.

Kobe Bryant wasn’t really known to the public out of high school.  He was known around Italian basketball and NBA circles.  The city of Philadelphia knew about him, especially alongside Eddie Jones from Temple on playground courts.  But, drafting guards out of high school was considered taboo, and Laker fans didn’t really know who they had on the team, until he showed it on the floor.

Fast forward to 2014.  The internet age has made all sorts of information available.  Still, those who are curious about Exum can’t find coverage of him dominating games.  They see snippets of Exum against Team USA of yesteryear.  They see snippets of a few international FIBA games.  None of it seems as accessible to catching Syracuse vs. Duke on the weekends.

Both players were relative unknowns to typical NBA or NCAA fans at a young age.  In the end, Kobe won five championships and more than fulfilled his Hall of Fame destiny.  He’s not even done yet.

Dante Exum is just trying to carve his Hall of Fame destiny in a Laker uniform as well, just as Kobe Bryant before him.

Tags: 2014 Bryant Dante Draft Exum Kobe

  • Jim213

    Contrast to the article ‘Drafting Exum is not like Kobe’? I do agree that Exum has potential but like you’ve brought up already Bryant was ahead of him (basketball level wise) thus will need to work harder than Kobe. Exum is a strong shooter but will need to work on his jumper elevation (similar to Kobe from the start) to get the most of this ability.

    The only reason that I see people disliking Dante’s move of hiring Kobe’s agent is that Pelinka is known to limit teams from getting a full view of the player(s) he represents thus limiting the opportunity of those team’s from drafting that player favoring their preferred options. But as Jerry West has recently pointed out aside of others assumptions it may take 3-4 years to observe the benefits of one of these young draft prospect given the maturity process (though there been young prospects who’d managed to exceed expectations from the start).

    • Mike Garcia

      Fran Fraschilla made a tremendous basketball comparison on ESPN 710, comparing Exum to 1982 Michael Jordan. Now, I have never seen that, but what I do know is this. He has good size at SG, elite size at PG. He’s quick. He’s fast. He’s aggressive. He has triple threat skills. He has high defensive potential. So, what’s there to lose?

      I don’t buy “weak competition” as an excuse. Damian Lillard had weak competition. So did Serge Ibaka. It could be argued that all elite HS prospects that made the jump had weak competition before going pro. As long as they show the improvement, advanced skills and athleticism by age, and continue to improve, it becomes less of a risk. Bonus points if the guy shows character and mental strength ahead of his age.

      • Jim213

        Agree, but hopefully he can show his best in front of the Lakers evaluators though if parker was still available i’d consider him before Exum for what he’s show (even with the D) but not taking anything away from Exum. March Madness will be a good time to observe these prospects mental aptitude (overcome or falter?).

        • Mike Garcia

          I try not to think too much of March Madness when it comes to evaluating players. Ryan Kelly lit up a team before a serious foot injury, and he’s an excellent pick considering the late draft position. Derrick Williams lit up Duke which earned him the #2 position in the draft, and he hasn’t looked like that on a nightly basis since.

          • Jim213

            Good points but for myself look for other things other than scoring. But at minimum have the Lakers ending up with the 3rd-5th worst record before the lottery given the challenge of the remaining schedule.