NBA Draft Prospect Match-up: Dante Exum vs. Marcus Smart

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Mar 12, 2014; Kansas City, MO, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Marcus Smart (33) shoots as Texas Tech Red Raiders forward Dejan Kravic (11) defends during the second half in the first round of the Big 12 Conference tournament at Sprint Center. The Cowboys won 80 – 62. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Smart –  As I started to say last section, Smart has a high basketball IQ. He isn’t going to blow you away physically, but he’ll outsmart you. He’s a fantastic leader who can flourish next to Kobe Bryant and can take over the role of team leader when Bryant retires. Offensively, he improved greatly at getting to the rim and subsequently getting to the line. While he’s a small player, he’s a physically strong player who can hold his own against bigger players he’ll undoubtedly face. His shot is so nice that he could even play shooting guard at times, despite being undersized. At either position, he’s a capable and willing passer who does a great job at getting teammates involved.

Defensively, Smart excels greatly. He’s arguably the best perimeter defender in college basketball and would immediately be an improvement over anything the Lakers have on the perimeter. He has incredible instincts and incredibly quick hands. While much is made about Smart’s supposed character issues, it’s sometimes easy to forget that Smart was likely top pick in last year’s draft. He’s improved, but would not be entering a much deeper draft class. Still, he’s an instant-impact type of player.

Exum – I’m a firm believer that if Dante Exum were playing in America, he’d be in contention for the #1 pick. He is that good. He has the size, he has the skills, he just lacks exposure. He has an absolutely explosive first step and his athleticism lends himself to being a dynamic finisher at the rim. His size is a huge benefit and he knows how to utilize it. He may not have as high a basketball IQ as Smart, but it’s still above average. He creates for teammates after breaking down his defender similar to Smart, but he does it with speed and quickness as opposed to strength and power.

Defensively, there is a gap between Exum and Smart, but Exum has loads of potential. His size lets him guard multiple positions and his speed lends itself to lateral quickness to stay with quicker players. In general, a lot of Exum’s game is based on potential not only because he possess ton of it, but also because there is little to judge him on. Sure, he played in Australia, but the talent level there is questionable at best. While Exum did excel in various exhibition games against American players, there is still a bit of question mark there. And none of this has even mentioned his desire to play with Kobe Bryant and for the Lakers. Hell, check the Lakers crowd next home game and you’ll likely find Exum.