2014 NBA Draft Debates: Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart

Wesley Hitt

Each of the top prospects in the 2014 NBA Draft class has certain strengths and weaknesses, so we've decided to make the case for and against some of the top players. In this edition we cover Dante Exum, Julius Randle, and Marcus Smart.

Welcome to our 2014 NBA Draft thought experiment. We know the Bucks are bad enough to get a high pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. We know some excellent prospects will be available at the top of the draft. We don't know the exact professional destiny of Dante Exum, Julius Randle, and Marcus Smart, but nobody does. The strengths and weaknesses of each player shape how we view them, and there are valid arguments to be made for, and against, drafting any one of them with a top-six pick.

The Brew Hoop brain trust has taken each top prospect and written condensed arguments that cover each side of the debate in 200 words of less (because we like a good challenge). We don't necessarily value Exum, Randle, and Smart equally, but each player receives equal treatment for the purposes of this exercise. The argument made in support of each player is a hard sell on their best qualities, and the argument made against each player is the spot to nitpick and raise potentially fatal issues.

The different sides of the debate were randomly assigned to members of the Brew Hoop staff to emphasize the fact that it's important for everyone to confront the strengths and weaknesses of each prospect. Take an opportunity to read our takes below, and feel free join in on the experiment by posting your own 200-word arguments in the comments.

Dante Exum

The 200-Word Case for Exum (by Eric Buenning):

With Derrick Rose-type athleticism in a mini-Giannis body, Exum genuinely has just as much upside as anyone in this draft. He has an uncanny ability to get by his defender quickly and make plays for himself and his teammates. His biggest flaw is that you haven't seen him (sound familiar?), but those who have rave about his ability to create havoc on both ends, due in large part to his respectable size (6-6) and length (6-9.25 wingspan). Exum is also extremely capable of running an offense and creating one if it breaks down, which the Bucks so sorely need on this roster, maybe more so than any other area going forward, if they want to be consistently successful.

He's also only 19, has a tremendous level of basketball IQ and off-court character, and HAS AN AUSTRALIAN ACCENT, DAMMIT. But honestly, I can't sell you much on something you haven't seen, but there is a reason we're talking about him this early and that him choosing an agent is near breaking news worthy. This kid has that kind of potential, and I don't think the Bucks can afford to pass on him when their name is called.

The 200-Word Case Against Exum (by Mitchell Maurer):

Dante Exum has a lot of things going for him (size, athleticism, defense, etc.), but there's a reason his hype puts him only amongst the top picks instead of ahead of them.

He can create his own shot; anywhere away from the rim though, his mechanics are inconsistent. He regularly gets himself into situations where he's shooting on the way down, often drawing front iron. His shot selection is problematic, taking contested jumpers instead of resetting the offense and launching 3-pointers as a sub-35% shooter.

He draws fouls, but struggles with free throws. His most recent competition (FIBA U19 tournament) saw him crack just 60% from the foul line, a borderline unacceptable mark from a guard. He's also advertised as a solid distributor and ball-handler, but he's shown an alarming number of turnovers that are the result of him either losing body control in traffic or making poor decisions.

Bottom line: the Bucks need a PG who can score efficiently and take care of the ball on offense. Right now, Exum doesn't do either of those things, and you need more assurance from a top-5 pick.

Julius Randle

The 200-Word Case for Randle (by Steve von Horn):

Julius Randle came into this season as the second-best prospect in the draft. Since then, what has he done wrong? His steal rate is too low? His wingspan is one 3 Musketeers candy bar short of the ideal number? Hold that thought.

Randle is one of the most assertive and imposing prospects in the draft. He's a grinder who works hard to improve his game, and he'll find a way to cut down his turnovers in the post and extend his range to make him a dangerous face-up threat. I hear a comp of Zach Randolph without the baby fat, but I keep thinking Paul Millsap with enhanced physical skills. This kid will not be denied.

He's battled through suffocating zones and aggressive double-teams to post 16+ points per game on 59.7% true shooting to go along with 10+ hard-earned rebounds per night. His motor never stops, he's an elite force on the glass, strong enough to finish in traffic, swift enough to beat defenders off the dribble, aggressive enough to keep attacking, and talented enough to punish single coverage.

Go ahead and call him a Tyrannosaurus Rex; but don't forget that the T-Rex was one bad motherf***er.

The 200-Word Case Against Randle (by Frank Madden):

Few can question Randle's top line productivity: Freshmen don't luck their way into 16 points and 10 boards a night at major college programs. But look beneath the surface and there are a number of reasons to worry that Randle could just as easily end up being Marcus Morris or Derrick Williams rather than Paul Millsap or some bizarro Zach Randolph-Blake Griffin hybrid (wouldn't that be fun?).

Much of the concern around projecting Randle to date has centered on his wingspan, which at a reported 6'11" would be two inches shorter than the average PF has measured at the annual Chicago draft combine.  Randle's NBA body, good hands and plus-athleticism make him a virtually unstoppable college post player, but he'll need to develop a jump shot and improve his decision-making with the ball if he's going to be an impact scorer at the next level.

Defensively, Randle's lack of verticality presents more obvious challenges. College blocks and steals haveproven a surprisingly strong indicator of how well a player will translate to the next level, and no player with Randle's combination of limited defensive impact (0.3 spg, 0.8 bpg) and high turnover rate (3.1 turnovers/game) has ever panned out in the NBA. Randle's talented enough that he might be the exception to that rule, but it will also give decision-makers at the top of the draft reason to be skeptical.

Marcus Smart

The 200-Word Case for Smart (by Dan Sinclair):

Smart gets a lot of praise for the stuff that doesn't show up in box scores. He's a natural leader, tremendously competitive, and has the sheer toughness GMs and coaches crave. While his decision to return to school has been debated extensively, most agreed that he made the decision for the right reason: Smart wasn't as prepared for the NBA as he wanted to be, and knew that spending more time refining his game would make him a more complete player from day one.

While his growth has underwhelmed a bit, Smart continues to show off the same skills that tantalized scouts last season. He loves to attack the rim; on the season, Smart is hitting almost 65% of his point-blank shots and he's been assisted on less than a third of his makes. All together he shoots over 53% on 2pt shots, and he has fantastic rebounding and steal numbers, which speak to his athleticism and motor.

Smart can create shots for himself and others, mostly through dribble penetration, and is very capable of getting the ball to teammates in position to score. With a little more work on his outside shot, Smart could be a lethal lead guard.

The 200-Word Case Against Smart (by Steve von Horn):

Can this guy shoot, or is his plan to just bully his way to the rim and force the issue? Because if his sub-30% career mark on college threes - or his 27.3% shooting on jumpers inside the arc this season - is any indication, he probably can't shoot. That's a problem for a guy who wants to be a high-impact NBA point guard or combo guard. Those driving angles close down quickly when defenders can go under the screener on pick-and-roll, and there's always a massive man (or two) waiting for you in the paint if you can force your way down there.

Hell, why not take a different prospect who can shoot, or someone who plays a position with a scarcity of talent, and just sign Rodney Stuckey to a deal or trade for Tyreke Evans? I can always find a guy who's not big enough to be a shooting guard, not complete enough to be a point guard, and not quite explosive or above-the-rim enough to ever get to that elite level.

He'd better be one hell of a defender if this is really going to work; or he'd better find a way to turn himself into a shooter.

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