Comparing Physical Tools of Smart, Exum and LaVine

We are less than 3 weeks away from the 2014 NBA Draft which is set to take place on June 26th. Most draft hopefuls have been participating in workouts for NBA teams which are still ongoing. Those that participated in the combine that took place in early May in Chicago, measurements were taken from the size of their hands to their time in a variety of athletic tests.

With the mounts of information coming in we decided it was a good time to compare three point guards that are being projected as top 15 picks. We’ll juxtapose Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State, Dante Exum from Australia and UCLA guard Zach LaVine.

At present time, Dante Exum is the highest rated of the three in most draft analyst mock drafts, being projected in the 4 to 5 range. Marcus Smart would follow closely, being projected anywhere from 5 to 9. The player that most analyst can not seem to figure out is Zach LaVine who is projected as high as 9 and as low as the mid to late 20s in the upcoming draft. A lot can change from now until June 26th as players are brought it for 2nd workouts and more information is collected.

We will focus on things we can measure or plainly see with our eyes in this comparison, leaving out things like intangibles, basketball IQ and work ethic out since there isn’t a reliable metric to measure those areas.

We start with height, length and weight.

Height – without shoes (with shoes)


  • Exum and LaVine measured the same height of 6 feet, 4 and half inches without shoes at the NBA draft combine; their height is a major advantage on the offensive end at the point guard position by allowing them to see over defenders and see the floor better than your typical sized point guard. Smart fell short in this area, measuring at an average height for a point guard at 6’2.



  • All three players measured great length for the point guard position, with Exum edging Smart by a quarter of inch at 6 feet, 9 and half inches. Length provides all three with great defensive potential and the ability to guard both guard positions, possibly 3 positions. Great length provides advantages in many areas, such as greater ability to get hands on balls in the passing lanes, improving ability to finish around the basket by creating more separation from body to hand and potential for a higher release point on the jump shot which aid in shooting over defenders. In this area, all 3 are impressive and comparable.

Weight (body fat percentage)

  1. Marcus Smart – 227 lbs (10.5 percent)
  2. Dante Exum – 196 lbs (6.4 percent)
  3. Zach LaVine – 181 lbs (4.7 percent)
  • Weight can either be a hindrance or advantage, depending on the player’s built; in the case with Smart, he carries the weight well and it is what makes him an intriguing prospect. If Smart is able to get by defenders and consistently get in the lane, he will cause havoc on defenses with this ability to shed defenders with his body and finish at the rim or get fouled and feast at the free throw line. On defense, Smart is able to defend immediately. He has the strength to guard both the 1 and 2 positions in the NBA from day one. Smart can benefit by losing a bit of weight in order to increase his quickness and will still have plenty left to aid him on drives and body up on defense.
  • Both Exum and LaVine have rail thin frames and will need to add weight in order to make strides in in their development. Their lack of girth and strength is what will keep them from having a big impact in the NBA immediately, but with the right training and nutrition program, combined with good work ethic, they can get an NBA body in time. Nevertheless, Exum and LaVine’s lack of strength will not impact their draft status as it is an area that is easily improved in the long term.

All three players are impressive for their position in terms of their size, but that is only part of the equation. Their physical measurements alone won’t mean much if they don’t have the right level of athleticism to make good use of them. We now take a look at the three players athletic test at the combine and information released from their workouts.

Bounce (maximum vertical leap )

  1. Zach LaVine  – 41.5 inches (46 inches measured at Lakers workout)
  2. Marcus Smart – 36.0 inches
  3. Dante Exum – 34.5 inches
  • LaVine displayed ups that were awe-inspiring at the combine, coming in with the 5th highest measurement and 2nd highest for a point guard, 2nd only to the much shorter Jahii Carson from Arizona State. LaVine’s shattered the already impressive numbers at the combine by measuring a 46 inch vertical at the Lakers workout, a record for the team. LaVine’s elite bounce provides quite a bit of advantage at the NBA level, including the ability to rise up and get off a shot in the perimeter over the outstretched hands of defenders and finishing at the rim. LaVine would also have the potential to create hysteria in the crowd if he is able to put down one of these dunks in-game:

  •  Both Smart and Exum were very unimpressive in the explosiveness department, especially Exum who had been compared to Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan in certain scouting reports. In the case with Smart, he will be able to use his body and strength to shed defenders and finish; Exum does not have that type of body to do the same. To place Exum’s measurements in perspective, Julius Randle, a bulky power forward, and Doug McDermott,  a player famous for his lack of athleticism, both recorded a higher verticals than Exum. While the lack of explosiveness will not eliminate Exum’s chances for success in the NBA, it does dispel any type of comparisons to athletes of the ilk Kobe or MJ. Exum will be relegated to playing under the rim like a typical 6 foot sized point guard, utilizing floaters and laying balls up at the rim with touch. Because Exum lacks explosiveness, it will be vital that he develops a consistent jump shot which at this point he does not have. He will be aided by this height and length in being able to get off a shot in the perimeter but without leaping ability, he might struggle to get off a clean look on a consistent basis.

Straight Line Speed

Straight Line

  • Straight line speed is measured by timing a player’s sprint from the baseline up to 3/4 of the length of the court. This is a good indicator of how fast a player can get up and down the court, such as in a fast break scenario. All three players scored well in straight line quickness, with both LaVine and Exum being clocked at 3.19 seconds. This test is not a good measure of how quick a player is when taking their first step from a dead stop which is a situation that will present itself more often in half court situations.

Shake (Change of Direction)

NBA Combine Shuttle Run

  1. Zach LaVine – 2.80 seconds
  2. Dante Exum – 2.88 seconds
  3. Marcus Smart – 2.96 seconds
  • LaVine showed his ability to get off the blocks quickly by clocking a 2.80 second time in the shuttle run which is a drill that measures a player’s speed when changing directions. LaVine came in second only to Arizona’s Aaron Gordon. Exum’s time was good as expected, coming in 7th in the drill.
  • A concern with Smart is his ability to beat defenders off the dribble at the NBA level and his average time in this drill he didn’t invalidate those concerns. The test is performed without the player dribbling a basketball which could affect these times.

Lateral Speed

Lane Agility

  • Again LaVine tops both Exum and Smart in another athletic drill, coming in 1st overall at the combine in the Lane Agility Test which measures how fast a player moves around the key. LaVine came in with a time of 10.42 seconds, Exum 2nd overall at 10.75.
  • The lane agility drill is a good indicator for a player’s defensive potential since it measures their quickness moving laterally. Although behind both Exum and LaVine, Smart scored well in the drill, finishing 8th overall at the combine. Smart is highly rated mainly due to his strength on the defensive end and his ability to move his feet is laterally on the perimeter will be vital to becoming that All-NBA defender that many project him to become. Smart did enough to show he has good defensive potential. Here is video of Smart going through the drill:


More information is needed to really size up the potential of the 3 very talented guards, such as their understanding of the game, smarts, work ethic, toughness, aggressiveness, ability to shoot from the outside and ball handling skills. If we only consider the measurables, such as size, length and athletic ability, it is clear that Zach LaVine outshines both Dante Exum and Marcus Smart.

LaVine measures great size for either guard position in addition to having elite athletic ability in both the areas of explosiveness and quickness, even by NBA standards. LaVine, while not showing in his 1 year in college, possesses great lateral quickness and length which provides him the opportunity to become a very good NBA defender.

Exum while possessing great size and quickness, lacks explosiveness which will hurt him in both getting off his jump shot and finishing around the rim. Smart has great length and strength but doesnt have NBA level explosiveness or the quickness of either LaVine or Exum which might hurt him in trying to beat defenders off the dribble and get the opportunity to use his big body in the lane where he would have the greatest advantage.

The tale of the tape shows that LaVine is the quicker, faster, bouncier and most agile of the 3 guards.  As he continues to impress NBA teams during workouts with this amazing athletic abilities, he will surely move up the draft boards, possibly even passing up Smart and Exum in the process. As mentioned before, there is more to be considered but much of that can be taught or gained with experience. However, you can’t teach a vertical or become longer or faster by gaining experiencing. Your physical tools are what they are and LaVine’s are incredibly impressive.

-Fern Rea

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Writer & NBA fan who’s been hooked since the days of Magic v Bird. Love basketball debates without it ending in a knife fight. My BBall nickname: “Todo El Dia” (All Day.) Hit me up on Twitter @fullcourtfern or Instagram: @raining3sdotcom