Report: As expected, Australian Dante Exum likely to declare for draft

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Fans in Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Utah and a host of other cities are keeping a close eye this season on the guys on top of everyone’s draft board — Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid at Kansas, Jabari Parker at Duke, Julius Randle at Kentucky.

But one guy they can’t watch is Dante Exum, who is playing in Australia.

DraftExpress.com has Exum — a 6’6” combo guard who maybe could play a little three depending on the system — as the No. 5 prospect.

And you can expect him to come out, a number of agents told Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Australian Dante Exum has completed meetings with eight powerhouse player representation agencies and left them a strong impression that he plans to enter the June NBA draft, sources told Yahoo Sports.

I would be shocked if he doesn’t enter the draft,” one agent who recently met with Exum’s family told Yahoo Sports. “He knows he’s a lottery pick, and knows several teams have him very high on their boards. His family knows that this is an opportunity that may not come again.”

Another agent who traveled to Australia told Yahoo: “This is a bright, thoughtful kid – a great family – and they’re taking their time to think all this through. But in the end, I didn’t sense anything that would hold him back from [the draft]. … I can’t imagine him not coming out.”

In theory he could go to college for a year to gain some seasoning, but if you are a top five pick why would you take that risk? Besides, as much as the college people hate to admit this, you develop your game better in the NBA — no limits on practices, better coaching (in general), better competition to push you.

Exum is a big guard who can handle the rock, create for himself and others, can work in the post or on the wing, and looks like he could work in a number of systems. He’s not a great defender right now but there is a lot of potential on that end of the floor. He needs to improve his shot, but that is something teams feel they can work on — you can’t teach athleticism and great court vision, you can teach shooting form.

Exum is going to come and he’s going to go high — and in an NBA where ball-handling guards are at a premium he could make one team very happy.

Quinn Cook signing two-year contract with Hawks

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The Hawks began last season with just two point guards, one fewer than most teams – especially notable because neither starter Dennis Schroder nor backup Malcolm Delaney was experienced for his role.

Schroder and Delaney return, but Atlanta is adding another option – Quinn Cook.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Cook is a borderline NBA player. He might not make the regular-season roster. He also might supplant Delaney for a rotation spot.

A 24-year-old who has spent most of the last two years in the D-League (also getting stints with the Mavericks and Pelicans), Cook is a good outside shooter. He’s also steady, if unspectacular, in his lead-guard duties.

This is a solid flier at a position the Hawks could use depth.

Knicks sign Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Jamel Artis

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The Knicks signing Nigel Hayes leaked first.

But New York didn’t stop there.

Knicks release:

The New York Knickerbockers announced today that the team has signed forwards Jamel Artis and Nigel Hayes and guard Xavier Rathan-Mayes.

Like Hayes, Artis (Pittsburgh) and Rathan-Mayes (Florida State) went undrafted this year – making them eligible to be waived and assigned to the Knicks’ minor-league affiliate. That’s likely all three’s fate.

But first, each will have an opportunity to make the regular-season roster. The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one roster spot for someone on a standard contract. Chasson Randle (unguaranteed) is the incumbent choice, but these three could supplant him.

O.J. Mayo says abusing prescription painkillers triggered NBA ban

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Last year, O.J. Mayo was banned from the NBA for at least two years due to a drug violation. Aside from stating a plan to come back, Mayo didn’t say much publicly.

Until now.

Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

He acknowledged smoking marijuana and abusing a prescription pain medication that triggered his two-year ban because it is on the NBA’s “drugs of abuse” list. (He emphatically denied testing positive for hard drugs like cocaine.)

Mayo also concluded that he had been “overwhelmed” by a string of difficult life events: his father, high school basketball star Kenny Ziegler, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison for distributing crack cocaine, his brother was placed in juvenile lock-up, a close friend went to jail, and another was killed. “I was bred to play basketball and I thought I could balance everything,” he said. “I couldn’t.”

That’s part of an interesting feature on Mayo, who’s training for his come back. Golliver’s story makes it easy to pull for Mayo.

But the guard will be 30 when he’s eligible to apply for reinstatement, and he played lousily in his last three seasons with the Bucks.

Hopefully, Mayo has and keeps his personal life in order. But returning to the NBA will be an uphill battle.

James Harden throws alley-oop to Chris Paul, pair puts on show at Houston charity event

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What chemistry problem?

There are legitimate questions about how Chris Paul and James Harden will share the backcourt and ball with the Rockets, but none of those were on display on Sunday. That’s when CP3 joined his new teammate in Harden’s charity game (raising money for Harden’s charity, which helps children from single-family homes get a higher education), a kind of pro-am with some names thrown in to draw a crowd.

Harden and CP3 put on a show for the fans.

This is a charity event, not every team is going to defend like this or the Phoenix Suns. It’s going to be harder when the games matter.

But the Rockets are going to be entertaining to watch this season. No doubt.