With the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns select Croatian power forward Dragan Bender of Maccabi Tel Aviv. The 7’1, 225-pound big man played sparingly for Maccabi this past season, but is just 18 years old and has impressed many scouts with the makings of a well-rounded offensive skill set and a fluidity that is really coveted at his position these days.
Scouts with the most knowledge of him warn against the lazy and somewhat convenient comparisons to last year’s No. 4 overall pick in Kristaps Porzingis. Bender has excellent footwork and agility around the court. He can space the floor as a pick-and-pop shooter and get out on the break in transition. He’s still described as a project (especially on the defensive end) at just 18 years old, but has already shown the type of foot-speed and lateral quickness that should translate to being able to defend or at least help when switched onto perimeter players.
Bender may not be an explosive athlete beneath the rim (his max jump was 27.5″ at the combine), but is a quick jumper and is shifty enough with his footwork to operate effectively as he adds additional strength.
He joins a relatively thin frontcourt rotation (signed players) of Tyson Chandler and 2013 No. 5 overall pick Alex Len as the Suns still have decisions to make with several players on the roster. With two additional picks in tonight’s first round, the Suns could look to continue bolstering their frontcourt depth, but Bender would still have plenty of opportunities to earn a spot within their rotation in the upcoming season given the high selection.
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