With the fourth pick in the NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Dragan Bender, according to Sports Illustrated. The 18-year-old forward was considered to be the best international basketball prospect by many in the National Basketball Association. The Suns are hoping that’s true, because they need another star player on their roster.
NBA teams are now searching for big men with perimeter skills. Executives and coaches know how much of an advantage that is to have on the court. Guys like Dirk Nowitzki have proven to be headaches for teams in the National Basketball Association because it’s really hard to guard them.
Dragan Bender becomes the latest European big man with skills that you normally associate with guards. Though he’s 7’0″, Bender is more than comfortable playing close to the three-point line. In fact, he even spent some time playing point guard when he initially started paying basketball.
Growing up, Dragan Bender was mesmerized by the playing style of Toni Kukoc. The former Chicago Bulls forward was once considered to be the European version of Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson. Bender spent many hours watching tapes of Kukoc. He then tried to emulate a lot of his moves on the court.
Toni Kukoc essentially played all five positions on the court for the Chicago Bulls. That was made easier because then-head coach Phil Jackson utilized the Triangle Offense. In that system, there really are no positions. Everyone was expected to be everywhere on the court because it confused opposing defenses.
In the NBA, Dragan Bender is going to be versatile. However, he is unlikely to play all five positions for the Phoenix Suns. Bender will more than likely be spending time at the small forward, power forward, and center positions. Much of that will depend on how well he defends those positions.
The Phoenix Suns desperately needed a power forward in the NBA Draft. They sent away the disgruntled Markieff Morris to the Washington Wizards. While chemistry has improved, the Suns had a void at the position once Morris was jettisoned. Phoenix is hoping that Dragan Bender can fill that void.
The future looks pretty bright for the Phoenix Suns. They have a potential star in Devin Booker. The guard is just 19 years old. Dragan Bender is 18 years old. If Booker and Bender can develop well together, the Suns will have a nice foundation for the next decade.
While the Phoenix Suns are prepared to be patient with Dragan Bender, there are those that hope that he can provide some glimpses of his potential during his rookie season. The Suns saw what Kristaps Porzingis did for the New York Knicks fan base. It would be great for Phoenix if Bender can do something similar.
In regards to playing style, Dragan Bender shares many traits with Kristaps Porzingis. Both guys can stretch the floor because they can shoot from the perimeter. Though they like playing outside, Bender and Porzingis are actually competent and willing defenders who can protect the rim.
Dragan Bender should be a nice fit for the current big men on the Phoenix Suns roster. Tyson Chandler and Alex Len are good defenders, but they cannot shoot from the outside. Bender should be able to draw defenders away from Chandler and Len whenever they are on the court at the same time.
The NBA Draft is a crap shoot. That has been proven time and time again. However, from the initial looks of things, the Phoenix Suns have greatly improved the future of their team by drafting Dragan Bender. The international star could be a game changer for them.
[Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images]