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Fraschilla: Dragan Bender ‘at least one year away’ from NBA

LISTEN: Fran Fraschilla, ESPN college basketball insider

The Phoenix Suns hold the coveted fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, but they may be faced with a difficult decision when they’re on the clock June 23.

On Arizona Sports’ Doug and Wolf show on Tuesday morning, ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla noted that the “best” players available at number four could be two shooting guards: Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray.

For the Suns, Murray or Hield could pose a traffic jam at shooting guard, a position already occupied in Phoenix by 19-year-old rookie sensation Devin Booker.

Fraschilla explained, though, that if the Suns elect to pick power forward Dragan Bender of Croatia, he might not contribute to the team right away.

“If Bender is drafted four, then what the Suns management and Ryan McDonough is saying is, ‘We’re not going to win right away,’” Fraschilla said. “But you’re getting a 7-foot-1 young man who’s 18-and-a-half years old, who the coaching staff is going to have to develop over the next couple of years.”

The ESPN analyst contrasted Bender to the Knicks’ fourth overall pick from Europe last year, Kristaps Porzingis.

“Can he be a very good NBA player? The answer is yes,” he said. “[Bender] is not as advanced as where Porzingis was a year ago, because, a: he’s younger, and b: he didn’t have the luxury of playing two years in the second-best league in the world in Spain. … “He’s a unique talent, but in my mind at least one year away from being an effective NBA player.”

If the Suns select Bender, then they may have to decide whether to bring him to the United States for development or allow him to continue playing in Europe.

“More than likely, the Suns will probably want to get their hands on him right away, unless you feel comfortable with a team in Europe,” Fraschilla said. “If you’re not comfortable with him playing a lot of minutes at the highest level over there, the next best thing would just be to bring him over and develop him under your own watchful eye.”

Ron Wolfley asked Fraschilla about claims that Bender may not have the physicality or toughness for the NBA.

“I think a lot of it is his age,” Fraschilla said. “I don’t think it’s a matter of the young man being soft, he’s just not physically able to go into the low post right now and go hand-to-hand combat with someone like Andre Drummond.”

The Suns also hold picks number 13 and 28 in the first round, and pick 34th in the second round.

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