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Phoenix Suns select Dragan Bender 4th overall in 2016 NBA Draft

Jun 23, 2016, 4:56 PM | Updated: 6:04 pm

The Phoenix Suns went international with their top selection in the NBA Draft, choosing 7-foot-1 power forward Dragan Bender from Croatia with their No. 4 overall selection.

Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram and Jaylen Brown were chosen with the top three picks by the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, respectively.

Bender started playing professionally in Croatia when he was 16 years old and would then move to Israel in 2014 to play for Maccabi Tel Aviv, one of the top and most successful teams in all of Europe.

According to David Pick, there is a $1.2 million out clause with Maccabi that the Suns, by NBA rules, will be able to contribute $650,000 toward.

In all competitions last season while playing 14.5 minutes per game, Bender averaged 5.5 points and three rebounds.

Currently in the third year of a seven-year contract, Bender reportedly has a $1.3 million buyout according to Yahoo! Sports. The buyout should be no problem, according to Yahoo! Sports Jonathan Givony, who said the sum is “relatively small for an international player of his stature and should pose no obstacles to him joining the NBA team that drafts him June 23.”

An agile 7-footer who can shoot from the perimeter, Bender is now the only power forward on the Suns’ roster as both Jon Leuer and Mirza Teletovic are unrestricted free agents.

Bender becomes the fourth Suns selection in the top 10 of the draft in the past 15 years, joining Amar’e Stoudemire (2002), Luol Deng (2004, traded to Chicago) and Alex Len (2013). He’s the highest selection for the franchise since Phoenix picked Armen Gilliam No. 2 overall in 1987.

The 18-year-old Bender worked out with the Suns on June 18 in a private workout that was closed to the media.

Bender is the youngest player in the draft, making it the second straight year the Suns have taken after choosing Devin Booker 13th overall in 2015. ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla said of Bender: “He’s a unique talent but in my mind at least one year away from being an effective NBA player.”

Phoenix has three more selections in the draft at No. 13, No. 28 and No. 34.

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Phoenix Suns select Dragan Bender 4th overall in 2016 NBA Draft