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Suns coach: Like Kevin Durant, Dragan Bender could become a big SF

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, left, congratulates Dragan Bender after Bender was selected fourth overall by the Phoenix Suns during the NBA basketball draft, Thursday, June 23, 2016, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
LISTEN: Earl Watson - Suns Head Coach

Suns head coach Earl Watson is not saying Dragan Bender is going to be the next Kevin Durant.

It’s a good thing, too, because it would come off as a bit ridiculous to say the 18-year-old forward is destined to become a league scoring champion and MVP, and put his name in the conversation as one of the best players in the entire world.

What Watson is saying, however, is like Durant back in 2007 when he was the second-overall pick out of Texas by the Seattle SuperSonics, the 18-year-old Bender has a rare combination of size and skill, and if taught correctly, could be something special.

“He’s a blank canvas as well; he’s really skilled, he can play, he can move, he can shoot,” he told Off the Edge with B-Train on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Friday. “I think he’s still growing. I think he has the potential to play the 3 in the NBA.”

Bender is listed at 7-foot-1 and 225 pounds. Last season with Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv in the Euroleague, he averaged 1.5 points and 1.2 rebounds in just under nine minutes per game. However, while his statistics don’t jump off the page, few saw the Suns tabbing him at No. 4 overall as a reach.

No, most see Bender as a uniquely-talented player who, in time, could be valuable for the Suns.

As for what position he would play, Watson said he understands why some would question the idea of Bender playing small forward at his size.

“Like, he’s 7-foot-1, but so is Kevin Durant — he’s almost seven-feet tall,” Watson said, pointing to the 6-foot-9, 240-pound star. “And what makes Kevin Durant unique at the 3 position is that he can shoot over most defenders at his position.”

Watson added that they can pair the tall Durant with a big power forward and center, and combined with point guard Russell Westbrook being as dynamic as he is, the Thunder “just too much to overcome with athleticism.”

With Bender along with No. 8 pick Marquese Chriss, as well as Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Knight, Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Alex Len, the Suns are confident they have put together a group with similar traits.

“But now we have a team, and we have a roster and a family, that can compete at the highest level of basketball in the Western Conference and in the NBA overall.”


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