PHOENIX SUNS

Dragan Bender to the D-League? It’d be a rare, perhaps risky move

Dec 22, 2016, 2:21 PM | Updated: Dec 23, 2016, 1:03 pm

Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender (35), of Croatia, and Sacramento Kings guard Ty Lawson (10) batt...

Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender (35), of Croatia, and Sacramento Kings guard Ty Lawson (10) battle for the ball during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

(AP Photo/Matt York)

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For everybody wondering why the Suns are not utilizing their newly relocated D-League team in Prescott Valley for their top pick in this past draft, there might be more to it than meets your eye.

As the play-by-play guy for all of the NAZ Suns games (on Facebook Live), I’ve taken notice of the few former first round picks that have visited the Prescott Valley Events Center, and there is a common thread — not a lot if any of them have been top-10 picks.

I went back and looked at the last eight drafts, and the last time a top-five pick in the draft played in the D-League as a rookie was Hasheem Thabeet back in 2009. There are many reasons why this hasn’t happened, but in the case of Dragan Bender, you have to wonder if his mental psyche and self-confidence is playing a role in the Suns’ decision not to let him start and play 30-plus minutes in a D-League game.

I see this as a potential double-edged sword.

Send Bender to NAZ and risk slashing his confidence along with angering his agent, who is likely familiar that Toronto’s Jakob Poeltl, the ninth overall pick, is the only top-10 player to have seen any action in the D-League this year. In addition, outside of Thabeet, the only other top-five pick to play in the D-League at all in the last eight years was Anthony Bennett, who inexplicably went No. 1 in 2013 but didn’t see his first action in the “minors” until his 3rd year in the NBA.

The flip side is the Suns would love to see what Bender is capable of, given the opportunity to play. He could, in fact, get a serious boost of confidence from a couple games of 30-plus minutes on the floor and whatever results comes along with that in the box score.

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Dragan Bender to the D-League? It’d be a rare, perhaps risky move