2016 has been a kind year for fans of the Phoenix Suns, despite the lack of wins during the regular season and the NBA Lottery.
2015 was an ugly year, with low-lights including the Eric Bledsoe injury, Tyson Chandler’s contract, and the Morris drama.
2016 has seen Devin Booker grow into a larger role in the Phoenix Suns offense, as well as finishing third to the Splash Brothers, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in the Three Point Contest in February.
The Suns also added three young talents in Dragan Bender, Marquese Chriss, and Tyler Ulis. As an added bonus, the Suns were conservative in free agency. These young guys should actually get minutes this season.
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There seems to be a clear focus for the Suns: build around youth and give them minutes. Surround the youth with veterans that fit within the right culture.
Tyson Chandler and Brandon Knight will both take minutes from younger talents, but those are the errors of 2015.
The result of recent consistency: it is just July 19th, and the Phoenix Suns have already made enough good roster moves to put together a ‘top-5’ for the year (and not a sarcastic one, like 2015 deserved).
#5: Suns draft Dragan Bender #4 Overall
The Boston Celtics taking Jaylen Brown third overall was a shocking move. While the Suns certainly had trade options there, they stuck to their plan and took the best available forward.
He brings youth and potential to the weakest part of the Suns last season, the power forward position. Despite being 7 foot 1 inch tall, he has good shooting form and should develop into a solid three point threat. At just 18, his game is already smooth and controlled.
Bender has above average handles for a player of his size. There will be silly turnovers early in his career, but the potential is there for his handles to be a weapon.
Dragan Bender also received great reviews for his performance during the Last Vegas Summer League, with Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer calling Bender, “the most impressive rookie I saw in Vegas”.
Dragan Bender has elite size and can fill both forward positions and eventually defend centers with his size. Tjarks noted, “Bender, who has wing talent with the size to play center, gives an offense almost unlimited flexibility.”
If Bender can be a versatile defender, it will give the Suns significantly more flexibility with their rotations. You can imagine a pretty athletic lineup of Eric Bledsoe – Devin Booker – Dragan Bender – Marquese Chriss – Alex Len.
The 2015-16 Suns lacked the positional flexibility that has defined the NBA in recent seasons. Bender could be that flexible star that can play alongside nearly any player.
Next: #4: Suns draft SEC POY Tyler Ulis 34th overall