Draft prospect: five things you need to know about Dragan Bender

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The NBA Draft typically gifts the NBA with the brightest talents from all over the U.S that have been lighting up the college circuit, but Europe nearly always contributes a few gems each year, and this year is no different.

Kristaps Porzingis is the latest sensation to make his way to America after the New York Knicks snatched the 7'3" Latvian with the fourth overall pick last year, much to the surprise of many.

Porzingod, as he is affectionately known, was a smash hit in the NBA and the forward ended up having the fourth best-selling jersey last season as a result of his popularity.

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Now, Dragan Bender lurks waiting to make his own impact. At 7'1", the Bosnian-born star has a ton of upside going for him and is expected to in the top 10 picks, possibly as high as third.

We've put together five facts about the mammoth center who can also man the four spot so you can get to know the Euroleague superstar a little better before the big day on June 23.

His NBA idol is someone you wouldn't expect

Although born in Bosnia, Bender moved to Croatia as a young child and quickly fell in love with basketball.

He adored the Chicago Bulls of the 1990's - even though he was only born in 1997) - but it wasn't Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen or even Dennis Rodman that stole his heart.

He modelled his game after perhaps the greatest Croatian export, Toni Kukoc. As a three-time NBA-champion, the former power forward isn't a bad base to work off.

He's the youngest player in this year's draft

He is one of nine potential draft picks born in 1997, but he won’t turn 19 until November 17 later this year. Phoenix's Devin Booker - who enjoyed a stellar debut season in the league - was the youngest player in the league last season, turning 19 just before the Suns' campaign tipped-off.

General managers around the league must find that fact quite attractive. He's been playing professionally in Europe since he was 16 and yet has so much room to grow.

That kind of potential upside is what GM's go mad for.

Mentor to guardian to manager

It's fair to say Bender is fond of Nikola Vujcic, and vice versa.

When Bender moved from KK Castela in Croatia to join European heavyweights Maccabi Tel Aviv, it was no coincidence the team's manager, Vujcic, orchestrated the deal.

Bender's first exposure to organised basketball was at an academy run by Vujcic in Croatia when he was 12-years-old and during that time, the former Vujcic became his guardian, too. Close knit


He loves Instagram

The one-time Israeli All-Star frequently posts on his Instagram account and it's clear there is a personality as big as his height tinged with teenage charm.

Through his posts, we have seen Bender play basketball on a skateboard, hit the go-kart track and reveal himself to be a big Family Guy fan.

His brother is already in the U.S

Ivan Bender is 6’9”, 235 pounds and completed his freshman year with the Maryland Terrapins this past season.

He had a season-high five points and six boards against Saint Francis - that's not the strongest indication he is bound to follow in his brother's impending NBA footsteps.

He's actually just under two years older than his brother, but nowhere near as polished. Bender has become even more attractive to potential suitors as he averaged slightly north of 40 percent for three-pointers during the Israeli regular season, something not readily associated with men of his size.

NBA Draft
Eastern Conference
Boston Celtics
Atlantic Division
Western Conference
Philadelphia 76ers
L.A. Lakers
Pacific Division

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