Former NBA draft Bust eyeing return to league

Dragan Bender shooting a ball

Nov 23, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns forward Dragan Bender (35) warms up prior to the game against the Orlando Magic at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

One notorious ex-NBA draft bust is down for the count but not out just yet.

During an interview this week with Israeli outlet One, former Phoenix Suns Lottery pick Dragan Bender said that he is eyeing a return to the NBA. Bender is currently back in action with Obradoiro CAB in Spain after missing the entire 2021-22 season due to an ACL tear in his knee.

“I am healthy, that is the most important thing right now,” said Bender, per EuroHoops. “Undoubtedly, I want to return to the NBA down the road.”

The seven-footer Bender, who only recently turned 25, was the No. 4 overall pick by the Suns in the 2016 NBA Draft. Although that year’s draft class ended up being relatively weak, Phoenix took Bender over Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, and Domantas Sabonis (who went later in the lottery). The likes of Pascal Siakam, Dejounte Murray, and Malcolm Brogdon were also chosen later on in the draft. All of the above were better picks than Bender, who averaged a meager 5.9 points per contest on 39.9 percent from the field before he was out of the NBA by 2020.

But now averaging 20.6 points and 6.7 rebounds per game this season in Spain (including a smoking 46.9 percent from three), Bender has still got game. Whether that game is NBA-caliber though is anyone’s guess. But Bender did at least have a few nice moments during his time in the league.

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