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The Phoenix Suns believe that Dragan Bender is a ‘cornerstone’ piece

Although 19-year-old Dragan Bender hasn’t featured for the Phoenix Suns as regularly as many had anticipated so far this season, Suns head coach Earl Watson affirmed his belief in the Croatian big man.

On Wednesday, the Suns managed to outscore the Orlando Magic by seven points during the 13 minutes in which Bender was on the floor. The rookie has shot 39 percent on 3s so far this season and Watson believes that he will eventually be a huge part of the franchise, as per Paul Coro of AZ Central Sports:

“I love Dragan,” Watson said. “I always want to try to find a way to get him into the game. I think Dragan is going to have amazing opportunities moving forward. We understand he’s a big part of our future as a cornerstone. But the NBA is not just as easy as playing guys you like. There’s a lot of things that go into it.”

One of the main critiques of Bender’s game when he entered the league was his lack of defensive prowess. The 7-foot-1 center is beginning to show signs of improvement of defense, blocking two shots in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game. He understands that effort and versatility are important attributes for players attempting to make their mark in the NBA:

“I just have to be able to put the energy on the floor and change the pace of the game,” Bender said. “I have to give the team extra effort on the floor, whether that be at the three position, four position or five position.”

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