European phenom Dragan Bender will make his U.S. debut in Chicago tonight for Israel Maccabi Electra Tel Aviv for the first of a pair of exhibitions against EA7 Emporio Armani Milan, as Zach Links of Hoops Rumors first reported he was likely to do. The 17-year-old has stirred no shortage of excitement, as international journalist David Pick writes for Bleacher Report. Almost all 30 NBA teams are set to scout the contests, with the Celtics, Nets, Mavericks, Grizzlies and Bucks among them, sources tell Pick. Hornets GM Rich Cho will be there, too, tweets Jake Fischer of SI Now. The Nuggets, Sixers and Magic have had talks with Maccabi officials about the 7’1″ power forward, Pick also hears. Bender is well ahead of where 2015 No. 4 overall pick Kristaps Porzingis was at the same age, Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress told Pick. Givony has Bender as the fifth-best prospect in next year’s draft, while Chad Ford of ESPN.com ranks him seventh.
“The only thing ’17 years old’ about him is his mustache,” Maccabi coach Guy Goodes said to Pick.
See more on Bender and other NBA news here:
- Bender turns 18 next month, so he’ll turn 19 in 2016 and thus be eligible for early entry for the upcoming draft, but it’s not a given that he’ll declare, as Maccabi GM Nikola Vujcic, who also serves as Bender’s guardian, explained to Pick for the same piece. Vujcic suggested to Pick that Bender won’t enter the draft unless he receives a commitment from a team picking in the top three to five selections and suggested that he might decide to stay overseas for a while even if he is drafted.
- John Wall says he and Kevin Durant are “really close” and reiterated that he’ll make a recruiting pitch to the former MVP who hits free agency next summer, though he adds that he’ll be cautious not to take an overbearing approach, as the Wizards point guard explains to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders.
- The Nets declined to waive Markel Brown by Tuesday’s guarantee date, so his $200K partial guarantee jumped to a full guarantee on his $845,059 minimum salary, notes Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders (Twitter link). That gives the Nets 13 fully guaranteed contracts among the 20 players they have in camp.
- The Rockets are trying to minimize their risks with Ty Lawson, having told him that they’ll provide a ride for him to any destination at any time, according to TNT’s David Aldridge, who writes in his Morning Tip column for NBA.com. Lawson, for whom Houston traded this summer despite two DUI arrests in six months, has been on his best behavior so far, Aldridge notes.