11:40am: Bender is unlikely to take part in any predraft workouts for NBA teams, Pick hears (Twitter link). The season for his team in Israel could stretch until June 9th, precisely two weeks prior to the draft, as Pick points out.
9:14am: The buyout in Bender’s Israel deal is in excess of $1MM, a source told Pick, who nonetheless adds that he still won’t become a draft-and-stash prospect (Twitter link).
8:46am: Elite European prospect Dragan Bender officially entered the draft this morning, agent Doug Neustadt says, according to Fran Fraschilla of ESPN.com (Twitter link). The 18-year-old power forward already told Maccabi Tel Aviv, the Israeli team he’s played for this season, that he intends to leave, tweets international journalist David Pick. Bender is the No. 3 prospect in the rankings that both Chad Ford of ESPN.com and Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress compile.
Officials from at least one NBA team believe the buyout clause in his contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv requires only $650K, precisely the amount an NBA can pay without it affecting his rookie scale contract, as Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported earlier this week. That, combined with the news that he’s told the Israeli team he’s headed elsewhere, seems to make it clear that Bender won’t be a draft-and-stash player and will appear on NBA hardwoods this fall. If so, it’ll bring years of anticipation to a climax, though he doesn’t turn 19 until November, and his body isn’t close to ready for the NBA, Givony wrote in February.
Bender has nonetheless been the object of intrigue for quite some time despite his pedestrian stats overseas. He’s seen just 12.3 minutes per game for Tel Aviv so far this season, averaging 4.7 points and 2.3 rebounds, though he’s shown an emerging 3-point stroke, hitting 39.7% of his 63 attempts. He can play small forward or center in addition to the four, as Ford notes in his profile, and that versatility comes with an underrated toughness, according to Givony.