11:50am: Bender will undergo ankle surgery, but the timeline for his return has yet to be determined, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7, who tweets that Bender hasn’t necessarily been ruled out for the year.
I’d expect the Suns to play it safe with Bender and shut him down for the season, rather than trying to get him back on the court for the lottery-bound franchise down the stretch, but we’ll await official word from the team.
11:14am: Dragan Bender‘s rookie season will come to an early end, according to Croatian journalist Bernard Jurisic, who reports that the Suns big man will require surgery on his injured ankle (English link via Sportando). Although the team has yet to make a formal announcement, international basketball reporter David Pick has heard the same thing, tweeting that Bender will undergo a season-ending procedure on his ankle today.
Bender, 19, hasn’t made a major a splash in his first NBA season, averaging 3.2 PPG nad 2.2 RPG in 38 regular season contests (12.7 MPG). Still, despite coming off the board fourth overall last summer, Bender wasn’t viewed as a player who would make an immediate impact, so the Suns certainly remain optimistic about his long-term future.
As Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer wrote this week, Suns general manager Ryan McDonough said his front office was “almost split down the middle” on whether to take Bender or Marquese Chriss with the No. 4 pick in the 2016 draft. Phoenix ultimately opted for Bender, but was able to snag Chriss as well after acquiring the No. 8 pick from Sacramento.
Within O’Connor’s piece, McDonough praised Bender’s maturity and suggested that the Suns are happy with what they’ve seen from him so far.
“I know people look at the raw stats,” McDonough said. “But more for us, when we look at him defensively, him moving the ball, him making the right play, and being in the right position, he does all those things at a very high level for a 19-year-old guy.”