The NBA Draft 2016 takes place tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, as fans from 215 countries and territories around the world will be following the destinies of 60 young prospects as they look to realise their NBA dream. A total of 162 players initially applied for early entry in this year’s Draft, including 45 international players. Last year, three international players (who didn’t play for a U.S. college) were selected in the lottery: Kristaps Porzingis (New York Knicks; Latvia), Mario Hezonja (Orlando Magic; Croatia) and Emmanuel Mudiay (Denver Nuggets; Democratic Republic of the Congo).
The Philadelphia 76ers will make the opening pick for the first time since choosing Allen Iverson with the top selection in 1996. The Los Angeles Lakers hold the No. 2 pick for the second year in a row. The Boston Celtics have eight picks in this Draft, including the No. 3 selection.
As many as nine college freshmen have a chance to be selected in this year’s lottery: Jaylen Brown (California), Marquese Chriss (Washington), Deyonta Davis (Michigan State), Henry Ellenson (Marquette), Brandon Ingram (Duke), Skal Labissiere (Kentucky), Dejounte Murray (Washington), Jamal Murray (Kentucky) and Ben Simmons (LSU).
The top international players (who didn’t play for a U.S. college) for the NBA Draft 2016 include Dragan Bender (Bosnia and Herzegovina), Furkan Korkmaz (Turkey), Timothé Luwawu (France), Thon Maker (Australia/South Sudan), Ante Zizic (Croatia) and Ivica Zubac (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
Dragan Bender (pictured) spoke to media ahead of tonight’s draft. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: With all the rumors coming out about where guys are going, do you start to get a better idea as we get closer about where you think you’ll land?
Bender: It’s a lottery, so you never know. We’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow on draft night. You’re always hoping for the best, for sure, and it’s a lot of excitement, but you need to be realistic and wait for the moment.
Q: How was your visit in Boston on Tuesday?
Bender: It was really good – really great workout, really great people around the club, so it was really great meeting those guys. Getting a chance to talk to them and work with them was really good.
Q: Did they give you any indication?
Bender: No. I mean, those teams, it’s just an honor to be with them in the same room. They’re not going to say stuff like that. We’re going to see everything tomorrow night and, like I said, hope for the best.
Q: Do you have a choice of where you’d like to be?
Bender: For me, no. I’m just happy to be here and my dream is coming true. We’ll see what’s going to happen tomorrow.
Q: What kinds of questions are you answering from teams about your game? What do they want to know about your game?
Bender: They have a lot of my games [on tape] and have been to Tel Aviv [Israel] to a couple of games and practices, so basically they know a lot about me on the court. But what they want to know is my lifestyle and personal life and how I live my life. That was basically most of the questions.
Q: A lot of people think that the one and two picks are obviously going to be the guys that everyone’s been predicting for a while. What have you and your camp talked about in terms of how those next three or four picks might fall and how you should look at it tomorrow night while it’s happening?
Bender: Right, I mean, everything is possible. There are a couple of great guys running for those positions, but you never know what’s going to happen. You just need to wait for that moment where they call your name and whatever that place is you secure your dreams.
Q: The success that Kristaps Porzingis had coming last season – what does that mean to you mentally and with expectations coming over?
Bender: It’s a great thing for European players with European guys having a great rookie season and a great year playing in the NBA. I get how it’s great for European players, but we’re definitely different players. Some say stuff in terms of European guys coming to the NBA, but besides that we’re pretty much different players. He had an amazing season for a rookie and, of course, every rookie is hoping for that season. I just have to go day-by-day and do my best on the court.
Q: Eighteen years old, the youngest guy in the draft. What makes you want to make this jump now and think that you’re ready?
Bender: I’ve been playing pro since I was 15, 16 years old. I’m used to this kind of life. I think I’m ready for this step and looking forward to the NBA. The NBA has more and more younger players and putting them into games to play. I think this is the right choice to come out here, for sure.
NBA fans in the UK can watch the 2016 NBA Draft live from midnight (BST) tonight on BT Sport 2 or via NBA LEAGUE PASS (www.nba.tv)
Source: Pitch London
Image: Getty/Dragan Bender