Suns Draft Profile: Dragan Bender
As the top European prospect in this year’s draft, Dragan Bender is one of the biggest unknowns heading into the draft. At just 18 years old, Bender is listed at 7′ 1″, weighs 225 pounds, and has a 9′ 3″ standing reach. As a projected top five pick, he could be the best player in this draft, or a huge bust. Bender averaged only 10.6 minutes per game for Maccabi Tel Aviv this season, and for most of the past year, thought to be stuck over seas for at least a few seasons. However it turns out that Bender has a 1.3 million dollar buyout every year of his contract, meaning his development with NBA personnel can start right away.
As you read this write up remember, Bender is a huge project and only played 10 minutes a game. He did not put up huge number because of those inconsistent minutes, and so most of his strengths are what they are projected to be.
Offensively, Bender has shown the possibility of becoming the ideal modern big man. He can hit the mid range jumpshot, is working on his three point shot, and has a basic ability to score around the basket. He runs in transition, filling the lane while off the ball, and has shown the ability to be the primary ball handler on the fast break. That ball handling ability has been shown off in the half court, and is another examples of how Bender has the potential to do just about everything on the offensive end.
On the defensive side of the ball, Bender has excelled as a perimeter defender, staying in front of guys, and recovering enough to contest the shot if they are able to get around him. While his explosiveness is an issue, his speed is not, and he can closeout on guys extremely well. He can go from contesting the a shot in the paint, to closing out and contesting a three point shot. His length definitely helps on the perimeter, and he has the ability to alter shots at the rim because of that length.
Bender’s biggest strength might be his length. If he can bulk up, he will be able to play ‘small ball’ center. With more muscle and weight, he could be an elite defensive force in the paint. If he can improve his post game, he could score on just about anyone, and he can already make a jump shot over almost anyone.
While his length is quite possibly his biggest strength, his frame is currently his biggest weakness. He is very light for being over seven foot, weighing only 225 pounds, and his lack of weight and strength hurts him while defending in the post and rebounding. He gets eaten alive while playing in the post one-on-one. His man can get any positioning he wants in the post, which is mostly right underneath the rim. Because of his size, Bender doesn’t have a whole lot of explosiveness. Most seven footers don’t have a lot of explosiveness, so this is to be expected. He will probably never be an elite shot blocker, despite his length.
His rebounding is also hurt by his frame, but that isn’t his only issue while rebounding. He has a bad habit of not staying aware of where his man is once a shot goes up. This lets his man gets the rebound and hurts his team’s ability to get a second chance at a basket.
How does he fit?
Bender is a project, and if he hits half of his potential, he would fit very well on the Sun’s roster. As a shooter around the perimeter, he would help space the floor for the Suns’ guards, allowing them to drive at will. Bender has the potential to be an elite pick and roll big, and would be dangerous combined with either Bledsoe or Booker. On the defensive end of the floor, he would let the Suns be more effective at switching on the pick and roll, and could help shore up the perimeter defense for the Suns.
His age is also a huge factor in his fit for the Suns. He was born in November of 1997, which put him at just a little over a year younger than Devin Booker. Creating a core of these two players, and building around them would create an amazing opportunity to have two franchise cornerstones on the team for years to come.