Poor, poor Dragan Bender. The Croat drafted top-five to the Phoenix Suns had a somewhat promising sophomore campaign get dropped down the tubes last season as DeAndre Ayton came to consume his lunch in Phoenix. With a franchise that dysfunctional, you just never know how a draft pick is even going to work out. Milwaukee Bucks fans are likely hoping for an Alex Len-redux, who is trying to revitalize his career in Atlanta now, but Bender is still a long ways from even Len-levels of competency when looking at his numbers over his first three seasons.
Getting your fourth-year option declined as a top-five pick isn’t pretty, but Bender has a chance to prove himself as a low-risk signing planted at the end of Bud’s bench. His 50.5% eFG% last year was in the bottom fifth percentile among bigs. He hasn’t been a savvy defender either, plus is an incredibly poor rebounder, just 32nd percentile last season among bigs on defensive rebounding. This wasn’t a Lopez Effect situation either, teams garnered nearly 2.4% more offensive boards with Bender out there, in the 13th percentile among bigs.
So, the question remains, what could Bender offer this team? Well, coming out of Europe he was supposed to work as a jack-of-all-trades big who could put the ball on the floor at times, make savvy cuts and nail jumpers. His 3-point shot, like most players, will be the swing skill. His sophomore year he hit 37% on nearly 317 3-point attempts. Between his rookie and third year though, he’s nailed just 24.6% on 191 attempts. We’ll have to see whether that sophomore shot returns to him in whatever limited capacity he may contribute to this Bucks team.
The optimist would likely say, even with defense that isn’t stellar, Bud’s system is designed to help minimize the work bigs may have to do. That undersells the vast cerebral ability of Brook Lopez, who works the lane with incredible wisdom, but it also means Bender may not be asked to do much heavy switching. If his rebounding doesn’t improve, that may be a reason for Bud to keep him sidelined. If Ersan or Wilson gets hurt, it is nice to have a smidge more insurance at the 4 even with Giannis’ ability to seemingly never get injured. Bender could space the floor at that position, but could get scooted on by defensively.
Bender seemed like a worthwhile signing for Horst to take a flyer on, particularly given the fact his contract is entirely dependent on hitting several specific dates throughout the season. The longer he’s with this team, the more guaranteed money he’ll accrue, but it never breaks the bank. How low he’s ranked speaks to both his inability to live up to his draft stock, and the current aspirations of this team. Mining young prospects for potential talent is no longer the goal, they have their sights set much higher, and veteran talent will be far more integral to those goals than a Suns washout who’s playing for his job.
2019 Brew Hoop Roster Ranking
13. Dragan Bender
14. Thanasis Antetokounmpo
15. Ersan Ilyasova
The Next Least Valuable Buck on the Roster is...
This poll is closed
Wesley Matthews Jr.