On Thursday, July 25th, the Milwaukee Bucks filled out their 15th roster spot by signing 7’1” power forward, Dragan Bender to a two-year deal. Bender is only 21-years-old but already has 3 years of NBA experience. He was drafted 4th overall in the 2016 draft above guys like Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, Pascal Siakam, and Domantas Sabonis because at the time, he was considered to have an unlimited upside. When he was drafted he was a very raw prospect and the Suns thought he was going to be 2016’s version of Kristaps Porzingis. However, Bender’s career has not panned out to be as successful as many analysts thought. Just a few weeks ago, many people thought Bender would never sign a deal with an NBA team ever again.
Through three years, Bender has played in 171 games and has averaged 5.3 points per game and 3.8 rebounds in 20.3 minutes per game. He is also a career 32% 3-point shooter with his best season coming in 2017-18 when he shot 37% on 4 attempts per game. Speaking of 2017-18, his best season came that year when he played in all 82 games for the Suns and averaged 6.5 points per game, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.6 assists in 25 minutes per game. When looking at his numbers from last year, there’s not much to be excited about. However, his Per 36 numbers weren’t horrible for a role player who was never on the court long enough to get into a rhythm. Per 36 he averaged 10.0 points per game, 8.0 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1 block. Last season he also proved he can be an efficient scorer from inside the paint and beyond. From 0-10 feet out he shot 60.3% which was actually 17% higher than Milwaukee’s current stretch four, Ersan Ilyasova.
Bender is a 7’1” forward who can shoot the three, rebound, and pass effectively. He has the tools to be a good bench player and maybe all he needed was a change of scenery. As all basketball fans know, Phoenix is where basketball dreams go to die. Who knows, Bender is only 21 so his contract is very low risk with a high reward. He could just be a late bloomer like former All-NBA player, Jermaine O’Neal, who didn’t make an All-Star team for his first 5 seasons. “The Dragon” deserves another shot in a new city to show why he was a lottery pick back in 2016.