“New Age Forward”: Dragan Bender Prospect Profile

Dragan Bender is a top-5 draft pick and the best international prospect in 2016.
Dragan Bender is a top-5 draft pick and the best international prospect in 2016.

Dragan Bender (International, Croatia)

Power Forward/7’0/220/Age: 19

From…Capljina, Bosnia & Herzegovina | Previous Club: Maccabi Tel Aviv

Quick Stats (w/ Maccabi)

4.3 points/game, 2.3 rebounds/game

THE top international prospect in the Class of 2016, Dragan Bender is looking to make a Kristaps Porzingis-like splash in the Association. Similar to Porzingis, Bender represents the new age of versatile forwards entering the league – great size, ability to stretch the floor & rebound. At 7’0, he’s able to step out and hit the three ball while also skilled enough to put the ball on the floor and score.

Though he’s in a league of his own amongst young, international prospects (who aren’t yet in the NBA), Bender has a ways to go before his full potential is realized. The Porzingis comparisons are somewhat natural but also far off – Porzingis is much more polished as an offensive player and is more adaptable as a rebounder and shot-blocker defensively.

Bender’s J will get him PT during his rookie season but an immediate, rotational contribution might not come til year 2, when he bulks up, adjusts to NBA-level speed and develops a couple of go-to moves facing up.

There’s no question the raw talent is there. It’d be a travesty if Dragan drops out of the Top 5 – he could easily become the best “big man” out of this draft in a few years.

NBA Skills: Tremendous size, outside shooting 

Strengths:

-Variety of skills on offense: can face up a bit, shoot threes (high release on his J, good base) and drive by slower bigs on the perimeter (not afraid to go hard towards the basket and finish with contact); handles the ball pretty well for a guy his size

-Nice transition scorer; changes ends pretty easily for a 7-footer; fills the lane well; moves more like a small forward rather than your typical PF or C

-High basketball IQ; rarely forces the issue if it’s not there; makes solid reads in the flow of an offense; pretty capable passer

dragan bender
(Roberto Serra/Getty Images)

Weaknesses:

-NEEDS to gain at least 15 pounds of muscle; slender frame, will get bullied down low if he plays the five/guards the rim

-Not many counters when the initial action doesn’t work out; has to develop a couple turnarounds, “redirected” hooks or drop steps

-Solid rebounder but needs to crash the glass with more purpose; can box out but adding strength will complement his length and lead way for more boarding opps

NBA DOG Status: Star UnderDOG

There’s not a lot of genuine star power in the 2016 Draft but Dragan Bender has a chance to do damage as a versatile stretch four, rim runner and faceup scorer. Whether his shot-blocking, individual D and post moves improve is another story. It depends on countless reps and how his body responds to added muscle.

Bender’s ability to score from outside and play 3-5 is a huge reason why his stock is on the rise.

No, Bender won’t light the world on fire as a rookie but he’s no slouch either. Don’t expect him to slide past Phoenix at 4. He’d have a chance to grow with an emerging backcourt (Eric Bledsoe & Devin Booker), new head coach (Earl Watson) and cultivate his talent for a couple years as the Suns continue to rebuild.

NBA Comparison: Toni Kukoc/Danilo Gallinari

#DOFGAME #DOG

-Jabari J.

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