Dragan Bender is power forward from Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv. Bender is 7’0 with a wingspan of 7’2. For the year, Bender averaged, 13.5 minutes per game, 5.4 points per game, 2.7 rebounds per game, 0.8 assists per game, 0.9 blocks per game, while shooting 57.0% from the field, and 40.0% from three.
- Size and length
- High basketball IQ
- Quick and agile
- Hustle player
- Perimeter shooting
- Good post hook shot
- Not afraid of contact
- Good ball handler
- Excellent passer
- Great court vision
- Defensive potential
- Lack of athleticism
- Needs to bulk up considerably
- Shooting mechanics
- Lack of post moves
- Post footwork
- Needs to improve mid-range jumper
- Struggles creating off the dribble
- Little body control when handling the ball
- Mediocre rebounder for his size
- Post defense is a liability due to skinny frame
- Defensive focus
- Shot blocking instincts
Dragan Bender draws a lot of praise for his game over in Europe, and some people consider him to have the most potential in the draft. I view Bender as extremely talented player, but do not see him surpassing Simmons or Ingram for top in this draft class. Bender will face a lot of adversity being another seven-foot shooter from Europe, and if he does not match the expectations hat Kristaps Porzingis was able to accomplish, fans could be quick to judge him as a bust.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bender can do it all, but has never been able to do anything at an elite level. His ability to shoot as a seven footer will always draw many scouts and management teams to fall for him. He has almost no ability to create for himself, so he will likely be a spot-up shooter at the next level, which does lower his ceiling. In the paint, Bender is underdeveloped. He possesses a beautiful right post hook, but other than that, Bender struggles to bully opponents in the paint. Even though he struggles in the paint, he does seek out contact, and this will be a valuable asset in the NBA. As a passer, Bender is gifted. His ability to see the court is remarkable for a player his age. He has a good ability to read the opposing team’s defense, and find his open man. Bender has a nice set of handles for a seven footer, but has little control of his body when he gets in tight spaces, and could lead to a lot of turnovers at the NBA level.
Defensively, it is all about the potential factor for Bender. As of right now, Bender is mediocre with a lack of defensive focus. His post defense will be a huge question mark, as he is only around 220 pounds, so he will likely get out muscled and bullied by the NBA caliber big men currently in the league. Bender has excellent speed for a guy his size, so he has great potential as a pick and roll defender, but still needs work to make this a consistent part of his game. On the perimeter, Bender uses his length and lateral speed to keep his man contained, and allow little dribble penetration. Due to his size and quickness, it is hard to predict whether he will guard the three or four at the next level. At seven feet tall, you would for him to be a decent shot blocker, but Bender does not look to have the natural ability or instinct to make this a dominant part of his game. Another knock on his defense is the fact Bender does not dominant on the boards. He is a willing rebounder, but does not know how to use his size to get position for the board.
As an overall, Bender has a unique potential, one which will have multiple GM’s willing to gamble their jobs on. Offensively, Bender is a great all-around player, but is inability to excel at any one thing he does hinders his overall dominance on this side of the court. His deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball, can be blamed on his physical attributes. Bender looks to have a natural skinny frame, and lack of leaping ability will hurt him at the next level when he meets more athletic and stronger post players. Bender is a tweener prospect, as no one knows whether to slot him as a 3, 4, or 5. Tweeners have not had the best luck in recent drafts, so a curbed expectations might the best way to look at Bender. His draft stock is likely a top five pick with team’s like Boston, Phoenix, and Minnesota heavily likely to select him if he falls to them.
Pro Comparison: Nikola Mirotic
There was a lot of star expectations for Nikola Mirotic when he decided to come over from Europe to play for the Chicago Bulls, and although he is a solid player, he will likely never be a star in the league. Bender is getting a lot of praise for his possible potential in the league, but his skill set just does not look to translate into a dominant player over here.
Offensively, Mirotic and Bender are almost identical. Both players have an amazing basketball IQ, which translates into their court vision. When the entire Bull’s roster was hurt, Mirotic was taking over as the primary playmaker for his teammates, and Bender has a similar ability. When it comes to shooting, Mirotic loves to let it fly from deep, and Bender will start his career off in similar fashion. Neither player shows a great ability from mid-range, as well as a lack of post moves. Both can finish in the paint, and are able to finish through contact, but this is not a strong suit for either player.
On defense, neither player is an outstanding defender. Mirotic is an average rebounder for a man his size, same thing for Bender. They are nearly the same weight, but Mirotic uses his body better to not get bullied by opposing big men. His lack of strength does cause him to get in foul trouble fairly easy, and that is something to expect with Bender as well. When it comes to shot blocking, neither player has the natural instinct to be a good rim protector, even though both have good size and length.
Mirotic is a terrific role player for the Chicago Bulls, but as stated at the beginning of the pro comparisons, he will never be a star. Bender will be given a lot of praise for his potential, but I just do not see him developing into the level of fame Kristaps Porzingis has already found in New York. Bender has the skill set for a long career in the NBA, but as a role player, and not a star.
By: Mac Crowe, @Mac_Truck17