Player Analysis – Dragan Bender

Player Analysis – Dragan Bender

This article was originally featured on and was written before the NBA Draft. Bender was drafted by the Phoenix Suns with the 4th pick in the NBA Draft.

Today we’ve got another outlier with possibly some not so outlier type credentials. I’m talking about Dragan Bender, the latest young European sensation. Before diving into the nitty gritty of what he is and what he isn’t, I’d like to start with some things he’s been a part of:

– 2014 Adidas Eurocamp
– 2015 Adidas Eurocamp
– 2014 FIBA Europe U18 team (Croatia)
– A ton of other international competitions

This guy is already a professional basketball player and has been for a few years. He’s spent the last 2 with Maccabi Tel Aviv, which is one of the best international clubs in the basketball landscape. He’s always played with older competition at every level he’s been at. According to Draftexpress, he measures in at 7’1″ and 225lbs. He just turned 18 years old in November. He’s got a 7’2″ wingspan and 9’3″ standing reach. Those are similar measurables to Myles Turner (a personal favorite of mine).

Bottom line with this guy – he’s going to be a lottery pick. A few reasons:

1) Age/Ceiling – again, 18 years old, 7 feet tall with 7’+ wingspan. Guard and wing skills. Can play a few positions and possibly defend a few with more commitment to strength and conditioning.

2) Experience – he’s already played against professionals and has excelled in tough competitions. If not for a hiccup last summer, he would have given the USA U19 team some fits.

3) Versatility – obviously a work in progress overall, but this guy has a great feel for the game. He’s improved his body from time in the weight room. He’s improved shooting the ball from deep, evidenced by an insane 52.6% corner 3 shooting. As mentioned earlier, he has guard and wing skills to complement the shooting. Not many 7 footers can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim with a dunk the way he can. He passes well, plays well off the ball, and is just a tough dude. Even though he looks soft, this guy will still fight you in the post. Not a pushover by any means.

– Age/ceiling
– Already a professional – high basketball IQ
– Major improvements in all facets of his game (shooting, passing, overall feel)
– Pick and pop 3
– Catch and shoot 3
– Attacking from the perimeter
– Offensive rebounds
– Not as soft as he looks

– How will he do in pick and roll defense?
– What NBA positions can he defend?
– Playing NBA help defense?
– Can he hold a block out?

I’ll only highlight a couple of these that I didn’t mention earlier, and we can look at the shot chart and film to see some of everything else.

Bender will absolutely need to be a pick and pop threat in any NBA system. Though his percentages weren’t great in pick and pops, the shooting is fluid and this will improve with more time. His catch and shoot 3’s, especially in the corner are deadly. Granted the NBA 3’s are deeper, but he has more than enough range. I think we can see this from his shot chart. The percentages at the top of the arc aren’t great (31.3%, presumably pick and pops), but as we drift away from the top, we see the percentages rise, particularly in the corners (almost all catch shoot). Very modern NBA – all but 12 of his shot attempts have been a three or from in close!

Sneaky offensive rebounder is an understatement, and Bender does a good job with this. Doesn’t seem like a ton of players overseas like to block out, and this guy gets a ton of free rim runs on the flight of the ball. You’ll see a few tip slams. Part of what I mentioned earlier about this guy not being as soft as he looks included the offensive rebounding part. It looks like when Bender really wants to get a rebound, he will, and he’ll push and shove and scratch and claw his way to get it. Pretty impressive for a young guy to fight like that.

As I mentioned earlier, he can put it on the floor from the perimeter and finish with some authority at the rim. Enough said.

My concerns about him are mostly defensively. Sometimes he’s late to rotate in help. Haven’t seen enough of him defending pick and rolls, but defending spread pick and roll in the NBA is probably the hardest thing and will take some adjustments for him. And finally, holding a block out against a big, physical guy in the NBA isn’t an easy thing, especially if it’s DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond. Good luck, young man. I can’t wait to watch him play in the NBA anyway. Hope this isn’t a case of draft and stash either!

Alas, enjoy the shot chart and film! A quick note – this is by no means complete work. Maccabi’s season could potentially run through May and we may not even get a look at this guy at the NBA Combine, kind of like we didn’t get great looks with Kristaps Porzingis and Mario Hezonja. Fear not, an updated chart post will make it’s way here when the time comes!


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