The Phoenix Suns are failing Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss

Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender Marquese Chriss (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender Marquese Chriss (Photo by Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images) /

To avoid sugarcoating, so far the Phoenix Suns are failing Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss in their young careers.

Two years into their careers and a third on the way, with so much tanking and multiple coaches already since entering the Association, the Phoenix Suns have let their young players, especially Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, down. A situation that must be rectified ASAP.

Granted, the Phoenix Suns have not provided their young core any favors during this rebuild. Out of their core, Bender and Chriss have been hurt the most by the Suns’ missteps as indicated by their lackluster play through their first two seasons.

Bender and Chriss, the 4th and 8th overall selections in the 2016 NBA draft, respectively, were seen as potentially good players who could fit the prototypical mold of the power forwards/centers of today’s NBA.

So far, the results in their play the past two seasons leaves a lot to be desired.

Marquese Chriss, the former University of Washington standout, last season averaged 7.7 points 5.5 rebounds per game, while posting a mediocre 42/29/50 shooting line in 21.2 minutes per game. Many of those stats were down from his rookie year.

Meanwhile, Dragan Bender, the Croatian standout last season averaged 6.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. While throwing up a subpar 38/36/76 shooting line in 25.2 minutes per game. His per-36 averages are stagnant from his rookie and sophomore seasons.

Those aren’t numbers you’d expect to receive from players you invested top-ten picks in. Especially considering Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Jaylen Brown, Jakob Poeltl, and Jamal Murray are all also top-ten picks.

All of those players weren’t put in positions to fail. In fact, as far as Chriss and Bender is concerned, the moment they were drafted together, is the moment the Suns possibly failed them.

Both play similar positions and occupy in similar spaces. They are raw players who need a certain amount attention, minutes, and reps to help with their development.

Not only did they have to battle each other for what is listed above, they also had to fend off several other forwards and centers for quality minutes -w hich will likely also be the case this upcoming season.

Playing the two together has not yielded impressive results either. In two 5-man combinations with Chriss and Bender in the frontcourt, those lineups have posted a -6.0 and a -30.1 net rating per 100 possessions, according to basketball-reference.

With two players the Suns had clear long-term investment in, why not find creative ways to clear the logjam you have instead of adding Greg Monroe for a period of time? Or, assure them that they’re allowed to make mistakes which can help them learn and grow – as opposed to throwing them in inconsistent situations with undefined roles and no expectation of minutes?

Their development as players have not received enough justice despite showing promise in certain areas. Bender with his shooting and passing. Chriss with his athleticism and defense.

And when you have a team that ranked dead last in both offense and defense efficiency last season, it’s likely that unpleasant habits and traits will expose themselves more than the good ones.

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Bender’s lack of confidence and aggression and Chriss’ lack of shooting and focus has been apparent when watching them play.

With that said, some of these issues could be mitigated if the team placed a proper support system around their young players similar to other teams. Which for starters, includes proper player and coaching personnel (stares at the point guard depth chart).

If the Phoenix Suns don not want to come out of the 2016 draft looking like the biggest loser, they need to finally execute in creating a nurturing environment for its youth. Even then, after the flurry of 2018 offseason moves, one of the two may already be on the outside looking in.