Should the Phoenix Suns just cut Dragan Bender?

Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender (Photo by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day. Third year Phoenix Suns power forward Dragan Bender made a 3 in the final game of the preseason – his second in five games. But should he never be allowed to wear a uniform again?

One of former General Manager Ryan McDonough’s lasting influences on the Phoenix Suns was his draft picks. Making approximately 19 picks (I have to say approximately because twice he made draft day trades of picks for other draftees which I am counting as his draft picks), eight of whom are still on the roster, Devin Booker, Dragan Bender, Elie Okobo, George King, Josh Jackson, Deandre Ayton, Mikal Bridges, and T.J. Warren.

Six were taken in the top-ten, Ayton, Bridges, Bender, Jackson, Alex Len, and Marquese Chriss.

Now, I’ll get into these draft picks in a different capacity in another post soon enough.

However for the purpose of this one let us focus on Dragan Bender, the fourth overall selection of the 2016 NBA Draft, the man purported to be the next Kristaps Porzingis.

Coming on the heels of Prozin-God becoming one of the league’s best players after only one season, the selection of Dragan Bender was a huge one for the Phoenix Suns. If the Croatian Sensation could become only 80% of what Porzingis appears he will develop into, the Suns had a really  good player on their hands. One with the skill-set to be a starter in the NBA for a very long time.

Unfortunately that skill-set has never rally materialized in any meaningful way, and after two full seasons and now five preseason games in 2018, Bender not only does not look any better than they day he was drafted, but as he does not seem to have an ounce of confidence in himself the way he appeared to when he first broke into the league, one might even argue that, like Marquese Chriss, he has regressed.

Certainly as a 21-year-old Bender should have plenty of career left to go and with proper coaching he could potentially become a worthy player in the NBA – whether as a starter or role player.

The problem is that the Phoenix Suns have to move into the future, they must begin to rise – the theme of their 2018-19 season – and it seems that every time Bender is on the floor, his inability to shoot consistently, his lack of offensive initiative, and his average defense, all seem to hold the team back.

When Bender is on the court, his only objective is to suck a defender on him making the game four-on-four for the rest of the offense, and nothing more.

Unfortunately, Dragan Bender is just not a threat to anyone, and a 2-14 shooting line during the preseason (all of which came essentially during garbage time) is more than troubling (especially when you see some of the shots that he took. He still  does not have a true and consistent shooting form).

Sure, the Suns could just move him to the end of the bench where he’ll only make appearances during the back end of blowouts, but what good does that do him or anybody else?

While I do not expect that interim general manager James Jones will look to clean house, he will certainly look to cut the fat from the McDonough era, finding those players worth keeping around and quickly moving on from those who are not.

He will have decisions to make prior to the start of the season (particularly that he will need to cut two players), and in some cases might look to symbolically move on from the era that preceded him, putting his mark on the roster, and proving to the players and the fanbase that the franchise really is moving in a new direction.

Cutting Dragan Bender, even at the cost of a few million dollars on the salary cap, should be one of those two cuts that James must make.

By cutting Bender, the desperate flop that was the 2016 Draft class will be completely gone.

Cut already was 34th overall selection Tyler Ulis; traded already was 8th overall selection Marquese Chriss; and then cut now would be 4th overall selection Dragan Bender.

The 2016 class could be completely wiped from the roster – although certainly not our memories – the draft that was supposed to have been McDonough’s finest, but now, the former GM’s greatest bust.

An allegorical move an least, but a cleaning of the house that might help the focus to move fully on the future.

It is unfortunate that Dragan Bender is caught up in this. It is unfortunate that he has not shown the signs of a player growing to become the player that we all hoped  he would be.

No Phoenix Suns fans root against their own players, always hoping that the name on the front is emblematic of the successes of the names on the back.

But for Dragan Bender, he has just not shown any growth whatsoever in 2+ years now, and the team needs to focus it’s energy on players who have a bright future with the franchise, not those who symbolize the failures of the past.

Next. The ideal starting lineup for the Phoenix Suns. dark

My hope is that if the Suns do not cut him that Bender finds a way to create a solid and successful role in Igor Kokoskov’s offense, finally proving himself as a core piece of the roster for many years to come.

If he is cut, I too certainly hope that he finds success – albeit hopefully not in a way that can ever come back to haunt the Suns, or make McDonough say: “I told you so.”

But right now, Robert Sarver and James Jones need to make a few very important decisions, and moving on from Bender should be one them.