Dragan Bender’s contract not picked up is significant for the Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /
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It was announced on Tuesday October 30 that the Phoenix Suns would not be picking up Dragan Bender’s fourth-year option for next season. This news is significant for one specific reason.

When Robert Sarver hired Ryan McDonough as General Manager in 2013, we were told that the former Boston Celtics executive was particularly good at one thing: scouting future NBA talent, especially European talent.

In 2016 when the Phoenix Suns had the fourth overall pick for the first of two consecutive drafts, two names emerged as players that McDonough had his sights on: Croatian-born Dragan Bender (a supposed poor man’s Kristaps Porzingis) and Marquese Chriss from the University of Washington (a supposed poor man’s Amar’e Stoudemire).

We were told on draft day that it was possible that Phoenix would make a run at both players – the end result making that rumor to sound perfectly prophetic.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

Phoenix Suns fans were excited: the franchise had a general manager that was supposedly great at scouting and therefore drafting, and when he walked away with two top-10 players, both of whom had been debated as Phoenix’s potential number four selection, fans had every reason to believe that McDonough had struck gold.

The fact that Phoenix further walked away with former Kentucky starting point guard in Tyler Ulis – who happened to be young star Devin Booker‘s best friend – was the cherry on top of what was shaping up to be the franchise’s best draft in years.

The shininess of the team’s new toys dulled almost immediately, however. Very quickly fans saw flaws in each player’s game: Tyler Ulis‘ size was definitely going to be a hindrance. Plus, his above average shooting in college never carried over into the NBA.

Marquese Chriss could not create a shot for himself to save his life. He was fine within five feet of the basket, but anything beyond that was territory that he was not capable of controlling. He also struggled with fouls, regularly deciding to swipe at players as they ran by him collecting hundreds of unnecessary whistles, then following up those calls with tantrums often leading to technicals and benchings.

But Dragan Bender, the Porzingod wannabe (or at least, we  wanted him to be), was the worst of the bunch.