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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Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender Marquese Chriss Tyler Ulis (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender Marquese Chriss Tyler Ulis (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

2016 went for Naught

Following the 2017-18 season, each draft pick’s second season, the bloom was off the rose, and for two of the three 2016 Phoenix Suns draft picks, their times in the Valley was done:

Tyler Ulis was unceremoniously waived (much to the chagrin of Booker), and Marquese Chriss was traded in a small but significant package to the Houston Rockets.

There had been talk that Dragan Bender might not even make the team  out of training camp, and it was almost more surprising that he did, than it would have been if he hadn’t.

But while Bender remains on the roster, he has hardly played and it does not appear that he will have any opportunity to play on any significant level this season.

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McDonough probably kept Dragan on the roster for two reasons: he didn’t want his entire 2016 draft to be gone after only two seasons, and he had fleeting hope that new head coach Igor Kokoskov might finally be the man to reach him.

Alas, McDonough is now gone anyway, and it appears that the franchise will not have the patience in Kokoskov’s attempt to potentially fix whatever is ailing the now third-year player – if there is anyway to even fix  his game.

This all adds up to one very significant finality: the 2016 NBA Draft was a complete bust for the Phoenix Suns.

For a team that was rebuilding and desperate to get their draft picks right, they whiffed on three  first round picks and the fourth selection of the second round (I say three instead of two because Phoenix originally had three first round picks in that draft but obviously packaged two to get their one used on Chriss).

This is something that absolutely cannot happen for teams in the middle of a rebuild – and especially teams with four picks in the top-34.

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And yet it did, to the Suns, making 2015-16 a totally lost season in both record and result.

Luckily for McDonough he stole Devin Booker with the 13th pick overall in 2015 (although he whiffed on Alex Len with the fifth selection in 2014), and then struck gold by winning the lottery and selecting Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick in 2018.

Placed in the middle though like the cream of an Oreo, is the lost 2016 draft (and the jury is still out on Josh Jackson), arguably the most significantly busted draft in franchise history.

The Phoenix Suns not picking up Dragan Bender’s option for 2019-20 is significant: it means that at some point in the next nine months, the 2016 draft can be entirely summed up by nothing but print on a page, the completed history of a draft that had opened as if it was destined to be one of the franchise’s finest, yet ended in complete and total disappointment.