Phoenix Suns first half season grades: Dragan Bender

Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Phoenix Suns Dragan Bender (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

The first half of the season has passed. Grades are being given to each of the Phoenix Suns. What grade did Dragan Bender get?

Note : This is the third piece in a new series of posts grading each player on the current Phoenix Suns roster for how they did in the first half of the season. I can’t emphasize enough that this will only cover the first 41 games (through January 6th).

With the 4th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Phoenix Suns selected Dragan Bender.

He was one of the most scouted European prospects in years and had lofty comparisons, some even going as far as saying he was supposed to be the next “unicorn” like Kristaps Porzingis. He has fallen well short of expectations.

However, the team also did a draft day trade that got them Marquese Chriss. Some thought maybe developing two bigs at the same position at the same time was hurting Bender. He also went through several coaches, staffs and a tornado of losses. So, it wasn’t all his fault. However, he did struggle to perform or even show much promise to look forward to as a player.

On August 31st, 2018, the Suns sent Chriss to the Houston Rockets showing not only had they given up on Chriss but they had put their faith in Bender over him. It was also a statement that if Dragan didn’t shape up, he could be shipped out as well.

On October 30th, 2018, it was announced that Phoenix would decline his fourth-year option which would let him be an unrestricted free agent after this season. The Suns clearly made a statement that they would rather have the $5.8 million in cap space than another year of their lottery pick.

He responded by mouth saying that he wished they had picked up the option but that he wasn’t going to let it stop him from reaching his goals. How he spoke with his game on the court was a completely different story.

In five preseason games, he only scored 6.6 points per game on 37% shooting from the field. He followed that up by only making 23% of his shots and 14% of his threes in the preseason to average a measly 3.8 points per game. In the regular season over the first 41 games, he only managed to make an appearance in 12 games where he shot an ugly 36% from the field and 14% from downtown to score 2.2 points per game.

He was barely in the rotation, even on a team needing any semblance of anything at power forward.

Grade : D

Next. Phoenix Suns sign Emanuel Terry. dark

As much as I am debating giving him an F here, again not all the blame can be placed on him and he’s still only 21-years-old. Let the “D” stand for “developing” as I hope under Igor Kokoskov, maybe Bender can start figuring it out.