The Phoenix Suns should resist the urge to move on from Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender Phoenix Suns (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dragan Bender Phoenix Suns (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Their 4th overall pick in 2016, Dragan Bender has been…a bust. But it doesn’t mean that the Phoenix Suns shouldn’t bring him back one more time.

When the Phoenix Suns selected Dragan Bender 4th overall in 2016, they were taking a chance on a young European big with a skill-set that resembled (in one way or another) Dirk Nowitzki and Kristaps Porzingis.

Tall, good with the ball, a solid passer, and an outside shot, the idea at the time was that Bender would develop into a starting stretch-four who would open up the court for the numerous guards on the roster at that time (which included the diminutive Tyler Ulis who was selected with Phoenix’s first pick in the second round of the same draft).

But Bender has really not, as of yet, developed into anything like Nowitzki or Porzingis.

In fact, he really hasn’t developed much at all.

Now three full years into his NBA career and Dragan Bender is still a flat-footed defender who cannot shoot from the outside; who on offense anchors himself in the corner without the ball; who seems afraid to make body contact on defense; who’s shot is insanely inconsistent which often causes him to pass up wide-open shots that any shooter would love to take; and I could go on.

None of this is good for any draft position, but especially not good for a top-five pick.

But seriously – they should re-sign him.

Phoenix Suns
Phoenix Suns /

Phoenix Suns

In normal circumstances I would argue until I am blue in the face that a player with results such as his should be allowed to walk and that his spot should be filled by a veteran.

Unfortunately the Phoenix Suns are not in a normal circumstance, and no matter how much we hope and pray  that the roster is much improved next season, there is no reason to believe that every roster spot will be filled with established players, meaning that at least one spot, even if at the end of the bench, could be dedicated to keeping Dragan Bender around for a little bit longer.

Lest we forget: Bender is still younger  than Devin Booker. He won’t turn 22-years-old until midway through November, and considering that that means that if he had played four years of college he’d still be a senior is reason enough to believe that more seasoning on an NBA roster might well produce a solid NBA talent.

And like literally every other player on the roster since at least 2016, he has never had consistent leadership on the bench, with at least one new head coach every year.

Presuming that Igor Kokoskov is not fired and will be retained (which I can only speculate now that he will  be kept on since he hasn’t been fired yet, and the longer into the summer Robert Sarver and James Jones waits, the more foolish it would be for them to make a change – then again, it is Sarver…), this summer will be the first time in Bender’s career that he will have had the same head coach for two consecutive summers to help fix issues – a very important aspect of a young player’s development.

Let’s face it too: he has probably been over-looked a bit in each offseason with the constant changes on the bench. Aside from one summer of Earl Watson who couldn’t properly coach a high school team if Gregg Popovich was his lead assistant, coaches and coaching staffs have been in flux between each season, leaving the European import to, in many ways, develop himself – something that he obviously hasn’t really done a good job of.

T.J. Warren last season too proved that players can  make dramatic changes to their games in one summer when he added a stellar 3-point shot (although he only appeared in 43 games, he led the team in 3-point shooting percentage at 42.8% – a dramatic career-high).

If Bender can seriously improve just one  aspect of his game this summer, be it on either side of the ball, he will be worth retaining which would offer him the chance to continue to develop in Phoenix over the course of the 2019-20 regular season.

Not that he was so  much better with Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight as his point guards, but if the Suns too can acquire a legitimate point guard who maybe can catch Bender standing in his corners a little bit more consistently, he coached up, he can take more rhythm 3’s which just might fall with more rapidity as well.

As an unrestricted free agent, due to his poor showing thus far in his career, there will not be much – if any – competition for him, so he will come ridiculously cheap.

While he will probably want more than the veteran’s minimum (likely to be around $1.6 million this coming season), the longer he waits into the summer, the less he will be forced to take, and the likelihood that the Suns will be able to re-sign him – if not for just one season, maybe two with a team option – for that base-level salary.

The Suns should truthfully lock him up quickly though (maybe throw a few extra hundred thousand dollars his way if necessary to try and get him signed as soon as possible), so that he can not only take advantage of the entire summer with the coaching staff, but also feel a legitimate level of security knowing that his next season is set, hopefully placing him in the best state of mind possible to get the most work done as possible as well.

light. Must Read. The Phoenix Suns must keep Igor Kokoskov

Given his age and the constant state of flux the franchise has been in since he entered the NBA, if Dragan Bender could only be given this one solid offseason with consistent coaching coupled with his natural growth in maturity, we might yet see that the former 4th overall pick can become even half  the player we all hoped he could be, which might not be that bad at all.