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Dragan Bender: The Best Player in the Draft?

With the NBA Season concluding last night, TSL Writer Adam Leightman goes in depth about the potential best player in 2016 NBA Draft.

His Past:

With the NBA draft on Thursday, almost everyone has decided that Ben Simmons (LSU) is the best player in the draft. I agree that Ben Simmons should be the first pick, and Brandon Ingram (Duke) should be the second pick, however, I truly believe that Dragan Bender will be the best player to come out of this draft.

Who is Dragan Bender you ask?

The man with the coolest name in history hails from Croatia and played on Maccabi Tel Aviv last year. He is listed at a massive 7’1′ and 225 pounds.

Obviously his size is a huge factor in why he is a potential top 5 pick. At 7’1 with 9’2 wingspan, he is a force down low. He’ll have to beef up to about 240 so he won’t get bodied out, but he won’t want to put on too much weight because he is fast. His speed is what makes him unique from other big bodied forwards, something even Kristaps Porzingis (AKA Tingus Pingus) doesn’t have.

Another huge positive on Bender is his ability to hit 3s. He shot 39% from beyond the arc in the Israeli league this past year, and 36% when he played in the Eurocup. Below is a two minute highlight clip of Bender.

He makes a lot of great plays but there are two plays that really stand out to me in the video. The first play that stands out to me is at 1:15. You see him run the floor quickly, catch a long pass and finish. Now a days you rarely see a big man that can catch the ball cleanly. When a center can shoot above 30% from 3, you have to pay attention to him when he gets the ball at the top of the key. What is so great abound Bender, is that he can drive past you and finish at the hoop. You can see thisĀ 1:37 into the video.

Bender is also great off the ball. He cuts and slashes very well and is constantly a threat to get the ball and immediately put up a shot. He does not seem to run out of energy when he is on the floor. He does not lose that energy when he is playing defense either. His stance is great and has solid lateral movement. Being 7’1, he gets his fair share of rebounds, but his blocking ability is outstanding. Not only can he meet you at the rim, he is also amazing at chase down blocks.

His biggest flaw is fouls. He was getting into foul trouble too much last year. He reached too much and was just a tad late closing gaps when someone was driving to the rim. However, these fouls will go away with the help of NBA coaching and experience over time.

His future:

Bender’s best player comparison is Kristaps Prozingis. Similar height, weight, and playing style. Bender has more long range ability, but Porzingis has better post moves. Porzingis blossomed into a star immediately, and I think Bender has the ability to do so also. However, it could take him a year or two to adjust to NBA style defenses.

If I am Dragan Bender, I would love to get drafted 3rd by the Celtics. That team is ready to be a threat in the east next year, and with his help, could be the 3rd best team in the conference. However, I think getting picked third is unlikely for him, so he should then look to getting picked 7th by Denver. The Nuggets are a young, exciting team, that loves to run. They are missing a big man and he could fit right into their system.

On Thursday night, watch as Bender takes his first step to a future All-Star, when he is drafted (hopefully) in the top 5.


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