“Potential just means you haven’t done s–t yet.” – Darrell K. Royal
POWER FORWARD / CENTER
Due to the success of Kristaps Porzingis (as documented in Almighty Baller podcast “Kriscast Podzingis, available in 2 parts here and here, NBA scouts have been salivating over the possibility of new prospects from Europe. The most recent is a 7-foot-1 Croatian forward named Dragan Bender, a prototypical European player–towering above the rest of the players, but playing on the wings and around the three-point line.
Though there is a very limited sample size for his games, as he was playing reserve minutes for European juggernaut Maccabi Tel-Aviv, there is a lot to like about his potential as an effective role player immediately upon playing in the NBA–that is, if he decides to declare for the draft this year.
Bender made his European pro debut around the time that most of us were having our first beers–15 years old–and has been playing against tougher competition than most college players will have faced by the time they get drafted. This is an explanation of why his stats aren’t impressive-like, at all.
All of his upside is still just potential at this point. His stats in his few Euroleague appearances are 3.1 points / 1.9 rebounds / 0.7 assists on .294 percent shooting from two, .429 percent shooting from three and a PER of 11.0. Not exactly eye-popping numbers. But a couple of things to remember are (A) he turned 18 in November of 2015 and (B) he’s only played a handful of games. It’s hard to establish yourself in any meaningful way as strictly a bench player.
On offense, he’s a very fluid athlete for being 7-1, and is good on the defensive side because of his 9-3(!) standing reach. He’s a good passer in transition and is generally good when in the fast-break.
Unfortunately, that’s about where the shining positives end as of right now. He’s an inconsistent in the half-court due to a number of factors. He has a less-than-impressive post game. He lacks the explosive athleticism to cut to the basket with ease, and he has a nice-looking but inconsistent jumper. He’s only scored in double-digits twice, though he hasn’t had many opportunities as far as minutes go.
There’s also hardly any footage of him on the internet. I felt like I was looking for footage of the Lochness Monster while writing about this kid. I basically had six minutes of Youtube highlights in a foreign language to analyze and a statline that reflected about 10 games of actual work.
So this time, I’m just gonna leave it up to the guys who have actually seen a full game from Dragan Bender to make the call on his future. I’m guessing he’ll probably bust, but I haven’t seen enough either way to make a decision. Whatever.