Friday, May 6, 2016

Dragan Bender: Will He Be The 3rd Overall Draft Pick?

It's not exactly a secret who the projected top two picks are in the upcoming NBA Draft. It's Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram who will be the first players off the board come June 23rd.

After the consensus #1 and #2 picks are off the board, there is about a million possibilities of who will be taken at the #3 overall pick. That just so happens to be where the Celtics have the highest probability of taking their coveted 2016 Brooklyn pick.  The most intriguing option here would be the Croatian 7-footer Dragan Bender.

In just about every Mock Draft you look at, Bender is slotted as the third best prospect on the board. He is the 2016 NBA International Man of Mystery and has been touted as the next big name from overseas. He is even being praised higher in some circles than Kristaps Porzingis was last year. We all saw how much of an impact he had in the NBA this year, so one could only hope that Bender would be able to do the same

So who is Dragan Bender? Is he is the next Darko or the next Porzingis?

Dragan Bender is an 18 year old freak of nature that is turning heads in Israel for his current club Maccabi Tel-Aviv.  Right now, he is only playing right around 13 minutes per game, but the tape on him when he does get some run is very impressive. Last year in the Addidas Euro Showcase Game, he was voted MVP and got his hype train started. He was only 17 at the time. 

Bender has numerous strengths such as versatility, size, and speed. He is probably the most impressive ball handler at his size, that I've seen since Kevin Durant was at Texas. He is also lightning quick running the floor with or without the ball. Bender has the size of the prototypical stretch four in today's NBA but almost looks more comfortable as a wing.  He has a crazy long wingspan and is able to defend the wing with ease. 

Bender's offensive game is predicated on driving to the hoop and finishing in the fast break, but he has developed a very smooth 3-point shot He is also an extremely polished passer as a big man which proves his competency as a ball handler.  

In this video, Bender probably had his best game in his breif stint at Maccabi Tel-Aviv. He put up 15 points and his versatility is on display. 

Pretty impressive display of his offensive potential in this clip. He nails two three-balls and you get a sense for his willingness to get out in transition, which I think will be one of his major strengths in the NBA. 

Now being 18 years old, he does have a growing list of weaknesses that some scouts are ripping him for. His strength won't cut it on the next level. I think he would definitely struggle if he was forced to use his size down low but putting on more muscle would be a part of his development. 

One of his biggest knocks is his lack of raw athleticism. He isn't going to jump out of the gym any time soon, but has at his size, he has enough speed and footwork to make up for what he is lacking in other areas. 

Overall, I am extremely impressed with Dragan Bender. I do not think that he will be able to contribute in year one quite like Porzingis did, but I am very confident that he will develop into a player that has the same effect on the game.

So should Brad Stevens and Danny Ainge take a chance on "The Dragan"?

Photo Courtesy of Chris "Photoshop" Dutra

The answer to this question is multi-layered. If they don't get a top two pick, and if they can't trade the pick for some reason, then my answer is yes. Bender is the 3rd best overall prospect in the NBA Draft and to me, he doesn't have bust written all over him. 

Stevens loves himself some stretch-4's. Bender fits that mold. He would basically be everything we've ever hoped Kelly Olynyk to turn into, but with a higher ceiling. If it worked out that he ended up in Boston under the guidance of Brad "Khaleesi" Stevens, Bender would definitely emerge as a perennial All-star in the league. 

Trading the pick would obviously be best for the Celtics to win now. I would always lean towards that if I were Ainge, but as we know that has been tough for him to do in the past. I can say with 100 percent certainty that if Ainge drafts at #3 he will get killed by the Boston media. 

-Sean Dutra

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