Should Bucks Unleash Dragan in Rotation?


Basketball is back! Twitter is on fire, teams are throwing shade, and the NBA doesn’t know how to handle a fragile situation in another country. It seems like mid-season basketball drama, but it’s only mid preseason! The Bucks look stable, after their excellent showing in Chicago sans Giannis, Bledsoe, and Middleton.

Though there seems to be a good camp battle for needed point guard depth, there’s one guy that seems to have a spot at the end of the bench. The Bucks also had some notable signings. These include Wes Matthews, sibling blood in Brook’s twin Robin Lopez, Giannis Antetokounmpo’s older brother Thanasis, and top sharpshooter Kyle Korver. But there was one guy that mainly stuck out to me.

Ener The Dragan

Enter: The Dragan. Dragan Bender came into the league as a number 4 draft pick and very Darko-like.

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Bender has seen limited time while others in his draft class have flourished. Being on a bad Phoenix Suns team didn’t help. However, Michael Carter-Williams won rookie of the year on a bad Philadelphia 76ers team, so one can flourish in a bad situation.

However, Bender floundered in a frontcourt heavy with young promising talent that may come to fruition. When news broke that Bender would be coming to the Bucks, I was elated.

He’s coming on a team-friendly deal in a spot where he may not get meaningful minutes. However, if coach Mike Budhenholzer uses his bench like he did last year, Bender should see decent time to develop his game.

Now, don’t get me wrong; I was high on Thon Maker. If you dig through my past, I was more of a Thon apologist than anything else. I liked the talent and potential in Thon, and I still think he can become a good player. However, Bender is now in a better situation than Maker.  If Bud can develop a joke of a pick in DJ Wilson into a late-season rotation staple (pre-Nico Mirotic), then Bender should be able to develop into a decent role player, if not trade bait later.

Dragan’s Role

Bender showed in his preseason games that he has the tools for shooting the three, has lateral quickness on the floor, and doesn’t look incompetent handling the ball. Being behind the Lopez twins at center and with Giannis, Ersan, and Wilson ahead of him on the 4 spot, he won’t see many meaningful minutes. However, Bud went deep into his lineup, playing at least 10 players in most games. Situationally, Bender may see more minutes against frontcourt-focused teams like the Lakers or 76ers. (Especially if someone gets into early foul trouble). However, with the Bucks’ development team, he should be able to progress into a talented player with game-time opportunities slowly.

With such a long season ahead, it will be interesting how the team manages minutes with its stars. Also, it will be notable how the team will shape throughout the year with potential injuries. Bender couldn’t find consistent time on the floor with a bad team. Should the opportunity arise, however, he will fit in well with Budenholzer’s pace and space scheme.

He appeared for only 3 minutes last night, but his averages in the other four preseason games tell a different story: 13.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 blocks over 18.3 minutes per contest.

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About Nicholas Haering

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