Dragan Bender
Team: Maccabi Tel Aviv
PhysicalsPositionsRankings SalaryMisc
H: 7' 1"
W: 225 lbs
Bday: 11/17/1997
(18 Years Old)
Current: PF
Possible: PF
Pick: 7 in 2016 Mock Draft
Agent: Doug Neustadt
High School:
Hometown: Capljina, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Drafted:  Pick 4 in 2016 by Suns

Predraft Measurements
YearSourceHeight w/o ShoesHeight w/shoesWeightWingspanStanding ReachBody FatNo Step VertMax Vert
2015Eurocamp6' 11.5"7' 0.5"2167' 2"9' 3"NA23.527.5
2014Eurocamp6' 10"6' 11"2027' 1"9' 3"NA24.525.5
YearSourceHeight w/o ShoesHeight w/shoesWeightWingspanStanding ReachBody FatNo Step VertMax Vert
2015Eurocamp6' 11.5"7' 0.5"2167' 2"9' 3"NA23.527.5
2014Eurocamp6' 10"6' 11"2027' 1"9' 3"NA24.525.5

Basic Per Game Statistics - Comprehensive Stats - Statistical Top 25s

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Kristaps Porzingis / Dragan Bender Video Study Comparison
June 23, 2016

Dragan Bender is not the next Kristaps Porzingis, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

He doesn't have to be to be just like the 7' 3” rim protecting, shot-making, tip dunking Latvian to be a valuable prospect and impact player at the NBA level.

This time of year it's easy to fall victim to lazy comparisons that try to fit certain players into confined boxes because of one non-basketball attribute or another.

While, from a scouting perspective, it's imperative to compare a prospect's physical profile, skill set and mentality to past or current NBA players to project how said prospect figures to translate to the NBA, too often these comparisons are based on how a player looks or where he's from.

Enter Porzingis and Bender. Both are thin, international born 7-footers who the casual fan wasn't fed a wealth of information about in the months leading up to the draft. While he may have shown up on an occasional Twitter Vine in NBA Draft-nerd circles, Bender wasn't all over national television like the Ben Simmons' and Buddy Hield's of the world, making it easy for the casual fan to wonder if the 7' 1” Croatian forward could follow in Porzingis' footsteps and take the NBA by storm.

Having evaluated Bender and Porzingis, both on film and in person over the last couple of years, it's safe to say that, while they may look somewhat similar physically, they're very different players. To show exactly how, DraftExpress took a look at how 18-year-old Bender and 18-year-old Porzingis (during the 2013-14 season, as it's important to compare and contrast players when they're at a similar stage of development) stack up in a handful of different important areas.

The Physical Profile

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During Adidas Eurocamp in June of 2015 Dragan Bender measured 6'11.5” barefoot with a 7'2” wingspan and 9'3” standing reach. Bender, who was 17 and a half at the time, weighed 216 pounds. Because Bender wasn't able to attend the 2016 NBA Draft Combine there aren't official measurements on him, but it's safe to say that he's added at least 10 pounds to his frame and may have grown a bit as well.

Even if he hasn't gotten taller, 7'1” in shoes with a 9'3” standing reach are elite measurements for either big man spot. Bender is nowhere near his peak physically, and while he doesn't have a ton of girth in his upper or lower body, he shouldn't have that big of an issue filling out given his strong work ethic and mentality.

Never having attended Adidas Eurocamp or the 2015 NBA Draft Combine, there aren't any official measurements for Porzingis out there. It had been reported, however, that the Latvian big man measured 7'1.5” barefoot with a 7'6” wingspan and a 240-plus pound frame in the months leading up to the draft.

Porzingis was, however, always listed at 7'1” in shoes when he was Bender's age, and noticeably grew sometime between ages 18 and 19 and a half. His frame was also much less developed when he was 18, but slightly more projectable than Bender's.

While both players have above average measurements for their positions, Porzingis' elite length and reach along with his slightly more projectable frame make him more physically unique than Bender.

Athletically, Bender and Porzingis are quite different. The Croatian forward is extremely fluid for his size and it shows when running the floor, attacking closeouts, and chasing perimeter players around on defense. He moves well laterally for his size, and is quick off the floor, but doesn't have great leaping ability, evident by his 27.5” max vertical at 2015 Eurocamp.

Porzingis, on the other hand, moved very well for his size when he was 18, but he wasn't quite as speedy running the floor or as ‘fast twitch,' especially laterally. Porzingis was, however, far more explosive in space than Bender is now, which gave him considerably more upside in a variety of areas.

Analyzing Production

Context: It's important to know the differences in level of competition that Bender and Porzingis faced. While Bender did play in seven Euroleague games and three Eurocup games, the bulk of his production game in the Israeli Superleague, where he played 31 games. The Israeli league is still a competitive professional league, but it's not on the same level as the Spanish ACB League, where Porzingis played 35 games as an 18-year-old.

Bender put together a fairly efficient season for Maccabi Tel Aviv, which suffered a very down year relative to usual expectations. Playing both the three and the four, Bender made plays on the defensive end, shot it at a decent clip from three on 6.5 threes per 40 minutes, and showed his strong feel for the game, posting a positive assist to turnover ratio.

While efficient, Bender didn't provide much punch as a scorer, averaging only 14.2 points per 40 and getting to the free throw line a forgettable 2.4 times per 40. Bender only reached double figures scoring in eight games (all Israeli League) and never scored more than 16 points in a game. He also left much to be desired as a defensive rebounder, grabbing only 5.6 defensive boards per-40.

Although somewhat inconsistent, Porzingis showed some serious flashes in his first full season playing in the ACB. Averaging an impressive 18.2 points per-40 minutes, Porzingis had a few big games against top competition, most notably going for 20 points in 20 minutes against Real Madrid.

The offensive talent was apparent, as was Porzingis' potential as a rim protector, although he wasn't overly prolific in that area (2.4 blocks per 40). He did struggle on the defensive glass, at 4.5 per-40, and didn't show much in terms of passing ability, posting a 3.8 assist percentage and an 11.2 turnover percentage. Although their numbers are somewhat similar, Porzingis' production, at least as a scorer, was more impressive given the level of play.

Approach and Feel for the Game

Where Bender and Porzingis may differ the most is in their approach and overall feel for the game. Bender's feel for the game is arguably his best attribute. He's a very high IQ prospect who plays within himself and makes the right decisions on the move. Although he wasn't able to show it a ton with Maccabi, he can grab a rebound, push and facilitate in transition. He plays with good patience and is a very mature decision maker. Before it's all said and done, Bender may very well be best described as a playmaking center. He approaches the game in an unselfish manner, making the extra pass more often than not, sometimes to a fault. He's not a naturally dominant scorer or boisterous personality. He plays the game the right way, understands defensive positioning and when to cut on offense, and is rarely going to give you many ‘wow' moments as a scorer.

On the flip side, Porzingis plays with a confident, scorer's mentality. Even at age 18 he wasn't afraid to pull up from NBA three-point range or score 20 points in 20 minutes against Real Madrid, playing with a level of confidence that eventually helped him step into the basketball mecca as a 20-year-old and shine in a big way. Porzingis' feel for the game, however, was somewhat of a question mark as a youngster. He wasn't a lauded passer – 10 assists and 29 turnovers in 531 minutes – and, like most young big men, got lost off the ball at times defensively. The game looked a bit too fast for him at times on both ends of the floor.

Shooting Ability

Coming up through the youth ranks, shooting was arguably Bender's biggest flaw. He's greatly improved his stroke, however, as he shot 36% from three on 86 attempts while showing more touch than he has in the past. He was upwards of 40% from three for the majority of the season until a late-season slide. Bender isn't a very dynamic shooter, however, as he needs to be completely set with time and space. He has a bad habit of catching, standing upright and then bending his knees to get into his motion. Bender took only six off the dribble jumpers (as opposed to 82 catch and shoot jumpers) and misfired on all of them. He's made great strides as a shooter and the fact that he can knock down threes with regularity is very rare for a 7-footer, but it's important to keep in mind that he's not, and has never really been, a sharpshooter who makes shots in a variety of ways.

Porzingis shot only 30% from three (4.0 attempts per 40 pace) and scored 0.863 points per possession on jump shots during the 2013-14 season. He also shot only 62.5% from the line. Despite the lack of consistency, it was clear that Porzingis had natural touch and shot a really easy ball. He made a few jumpers on the move and his shot proved nearly unblockable given his size and release point. He had yet to reach his full potential as a shooter and was nowhere near the shot maker that he's become at the NBA level, but the foundation was there. While the percentages favor Bender, the eye test wins out as Porzingis' stroke is more effortless, dynamic and translatable.

Creating Offense

Bender isn't a guy who's going to create much offense for himself in the half court. He can attack a closeout and grab and go in transition, but he's limited in terms of shot creation both from the perimeter and in the post. He gets knocked off balance when trying to attack from a standstill and isn't a threat to pull up off the dribble, although it's important to note that he was being defended by quicker, perimeter players more often than not.

Bender also really struggled on the block – 0.33 PPP – as he lacks the physicality to hold position and isn't very advanced or skilled when he is able to operate from inside of 10 feet or so. He's not absent of touch but he doesn't have a turnaround or really any advanced moves in his arsenal. Aside from spot up jumpers and occasional straight line drives, Bender is fairly limited as a scorer in general.

At age 18, Porzingis wasn't consistently creating offense for himself but he showed enough potential to see how he'd develop that aspect of his game in the future. Scoring 0.92 PPP in isolations (12 possessions) and 1.286 PP in the post (14 possessions) Porzingis showed glimpses by mixing in occasional pull up jumpers and turnarounds from the post. He struggled to maintain position on the block and was often bumped off track as a driver, but had the touch to get to his jumper when he was able to catch inside.

Porzingis had some of the same issues Bender faces in terms of holding position in the post or getting all the way to the rim with a defender on his hip. Bender is also a better ball handler than Porzingis was at the same stage. With that said, Porzingis had a more dynamic jumper to fall back on and he used that both from the perimeter and out of face up or post up situations, which made him more of a threat to create his own offense and score in general.

Finishing Ability

Despite being 7'1” with a 9'3” standing reach, Bender has some struggles finishing over length and through contact given his slight build and average vertical explosiveness. While he scored an impressive 1.368 PPP at the rim, he took only 38 shots at the cup, a testament to his preference to avoid contact and operate more on the perimeter. He operated as the roll man in only 3.8% of his used possessions and doesn't show a ton of potential as a lob catcher or pick and roll finisher.

18-year-old Porzingis also had his struggles finishing through contact and over length. He attempted only 2.4 free throws per 40 minutes (the same as Bender) and shied away from physicality at times, although he did take 101 shots at the rim, scoring only 1.01 PPP. He wasn't all that explosive from a standstill and that hurt him a bit when receiving drop offs around the rim. Porzingis did, however, show major potential as a roll man and lob catcher as he was a very good leaper in space and had the reach to throw down most everything that was lofted up around the rim.

Porzingis operated much more around the rim when he was 18 and had a little bit more fight and physicality in him than Bender does at this stage. He was more explosive in space and more dynamic as a roller, whereas a lot of Bender's finishes come off of put backs or straight line drives.


Playing mostly on the perimeter for Maccabi, Bender wasn't mixing it up on the glass all that often. His 14.3 defensive rebound percentage is below average, mostly a result of his lack of physicality and elite leaping ability in traffic. He crashed the offensive glass from the perimeter a decent amount, but wasn't all that willing to throw his body around and scrap for boards. He has solid instincts and his reach and mobility will help him improve as a rebounder, but it's not something that he hangs his hat on.

Porzingis also struggled on the defensive glass at age 18. He lacked the body to keep opponents on his back and his awareness left something to be desired, resulting in a defensive rebounding percentage of 12.8. He did, however, do a nice job flying in from the perimeter, setting the table for some of the tip dunks that took the NBA by storm during his rookie year. Porzingis also showed flashes as a defensive rebounder with his ability to cover ground, leap in space and use his reach and strong hands to grab boards in traffic.

Porzingis had better tools on the glass at the same age but both guys struggled equally in that area due to similar deficiencies. Bender shows a better IQ and discipline than Porzingis did, whereas Porzingis had a little more fight along with a slightly better frame, longer arms and more bounce.


Bender and Porzingis have quite a few differences in terms of defensive strengths and weaknesses. Bender's defensive versatility at 7'1” is one the things that makes him intriguing as a prospect. He has the quickness to switch ball screens and either keep the ball contained or recover swiftly. He spent much of the season chasing around wings and guards, which is very unique for a player his size, especially at 18 years for a storied franchise like Maccabi Tel Aviv. He's a bit hunched guarding the perimeter, but his foot speed and agility are definitely strengths of his in today's switch-heavy NBA.

Bender can also protect the rim a little bit thanks to his reach and quick leaping, but he's far from a defensive anchor. He's not all that intimidating at the rim given his frame and doesn't have much pop as a leaper. Bender makes up for some of the deficiencies with his defensive IQ. Post defense is where Bender really struggles defensively. Tall with a fairly weak base and a high center of gravity, opponents can duck in on him and knock him off balance with relative ease. He shows more fight than his stature would suggest, but defending in the post both before and after the catch is an area where bender needs to improve. He also is a bit foul prone despite having a strong IQ. All in all Bender has a lot of defensive value in today's NBA, especially once he fills out down the road.

At age 18 Porzingis wasn't switching ball screens or chasing around perimeter players like Bender. He also wasn't the defensive anchor he's shown he can be at the NBA level. His fundamentals and discipline weren't great, and he too didn't quite have the frame to strike fear into slashing wings. Porzingis' off-ball awareness held him back a bit as a shot blocker as well, although he did show flashes of timing and instincts. Porzingis' potential rim protection was always one of his main sources of intrigue due to his physical tools, the biggest question was unlocking the mental side of things.

While he was fluid for his size, he wasn't all that effective out on the perimeter. His lateral quickness was average and his fast-twitch muscles weren't always firing. He had the length to switch screens and at least hand contest if he gave himself enough space, but it wasn't a major strength of his. Porzingis was fairly competitive as a post defender but he lacked the lower body strength to hold his own consistently, relying more on length to alter shots out of the post. Porzingis, who grew up defending wings as a 16-year-old, had quite a bit of room to improve his defensive instincts and fundamentals as an 18-year-old, although he showed major flashes.

It would be very surprising if Bender stepped into the NBA and began torching the nets the way Porzingis did as a rookie. He's a full year behind Porzingis in age and development, and doesn't have the type of wow factor, scoring ability, or physical tools that Knicks fans and NBA die-hards alike fell in love with.

But Bender has the type of unique combination of size, fluidity, passing ability and shooting potential that should make him a very valuable player in his own right. He may not be the second coming of 36Latvia, but Bender is a lock to go in the top 10 of Thursday's draft, and his ability to grab and go, facilitate, guard the perimeter and make threes at 7'1” will allow him to create his own legacy.

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Dragan Bender NBA Draft Scouting Report and Video Breakdown
June 6, 2016

Scouting Report by Derek Bodner. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz

Few players heading into the draft represent the paradigm shift of what NBA teams are looking for out of their big men more than Dragan Bender does.

Bender, a 7'1”, 216 pound Croatian big man has spent the last two seasons playing professionally in Israel. He posted a successful 2014-15 season with Ramat Gan in the Liga Leumit, Israel's second division, which saw him average 9.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.1 blocks in just over 28 minutes per night. This season, his first with Maccabi Fox Tel Aviv in the Premier League, saw Bender struggle to see consistent playing time against much older competition, getting just over 14 minutes per game in league play, and even less in the few Euroleague appearances he saw action in.

Bender was not in an optimal place for development, as Maccabi Tel Aviv (fresh off losing the Israel league championship last June) struggled through another tumultuous season, again missing out on an Israeli league championship with another semifinal loss. The storied franchise missed the Euroleague Top-16 for the first time in club history, while replacing their head coach mid-season, which hardly solved their problems. All things considered, it's not a shock that Bender had a difficult time carving out a major role for the team at age 18, but it did limit the opportunities NBA executives had to evaluate him.

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The first thing that jumps out when looking at Bender is his physical profile. Standing 7'1”, with a 9'3” standing reach and a slender 216 pound frame, Bender's profile is both the basis for much of his intrigue, but also for much of his present-day shortcomings.

The biggest improvement in Bender's game has been from the perimeter, where he's shooting 36% from three-point range in combined Euroleague/Eurocup/Israeli League play, including 39.2% in the Israeli league, where he sees the majority of his minutes. He's struggled a bit of late, including 1-for-14 from three-point range over his last seven games, but his improvement from the perimeter is key for his stock, especially in a league that values floor spacing from the front court positions as much as ever.

That recent 1-for-14 stretch showcases some of Bender's streakiness, which may in part be related to a long release which takes some time to get his shot off and can lead to some inconsistency in his shooting motion. Still, it would be impossible not to be impressed by the improvement in Bender's shot, as he connected on just 26.9% of his attempts from deep last season. Even if the overall sample size of just 86 attempts on the season isn't quite enough to give 100% confidence the improvement as fully sustainable, Bender has notably cleaned up his mechanics over the past year, and has always had a soft touch that suggested he'd see improvement down the line, and transferring some of that shooting potential into realized production is a positive development for the 18-year-old.

One area of Bender's offensive profile that he didn't get a chance to showcase in his role with Maccabi is his impressive passing and court vision for a 7-footer. This is a skill set that could prove useful in his future role in the NBA, either as a high-low passer from the top of the key or when attacking the closeouts he'll receive if he continues to improve his shot. Bender uses his size well as a passer, being able to see over the defense thanks to his 7'1” height, can push the ball in transition, and has even shown a knack for timing, such as handling the ball in pick and roll situations. As the NBA prioritizes secondary playmakers and good decision makers at all positions, this area of Bender's game could prove extremely valuable.

In transition is another way that Bender finds a way to contribute, as he has the ability to both push the ball in the open floor off of a defensive rebound and also fill a lane on the break. Bender is quick for his size and gets out of the gate quickly, a transition from defense to offense that is hard for most big men to keep up with.

Outside of that, most of Bender's contributions on the offensive side of the court come off the ball. He shows some ability as a slasher, but that's mostly limited to attacking closeouts, as while he has excellent mobility and fluidity for a seven footer, he's not yet proficient at changing directions or speeds with the ball in his hands. Bender also moves fairly well for cuts off the ball, and will crash the offensive glass on occasion, flying in from the perimeter, even if his lack of size and strength prevents him from being a consistent contributor in this phase of the game.

Where Bender's uniqueness really starts to show is on the defensive side of the court. While Bender was able to block 5.7% of his opponents shots while he was on the court during Israeli League play, thanks in large part to his 9'3” standing reach and solid timing and shot blocking instincts, Bender's average explosive ability as a leaper likely limits his impact in this regard somewhat.

If Bender were limited to a seven footer and block an occasional shot, he'd still have quite a bit of intrigue, even if he might be a little underwhelming as a top prospect. What sets Bender apart is how well he moves his feet on the perimeter, something that is almost unheard of for a player his size. Because of Bender's underdeveloped frame, he struggled mightily to defend post-up players, despite the size advantage he enjoyed most nights. This caused Maccabi to place him on a perimeter player more often than you would typically see for a seven footer. To Bender's credit, he was able to hold his own.

Bender gets in an excellent defensive stance, has great lateral foot speed, uses his length well to deny dribble penetration, and has excellent technique when closing out on shooters. Overall, Bender has a high basketball IQ and impressive toughness on the defensive end for a player of his age, is always engaged and with his head on a swivel, surveying the court, making the right rotations, and providing excellent help defense.

This combination of surprising perimeter mobility, length, and knowledge of how to play the angles and deny dribble penetration could come in handy in the NBA, where defensive versatility and the ability to switch ball screens have become a virtual prerequisite for the modern big man. Bender's unique combination of size, length, and mobility could become a real competitive advantage for a team, particularly as he continues to fill into his frame.

One area where Bender's youth shows up on the defensive side of the court is how frequently he picks up fouls, racking up nearly 7.4 fouls per 40 minutes in Israeli league play. Many of these fouls were a combination of unnecessary reaches, being a second late when cutting off the driving perimeter player, or getting bullied in the post, and are likely more a result of the gap in experience between Bender and his opponents than a long-term concern. Still, it's something to note, and impacted Bender's overall production as a defender for Maccabi last year.

Outside of defending the post, the other area where Bender's high center of gravity and poorly developed frame hurt him defensively is on the glass, where Bender grabbed just 5.9 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, pace adjusted, and just 15.5% of the available defensive rebounds while he was on the court during Israeli League play. Bender is moved off of his spot far too easily at this point in his development, and doesn't yet show the great anticipation skills to really make up for that. Core strength could be the biggest impediment to Bender finding consistent playing time early on in his NBA career.

The success Kristaps Porzingis enjoyed during his rookie season is both a blessing and a curse for Bender. On the one hand, Porzingis' success helps chip away at the negative stigma associated with perimeter-focused European prospects, something which is undeniably a positive for future prospects in a similar mold. On the other hand, it may create unrealistic expectations for the early part of Bender's career. Porzingis was over a year older than the 18-year-old Bender when he entered the NBA, having received a significant bump in playing time in the tough ACB, seasoning which no doubt helped ease his transition to the NBA.

Looking at Bender as a prospect requires a fair amount of projection, not just because of his extreme youth and lack of playing time, but also because he's just scratching the surface on many of his skills. Despite showing a high base on a diverse set of skills, it could be a couple of years before Bender turns that into consistent production at the NBA level. Still, Bender's skill set, and athletic profile, is so unique, and so coveted in today's NBA, his potential as an impact role player would be very difficult to pass up. By all accounts, Bender is an extremely hard worker who consistently plays the game with a high energy level and great confidence, which should give decision makers confidence he can continue to improve his overall skill level, and the combination of all that should place him near the top of the draft on June 23rd.

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Dragan Bender Buyout Numbers Revealed
May 21, 2016

Dragan Bender has a 1.3 million dollar buyout in his contract with Maccabi Tel Aviv, a league source informed DraftExpress.

The figure is relatively small for an international player of his stature and should pose no obstacles to him joining the NBA team that drafts him June 23.

The agreement in the seven-year contract Bender signed with Maccabi Tel Aviv in 2014 has a clause that allows him to opt out and sign with an NBA franchise by paying a buyout that's twice the permitted amount an NBA team can provide, according to the NBA's Collective Bargaining Agreement.

An NBA team can contribute up to $650,000 to an international buyout for a player picked in the first round. The remaining $650,000 will be paid by Bender in a second installment at a later, undisclosed date and will come out of his rookie scale contract.

Bender is expected to be picked somewhere in the 3-7 range in the upcoming draft. His season will likely be over by June 9 at the latest if his team advances to the Israeli League finals. Bender should be able to arrive in time to conduct workouts with a number of franchises, as well as have a medical examination done on US soil. He is expected to attend the NBA Draft in Brooklyn on June 23rd.

Maccabi Tel Aviv is currently competing in the Israeli league playoff quarterfinals, where they hold a 1-0 lead in the best of five series.

Israeli league rules state that at least three spots in every team's 12-man roster must be comprised of two domestic players under the age of 22 and one under 25, which has kept the Croatian-born Bender (designated as a foreigner) off the scorer's sheet in a number of contests this season, including the playoffs this week.

Nevertheless, Bender has been scouted thoroughly by NBA talent evaluators at every level players his age typically compete, having participated in the Jordan Brand Classic in New York, the NBA Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in New York, two adidas EuroCamps, three FIBA junior championships, three Euroleague International Junior Tournaments, as well as seeing over 500 minutes in a Maccabi Tel Avi uniform at the senior level this season.

Representatives of all 30 NBA teams have been present to watch him play and practice this season according to Maccabi Tel Aviv, including the Euroleague preseason games they played against Armani Milan in Chicago and New York last October.

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Dragan Bender Exclusive DraftExpress Interview
February 5, 2016

DraftExpress sat down with Croatian forward Dragan Bender to discuss a variety of topics, including the comparisons to Kristaps Porzingis, the season he's having, the improvement he's making, his thoughts on the NBA and more. Make sure to check out the full article we wrote on the Vertical, which includes a detailed scouting report, draft projections and more.

More European Dispatches from the Vertical:
Getting to Know: Furkan Korkmaz
Getting to Know: Paul Zipser
Getting to Know: Dragan Bender

More European Dispatches on DraftExpress:
Getting to Know: Blaz Mesicek
Paul Zipser Video Interview
Furkan Korkmaz Video Interview

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Analyzing the Top International Draft Prospects, Part 1: Dragan Bender
November 16, 2015


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Mike Schmitz is the video analyst for DraftExpress. Follow him on twitter and check out the DraftExpress Video section. He will be breaking down the NBA draft in digital format all year long for us.

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Dragan Bender Interview
October 4, 2015

On the USA Experience:

“It's really great to be with this team here in the US. To be playing in these games with this crowd against these players is really great. And it's helpful for me. It's really exciting to get a lot of experience.“

On playing two games in the US:

“It was great. I was here one time before in an All-Star game but this was the first time playing on this court. To play in front of the Maccabi crowd was amazing.”

On actually getting minutes:

“It was good to play here and all the minutes and everything are great for me. I'm getting better for sure every day. I'm excited to start the season.”

On where he's from:

“I'm from Split. I'm from Croatia but born in Herzegovina.”

On Israel:

“Israel has been great. This is my second year over there. It's really great. I love it. I love Tel Aviv and I'm loving life over there.”

On advice he's received from teammates with NBA experience:

“[Farmar and Favareni] are great. They give great advice on and off the court. They're telling me what to do and what not to do. They've definitely been helping. It's great to have them.”

On whether he was aware of the NBA attention:

“I did know [that GMs and Scouts would be watching] but honestly, when I step on the court I really do not think about it. I'm trying to focus on the game and try to focus on the things we hear in the locker room and translate it to the court.”

On his regimen this summer:

“This summer, I was off of the national team so I came home to Split and I tried to do a lot (of work) on the physical part and also on the shooting part because these two things are going to help me get minutes on the court. I tried to improve my defense with all the rotations. On the ball, off the ball. It's good, [the summer] helped me a lot so I'm looking forward to starting a new season.”

On players he models his game after:

“When I was a kid I was trying to look like Toni Kukoc, trying to play like him. But now that he's retired and everything, I'm watching the guys in the NBA like Dirk Nowitzki and Nikola Mirotic. Dirk is a famous NBA player and he's playing like a stretch-four like me. Like I want to. Mirotic came last year to the NBA so I try to look at how he adjusted to the league.”

On how he felt about his performance in the US:

“I'm happy (with my performance in the US). We did some good jobs preparing for the new season. Of course we have some things we have to improve on both ends of the floor. We're looking forward to starting our season in Europe and these pre-games are preparation. We are on the right road. It is going to be good this season. We have a great team and great players.”

On what he's working on specifically:

“I'm trying to be a complete player. To play outside or inside. Whatever the coach needs me to play. But I like to play a little face up from the three point line or from my back to the basket. In Croatia, some coaches see the talent in the player willing to play with the ball from the outside.”

On position:

“For (position) doesn't really matter. I'm comfortable with both positions and whatever coach needs me to do in the game and in the time on the court. Right now I feel more comfortable at the four because I'm really tall and defense for me is easier to guard bigger guys than smaller guards. But again for me it's not a big problem to play both positions.”

On training regimen:

“I'm trying to build up muscle but also not to lose speed or agility, for sure. I'm going step by step, really. We did a great job this summer. It's really great. Also, the nutrition program is really great. I'm doing everything from the program to build muscle from the legs to the tops, it's been great so far.”

On Kristaps Porzingis:

“I played against [Kristaps Porzingis] one time in a Euroleague tournament for juniors in Barcelona. I loved to look at him play. I really didn't look at his games too much. I saw that he was really high in the draft and I think he's going to be good in the NBA, for sure.”

On dexterity:

“I'm definitely trying to improve my left hand. I'm trying to improve all of the things to become a complete player. I do all the kind of drills with the chairs and everything. The 101 drills, they've been great.“

[Read Full Article]
Official: Dragan Bender Will Not Play at the U19 World Championship
June 26, 2015

Editor's Note: June 27th Update

David Hein of FIBA.com confirms that Dragan Bender will not play at the U19 World Championship. From FIBA's story:

"Vladimr Vanjak, Croatia's head of delegation at the tournament in Heraklion (Crete), Greece, confirmed to FIBA.com that Bender will be leaving Greece on Sunday.

He said: "The fact is that Bender denied [refused] to play in the Jordan Brand shoes but our Federation has a contract with Jordan and everybody has to play in Jordan Brand. He denied to do that but he didn't say anything before coming here. That's the problem. I talked with my Secretary General and other people who made the decision because we have a very serious contract with Jordan. If he cannot play in Jordan Brand, he cannot play. That's it."

Original Story from June 26

Surprising development in Croatia, as potential Top-5 draft pick in 2016, Dragan Bender, is unlikely to play at the U19 World Championship in Crete, which starts this weekend.

According to Bender's agent, Maurizio Balducci, the Croatian Basketball Federation has told Bender that he will be unable to represent his country if he refuses to wear Jordan Brand sneakers while he is on the court. Bender has signed an exclusive deal with Adidas, which bars him from doing so under the terms of the contract.

“They said to me, if Dragan doesn't use Jordan Brand shoes, he can't play,” Bender's agent wrote to us today. “We are very sad. He wanted to defend the colors of his country, but it looks like commercial reasons are above sport reasons. I am so sad for all his teammates his coach. They did a great job during the past three weeks (preparing for the tournament).”

Croatia is considered the main contenders to win gold at the U19 Championship, along with the defending champions, USA, who are led by Arizona head coach Sean Miller and a number of highly touted high school players such as Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum and Josh Jackson. Croatia is scheduled to play the US on Sunday in the group stage. Bender had spent most of the month of June training with the U19 team in preparation for the tournament, including playing multiple exhibition games over the past few weeks, where he wore Adidas shoes, which he's trained in exclusively the last few years.

Bender entered into his relationship with Adidas in September of 2013, about a year prior to Nike and Jordan Brand signing an exclusive 11 year deal with the Croatian national team (at every level, including all men and women's teams), as detailed by David Hein at the time.

Zeljko Draksic, the Croatian Basketball Federation HKS secretary general, told Hein at the time that “all our young players…will be under control of the Nike or Jordan brand. All of our coaches who would like to study or be in the United States or learn or something like that, everything will be under control of the Jordan Brand. If they are under our federations, they must be in this way for the Jordan Brand.”

Bender is coming off a very strong showing at the Adidas EuroCamp in Treviso earlier this month, which was attended by over a hundred NBA executives, cementing his status as a lottery caliber prospect. The 7-footer has a terrific skill-level for a player his size, with great versatility on both ends of the floor. He will play for Maccabi Tel Aviv's senior team this upcoming season, which will include an exhibition game against Armani Milan at Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 4th.

[Read Full Article]
2015 adidas Eurocamp Measurements and Athletic Testing Results
June 8, 2015

Elite 1997 prospect Dragan Bender measured 6'11.5 without shoes with a 7'2 wingspan and a 216-pound frame. His 9'3 standing reach is unparalleled for a player who can operate away from the rim like he can. For reference, Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge have standing reaches of 9'2 when they were measured as prospects. Bender didn't test particularly well athletically, which was expected, and still needs to get stronger, but he's grown 1.5 inches and gained 14 pounds since he was measured in Treviso exactly one year ago. For a player who won't turn 18 until November, those are both promising signs.

[Read Full Article]
adidas Eurocamp Interview: Dragan Bender
June 7, 2015

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2015 adidas Eurocamp: Day One
June 6, 2015

The most significant development of the first day of this year's Eurocamp was the play of a prospect who couldn't even declare for the NBA Draft this year. Croatian forward Dragan Bender was sensational at times this evening, leaving no doubt as to why he's a potential lottery pick next summer. Signing with Maccabi Tel Aviv last year, Bender spent this season loaned to Ramat Gan in the Israeli 2nd division. Averaging 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds over 28.4 minutes per game, Bender held his own as a key contributor against low level senior competition, despite being in his first year outside his home country at just 17-years old.

Named MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp at NBA All-Star Weekend in February, and averaging 23 points and 10.8 rebounds at this year's adidas Next Generation Tournament, Bender is a player NBA scouts are already deeply familiar with. He's been dominant at times at the junior level, but wasn't particularly impressive when he suited up at the Eurocamp as a 16-year old last year, looking very passive for the most part.

That was not the case today, as the 6'11 forward was simply outstanding in the evening session. His body appears to have improved noticeably from February, especially his legs, which is a very promising sign for the slender young talent, and he made a major impact today. Converting a number of floaters with deft touch while flashing improved shooting mechanics from the 3-point line, creating angles to the rim off the dribble, pushing the break himself, handling the ball like a wing, and making some superb passes, Bender's offensive skill set was on full display. Though he finished with only 9 points and 3 assists, his number belie the impact he had and the number of impressive moments he recorded, some of which didn't quite work out but were still very memorable.

He also had some fantastic moments defensively recovering to close out shooters on the perimeter and in one memorable sequence, stayed in front of a much smaller player he was switched onto before swatting away the player's attempt at the rim. His lower body strength appears to be improving, but he still gave up position to Greece's stronger big men as his frame still has a ways to go.

Though this was just one game, Bender's strong play will leave a lasting impression on the scouts in attendance. There simply aren't many 7-footers gifted with the same type of offensive skill and promising defensive ability as Bender. Not turning 18 until November, Bender has gotten an early jump on building his resume for the 2016 NBA Draft where he figures to come off the board sooner rather than later.

[Read Full Article]
Dragan Bender at the NBA Basketball Without Borders Global Camp
February 23, 2015

An interview and highlights of 7-foot Croatian PF Dragan Bender from the 2015 Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in New York City during NBA All-Star Weekend.

More NBA Basketball Without Borders Coverage
-Rosters, Preview and Camp Analysis
-Jamal Murray Highlights
-Lauri Markkanen Interview and Highlights

Bender, who just turned 17 three months ago, was named the MVP of the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp, after a very unselfish performance where he displayed his impressive versatility for a player his size. Bender played all three frontcourt positions over the course of the weekend, showing terrific ball-handling skills, passing ability and an emerging (albeit) streaky jump-shot. His body looks to be progressing under the careful watch of Euroleague defending champions Maccabi Tel Aviv, where he signed a seven year contract (with comfortable NBA out clauses) this past summer.

Bender is playing 28 minutes per game for Maccabi's second team, Ramat Gan, which competes in the Israeli second division. He's averaging 10 points (51% 2P%, 24% 3P%, 69% FT%), 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 turnovers per game on the year. He's expected to join Maccabi Tel Aviv's senior team next season and see minutes in both the Israeli first division and the Euroleague.

While his body and outside shot still have a lot of room for improvement, and he's still in the process of finding his role on the basketball court (particularly defensively) due to his uncommon combination of size and skills, he's one of the most unique prospects in the world in his age group.

[Read Full Article]
2015 Basketball Without Borders Camp Roster Analysis
February 5, 2015

-The most recognizable name on this year's roster is likely Dragan Bender. After signing with defending Euroleague champions Maccabi Tel Aviv last year, fresh off an impressive performance at the FIBA U18 European Championship, the superbly talented Croatian forward has spent this season playing for Ramat Gan in the Israeli 2nd Division where he's averaging 11.1 points and 8.3 rebounds per-game. An impressively skilled, skinny 6'11 combo forward who can do a bit of everything on both ends of the floor, including handle, pass, shoot and make plays defensively, Bender's long-term position remains a bit of a question-mark, but he's widely considered the top 1997-born prospect in the world. His presence alone makes it worth the trip for NBA decision-makers, as he could certainly factor into the 2016 NBA Draft should he elect to.

[Read Full Article]
Nike International Junior Tournament Belgrade 2014 Scouting Reports
March 7, 2014

Jonathan Givony

-Very interesting physical profile. Around 6-11, with long arms and a frame that should fill out nicely in time
-Smooth, fluid player. Long strides. Very mobile
-Excellent feel for the game. Makes highly intelligent passes. 4.9 assists per-40
-Uses length to make plays defensively. Averaged 2 steals and 2.3 blocks per-40 (and 10 rebounds) in Belgrade.
-Ridiculously young. Won't turn 17 until November

-Passive player with questionable mental and physical toughness
-Very deferential on the court even against clearly inferior competition. Looks to be a little too nice at times
-Not much of a scorer, somewhat by choice, but also due to an average skill-level
-Streaky outside shooter
-Doesn't have the strength or footwork to use his size to score inside the paint over smaller opponents
-Struggles to play through contact around the basket
-No real position or role right now. Is he a big small forward or a lanky face-up power forward?
-Can make plays defensively with length and feel, but will have to work hard to continue to improve in this area
-Struggles to get low to the ground and thus gets blown by very easily. Gets backed down inside when guarding stronger big men

Outlook: Tremendously unique and talented young prospect who has a long ways to go to realize his terrific potential. Fairly well known in Europe already, despite his age. Was invited to Croatia's U16 National team already at the age of 14. Started to see some minutes in the Croatian league as a professional at age 15. Played in the Jordan Brand Classic international game in 2013. May join Croatian legend Nikola Vujcic at Maccabi Tel Aviv next season. Could go many ways with his development long term, as he's so incredibly young still.

[Read Full Article]
2013 adidas EuroCamp: Day Two
June 9, 2013

Croatian forward Dragan Bender has an impressive frame and showed the ability to handle the ball. Able to play inside, outside, and use his length defensively, he is an interesting talent worth tracking.

[Read Full Article]
Recent Tweets
DraftExpress: More shot charts exploring the tendencies and efficiency of the best shooters in the Draft. Added Dragan Bender's in https//t.co/XQnZxx2OSW
2016-06-23 12:51:04
DraftExpress: RT @Mike_Schmitz In-depth look @ how Kristaps Porzingis & Dragan Bender compared as prospects at the same age https//t.co/oWLdAiz9Qz httpu2026
2016-06-23 10:46:33
DraftExpress: New on DX Deep statistical\/video dive comparing the games of Kristaps Porzingis and Dragan Bender at the same age https//t.co/nJWkqIPxB6
2016-06-23 10:25:34
DraftExpress: RT @Mike_Schmitz Breaking down the strengths and weaknesses of versatile 7-1 Croatian PF Dragan Bender https//t.co/stIzqH0tzE https//t.cu2026
2016-06-06 13:45:00
DraftExpress: Dragan Bender was originally slated to arrive in US this weekend but Maccabi's surprising semifinal loss likely buys him a few more days.
2016-06-06 13:14:09