Rockets: Players that could replace Christian Wood — 5. Dragan Bender
Dragan Bender was thrust into the NBA with high expectations, as he was drafted with the fourth overall pick of the 2016 NBA Draft as an international prospect. Bender joined the league at age 19, which made it highly likely that he was going to be a project, as he transitioned to the NBA style of play.
The 7-foot big man who joined the rebuilding Phoenix Suns, struggled in year one of his NBA career, as he found it to be difficult to simply make shots as a rookie. Ditto was the case in 2017-18, with the exception being that he shot 36.6 percent from deep, on 3.9 heaves per game, which remains a career-high in attempts for him.
Bender followed that up with his best season to that point in 2018-19, posting averages of 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.4 assists per 36, in his final season with the Suns. Bender spent the 2019-20 season with the Milwaukee Bucks and Golden State Warriors, offering a better glimpse of his all-around skillset, averaging 13.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per 36 minutes.
Bender’s improved play which made sense, as he had gotten adjusted to the league following three seasons of playing in the NBA. Bender has become a steady 3-point shooter over the years, as he made 34.9 percent of his threes last season on nearly three attempts per game.
The 23-year-old received a significant amount of playing time in the G-League during the 2019-20 season and used it as a job interview, as he averaged 20.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks, while making 38.4 percent of his threes and 50.4 percent of his shots.
Bender remains a free agent, and his ability to put the ball on the floor would be a tremendous value on a Rockets team that lacks playmakers and facilitators, and his size and improved shooting ability should warrant serious consideration by the Houston Rockets front office.
Next: No. 4