A couple of days after being waived by the Milwaukee Bucks to make room for veteran forward Marvin Williams, the latest news is Dragan Bender reportedly went unclaimed on waivers and is now an unrestricted free agent.
The Milwaukee Bucks made a key addition ahead of their playoff push by bringing aboard Marvin Williams, but it came at the cost of parting ways with a developmental project like Dragan Bender.
Now, a couple of days after hitting the waiver wire from the Bucks, the 22-year-old is reportedly a free agent after all other 29 NBA teams elected not to bring Bender on board on the deal he signed with the Bucks as the New York Times’ Marc Stein reported late Thursday afternooon.
That may be a surprise to some Bucks fans, considering the incredibly team-friendly deal that the Croatian international signed last July to come to Milwaukee.
Bender’s two-year deal with the Bucks was only guaranteed for the rest of the season after it was fully guaranteed following last month’s deadline. Bender’s guarantee date for the 2020-21 season was set for July 6 later this year, per Basketball Insiders’ Eric Pincus.
Yes, Bender played an incredibly minimal role after having seen the court with the Bucks for a grand total of 91 minutes, but he showed meaningful improvements in those few stretches and especially so over his 13 assignments with the Wisconsin Herd as they continue to hold the best record on that level.
And over those seven appearances Bender logged in Milwaukee, averaging 3.7 points, 2.9 rebounds, 1.3 assists, and 0.7 blocks in 13 minutes per game, while shooting 47.6 percent from the field and 44.4 percent from deep.
While on assignment with the Herd, Bender averaged 20.5 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks per game across 13 contests, with shooting splits of .505/.378/.794
Where Bender’s next stop comes is quite the mystery, considering the point of the season and his previous production over his disappointing three-year stint with the Phoenix Suns. For those that don’t remember, Bender reportedly did have an overseas deal with EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow last summer before the Bucks came calling and sought to reclaim his NBA career before the start of the 2019-20 season.
But at this point in the season all across the world, is trying to find a spot in Europe where Bender can viably showcase his talents an available option? Does potentially signing a 10-day contract elsewhere in the league fulfill his dream of simply being in the NBA while facing the same risk of instability that Bender’s increasingly gone through over the last year-plus?
These are all tough questions for a hungry Bender that wants to rejuvenate his playing career and all available routes to find his next spot aren’t sure things, to be clear.
As for the Bucks, I’m sure they would jump at the chance to bring Bender back into the organization through the Herd. But that requires Bender to have an interest in staying stateside, signing a G League contract and the Herd holding out hope that no other G League team won’t claim him on waivers, depending on where they stand in the waiver order.
In any event, we’ll just have to wait and see on the next step that Bender chooses to take in the coming days and/or weeks where he can hopefully find a home to realize that long-gestating potential of his.