The Boston Celtics have the third overall pick in the draft and it continues to be one of the most wide open picks. One of their more intriguing options will be the youngest player in the draft, Dragan Bender. One of the bigger problems with Bender is there simply is not much out there to evaluate exactly what kind of player he is.
The Celtics needed more so they paid a visit to Tel Aviv and saw the prospect with their own eyes. According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN, Ainge had this to say about his visit “We had a 1-on-none and a 1-on-1 type of workout with his brother,” Ainge said. “Actually, [Bender’s brother, Ivan, will] be playing at Maryland next year. He’s a 6-10 kid. And then we watched [Dragan Bender] in a full-team practice, which we actually thought was better than a game because we’d seen all his games. We’d seen him play in person in games and, because he’s not playing a major role as an 18-year-old in a tough Israeli league, we were able to watch him practice. And we thought that was more beneficial than what we’d seen in games”.
The Celtics have an opportunity to help get the high end talent that they need with the third overall pick and Bender is one of the riskier options. The Celtics needed to make sure they examined everything they could about Bender before deciding on if he’s their guy.
The Celtics may need to be patient but they could have an opportunity to develop Bender the right way and then he can become one of the most important pieces of their long term core. The Celtics have a lot of work to do in their front court and Bender would be, by far, their most dynamic option. His combination of size and movement on the court would allow him to play in any of Stevens’ lineup and have an impact on the defensive end.
The Celtics may have more defensive potential in Jordan Mickey but the biggest upside to Bender is offense, and they need to drastically improve their offense. The Celtics have two three point shooters off the bench in Kelly Olynyk and Jonas Jerebko and they are the two best offensive bigs on the team. They are both great shooters but Stevens cannot run the offense through them. Bender has the versatility to run the offense, and completely transform how the Celtics can attack a team.
Bender may not be the shooter that Olynyk or Jerebko are, but he certainly has the potential to develop that skill. As the youngest player in the draft, Stevens will have plenty of time to discover exactly where Bender is best and he will make sure to utilize that in the offense.
Bender has game changing offensive potential because of what he can do with the ball in his hands. The Celtics have no ball handlers in their front court and Bender can be the first true play making big on their team.
The Celtics need more play makers to give Isaiah Thomas some help and having that in the front court can open things up everywhere. Bender will certainly need time before he is capable of being a primary ball handler for the Celtics but the skills are there are with Stevens guiding him, he could be ready a lot sooner than many think.
Bender’s potential is exactly what the Celtics need in their front court and that upside may be too much to pass up on. With the Celtics draft pick situation and the fact that Stevens and Ainge just got extensions, they can afford to take risks in the draft.
Bender is the kind of risk that the Celtics will be considering and now that they have seen the player with their own eyes, they need to be able to make the right decision.