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With J.R. Smith’s contract mostly off the books, the Cavaliers are exploring the market for low-grade trades and what’s left of free agency.
One player who fits the description and who the Cavs have inquired about — former No. 4 overall draft pick Dragan Bender, a 7-foot-1 power forward.
Bender spent each of his first three seasons with the Phoenix Suns after being selected with the fourth pick in 2016. It’s safe to say he didn’t exactly live up the lofty expectations with arguably the league’s worst team in that span.
Instead, Bender averaged 5.3 points and 3.8 rebounds in 131 career games. It’s understandable why the Suns let him walk after the season.
Still, he’s only 21 years old and wouldn’t cost the Cavs much in terms of salary or commitment. If he were to flop, so be it. He’s not supposed to be a big deal. But if he can help you … well, then Bender would be a steal.
Right now, those are the types of players Cavs general manager Koby Altman seems to have placed high on the priority list. There is no missing, only swinging and hoping.
Aside from the Cavs, the Toronto Raptors also have an interest in Bender, according to international basketball reporter Orazio Francesco Cauchi.
Europe also is a possibility for the Croatian native.
“CSKA Moscow and Fenerbache are looking at his situation with some level of interest,” Cauchi reported.
Bender’s strengths are ball-handling and passing. Entering the draft, some draft experts compared him to Kristaps Porzingis, formerly of the New York Knicks and now the Dallas Mavericks.
But Porzingis, clearly, is much more skilled at shooting over defenses, putting the ball in the basket and using his length to drastically disrupt the opposition.
On the other hand, Benders is till very much a work in progress and there’s still no telling if he belongs in the NBA, at least as anything beyond a bit player.
Either way, the Cavs are interested, and with Smith’s contract barely holding them back, Bender is likely to only be the first among many possibilities they are ready to explore.