Like Kristaps Porzingis before him, Dragan Bender is this year’s international man of mystery in the NBA Draft. At 7’1″ and 225 pounds, Bender offers an intriguing mix of size and skill that has a number of teams with high draft picks interested. He can step out to the three-point line, and also bang inside and protect the rim.
The Los Angeles Lakers were one of the teams that had Bender on their radar, with the thought being that he could eventually pair nicely with incumbent power forward Julius Randle. While some questioned whether the number two pick was too early to select the big man from Bosnia and Herzegovina, GM Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers front office were determined to leave no stone unturned. After incorrectly concluding that Porzingis would need more time to develop during last summer’s pre-draft process, Kupchak and company were certain to do their due diligence and thoroughly investigate Bender.
However, according to basketball reporter David Pick, the Lakers are rumored to no longer be interested in Bender:
Told the Los Angeles Lakers have fallen out of interest in Dragan Bender. Sounds like No. 2 pick is Brandon Ingram.
— David Pick (@IAmDPick) June 5, 2016
Given the fact that the Lakers will get to choose from whichever of LSU’s Ben Simmons and Duke’s Brandon Ingram the Philadelphia 76ers pass on, it’s not surprising that Bender won’t make the cut. While he is certainly worth of consideration and may end up being an excellent player in the NBA, there is a high level of risk involved with taking an international player who saw so few minutes for his club team, Maccabi Tel Aviv.
Kupchak did travel to Israel earlier in the year to scout Bender, but given his low minutes, it’s hard to say how beneficial the trip was. With Bender seemingly out of the running and rumors growing stronger every day that Philadelphia will select Simmons, it is becoming increasingly likely that it will be Ingram putting on a Lakers cap at the draft lottery on June 23rd.