Dragan Bender

Dragan Bender Likely To Sign With CSKA Moscow

Former No. 4 overall pick Dragan Bender has reached a verbal agreement with EuroLeague powerhouse CSKA Moscow, a source tells Nikos Varlas of Eurohoops (Twitter link). According to Varlas, Bender is expected to join CSKA Moscow unless he gets an offer from an NBA team at the 11th hour.

Keith Smith of RealGM files a similar report, tweeting that Bender’s agreement with CSKA Moscow will allow him to continue seeking out NBA deals for a little while longer. If nothing materializes, the power forward will head to Russia for the 2019/20 season.

Bender, 21, spent the last three seasons with the Suns after being selected fourth overall in 2016. However, he failed to develop into a regular NBA rotation player, averaging 5.3 PPG and 3.8 RPG with a .394/.321/.647 shooting line in 171 games in Phoenix.

A report earlier this week indicated that the Cavaliers and Raptors had inquired on Bender, though their level of interest was unclear. That report also linked the young forward to EuroLeague teams Fenerbahce and CSKA Moscow.

If he finalizes his deal with CSKA Moscow, Bender will join former NBA players such as Joel Bolomboy and Darrun Hilliard on the Russian club.

NBA, EuroLeague Teams Eyeing Dragan Bender?

The Cavaliers and Raptors are among the teams that have inquired on free agent power forward Dragan Bender, tweets international reporter Orazio Cauchi. According to Cauchi, EuroLeague clubs like CSKA Moscow and Fenerbahce are also keeping an eye on Bender and have “some level of interest.”

Bender, 21, was the fourth overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft and spent the last three seasons with the Suns. However, he has failed to develop into a regular rotation player, averaging 5.3 PPG and 3.8 RPG with a .394/.321/.647 shooting line in 171 games in Phoenix.

A source tells Cauchi (Twitter link) that there some NBA teams still believe Bender’s potential could be worth a roll of the dice. At this point though, the young big man seems unlikely to receive more than minimum-salary offers, and even then, it’s not clear he’d get any sort of guarantees.

If Bender had played out his rookie contract, he would have been on track to earn a $5.9MM salary in 2019/20. The Suns turned down their fourth-year team option though, allowing the Croatian to become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Free Agent Rumors: Holiday, Cousins, Burke, More

Free agent swingman Justin Holiday has received interest from the Lakers, Clippers, Bulls, Raptors, Pacers, Wizards, Hornets, and Cavaliers, league sources tell Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Given how quickly most of the top players came off the market, Holiday represents one of the more intriguing options available, given his ability to knock down three-pointers (1.8 3PG on 35.4% shooting over the last three years) and defend on the perimeter.

According to Scotto, the Grizzlies are open to the idea of accommodating a sign-and-trade deal involving Holiday, so a team with interest in him could potentially acquire him using a trade exception if it doesn’t want to cut into its mid-level.

Here’s more on a few NBA free agents:

  • Wizards interim head of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard briefly spoke with free agent big man DeMarcus Cousins in Las Vegas, according to Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter link). A previous report indicated there was virtually no chance of Cousins signing with Washington, and Buckner cautions that the conversation was described as small talk, but she still refers to it as an “interesting development.”
  • The Lakers are in the mix for free agent point guard Trey Burke, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post (Twitter link). Los Angeles still has plenty of roster spots to fill, so it’s not clear how high Burke is on the team’s wish list.
  • Veteran NBA big man Darrell Arthur, who sat out last season after being waived by Phoenix in October, is considering a comeback and is open to continuing his career overseas, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.
  • ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Marc J. Spears, and Ohm Youngmisuk spoke to coaches, scouts, and executives at the Utah and California Summer Leagues to get their thoughts on free agency so far. Among the highlights: McMahon writes that a number of rival executives and scouts believe the Rockets dodged a bullet by not landing Jimmy Butler.
  • The Suns have formally renounced their free agent rights to several players, including Dragan Bender, Jamal Crawford, Jimmer Fredette, and Ray Spalding, per RealGM’s transactions log.

Free Agent Rumors: Kawhi, Bender, Cousins, Mejri

Despite some buzz on social media that Kawhi Leonard is leaning toward the Lakers, the reigning Finals MVP hasn’t reached a decision, tweets Cris Carter of Fox Sports 1. Carter – who has been an unexpectedly plugged-in source on Leonard since the forward’s days in San Antonio – adds that anyone thinking the Lakers have an edge on the Clippers or Raptors would be “wrong.”

Leonard is the last big star available in free agency, and his decision will have a long-lasting impact on all three franchises. Whichever club lands him will be a contender for the NBA title, while the other two teams will be scrambling to fill out their rosters. Leonard still hasn’t given any indication of when he plans to announce his choice.

Here are some more notes on the third day of free agency:

  • Now that the Suns have added Frank Kaminsky, they will part ways with Dragan Bender, according to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link). Bender had a disappointing three years in Phoenix after being selected with the fourth pick in the 2016 draft. He is an unrestricted free agent because the Suns declined his fourth-year option before the start of the season.
  • The Warriors can’t make an offer similar to the $6.4MM MLE that landed DeMarcus Cousins last summer, notes Anthony Slater of The Athletic (Twitter link). Golden State is so close to the hard cap that it cannot go much above minimum deals to complete its roster.
  • Salah Mejri was working out today with the Mavericks‘ Summer League players and remains a possibility to re-sign, tweets Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News.
  • As cap space dries up, restricted free agents such as Kelly Oubre, Delon Wright and Tyus Jones may benefit by accepting their teams’ qualifying offers and becoming unrestricted next summer in a weaker free agent class, suggests Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).

Suns Notes: Morant, Oubre, Warren, Bender

Suns owner Robert Sarver and many of the team’s front office executives attended the Ohio Valley Conference tournament, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter links).

That’s noteworthy because they were taking a closer look at Murray State sophomore guard Ja Morant. Interim GM James Jones, assistant GM Trevor Buckstein, director of player personnel Bubba Burrage and director of basketball analytics Jake Loos were also in attendance.

Phoenix currently has the second-worst record in the league behind only the Knicks. Morant is ranked third on ESPN’s Top 100 prospect list and first among point guards, a position of major need for the Suns. He scored 36 points against Belmont in the OVC title game to carry the Racers into the NCAA Tournament.

We have more on the Suns:

  • Forward Kelly Oubre Jr. reached his starter criteria and is eligible for a $4.9MM qualifying offer, ESPN’s Bobby Marks tweets. He met the criteria by averaging 2,000 minutes during the course of the 2017/18 and 2018/19 seasons. His cap hold of $9.6MM in the offseason remains the same, Marks adds. Oubre is averaging 16.1 PPG and 4.9 RPG in 28.8 MPG over 36 games since he was acquired from Washington.
  • It might be time for the Suns to shut down T.J. Warren, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic writes. Warren missed his 19th consecutive game on Sunday due to right ankle soreness. The injury can be more accurately characterized as a bone bruise, Rankin notes. Coach Igor Kokoskov indicated no decision had been made on Warren’s season status. “I don’t have that answer,” he said. “My approach is whoever is available to play, I’m going to try to use and incorporate in the game plan and the rotation and try to see if he can help us win games.”
  • Power forward Dragan Bender has seen his minutes uptick in Warren’s absence, Rankin points out in the same piece. Bender has averaged 16.0 MPG in five March games, though he has posted a modest stat line of 3.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG. Bender, the fourth pick of the 2016 draft, will be an unrestricted free agent this summer after the club declined his fourth-year option prior to the start of the season.

Suns Notes: Arena, Bender, Trade Candidates, Kokoskov

The Phoenix City Council approved a $230MM deal tonight for improvements to Talking Stick Resort Arena that will ensure the Suns remain in the downtown facility through 2037, writes Jessica Boehm of The Arizona Republic. Under the agreement, the city will cover $150MM in renovations, while the team will be responsible for $80MM, plus any overruns.

Council also agreed to put $2MM per year into a renewal and replacement fund over the next 12 1/2 years to cover future renovation needs. The Suns will contribute $1MM each year over that same time frame. The franchise will continue to be in charge of operations and maintenance for the arena and will pay rent to the city based on annual proceeds.

The Suns will also build a practice facility with an estimated cost of $25-$50MM. The team pledges to remain at Talking Stick Resort Arena for the next 18 years with an option to extend the lease through 2042. The Suns could be fined up to $200MM if they break that lease.

There’s more Suns news to pass along:

  • With Deandre Ayton and Richaun Holmes both injured, Dragan Bender may be looking at his last chance to prove he can be a contributor in Phoenix, notes Gina Mizell of The Athletic. Bender posted double-doubles in back-to-back starts and is showing glimpses of why Phoenix made him the fourth overall pick in 2016. He’s still averaging just 3.2 points and 2.4 rebounds per night in 16 games. “You have to (be) really, really hard mentally on yourself,” Bender said, “and be able to tell yourself each and every day to push through it. It’s a rough business. You can sit for 45 games, and then two guys went down with injuries — which is unfortunate — but it’s time to get in the game and show what you can do.”
  • Troy Daniels, Josh Jackson, Elie Okobo and T.J. Warren are the most likely Suns to be traded before the deadline, Mizell adds in a separate story. Daniels has only appeared in 22 games, playing mostly when others are injured; the acquisition of Kelly Oubre has lessened the need for Jackson; Okobo may be shipped out in the search for a point guard; and Warren might fetch a nice return in the middle of his career-best season. She adds that Bender, Holmes and Jamal Crawford may be enticing because they have expiring contracts.
  • Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic examines the performance of Igor Kokoskov in his first season as an NBA head coach.

Free Agent Stock Watch 2019: Pacific Division

Every week, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents next offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. This week, we turn our attention to the Pacific Division:

Jonas Jerebko, Warriors, PF, 31 (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.18MM deal in 2018
Jerebko has bounced around the league the last few seasons but he always stays within his role and provides solid contributions wherever he lands. He’s averaging 7.2 PPG while shooting a career-high 48.9% from the field in 19.8 MPG. He’s also helped on the boards (5.5 RPG). An above-average 3-point shooter, Jerebko shouldn’t have too much trouble finding another contender to sign him as their backup stretch four next summer. It could be Golden State if he’s willing to settle for the veteran’s minimum again.

Tobias Harris, Clippers, 26, PF (Up) – Signed to a four-year, $64MM deal in 2015
When news leaked over the summer that Harris turned down an $80MM extension offer from the Clippers, many people wondered what Harris was thinking. He was willing to bet on himself that he could do even better as an unrestricted free agent and thus far, the odds have increased in his favor. Harris is posting career highs in several major categories, including scoring (21.0 PPG), shooting (50.8%) and rebounding (8.5 RPG) for one of the league’s surprise teams. When the superstars come off the board, Harris will be next in line for a big payday.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Lakers, 25, SG (Down) – Signed to a one-year, $12MM deal in 2018
The previous Pistons regime declined to give Caldwell-Pope a multi-year extension. He wound up signing a pair of generous one-year contracts with the Lakers but he’s been reduced to backup duty. Most of the shots he’s taken have come from beyond the arc and he’s not particularly good at it (33% this season, 34.4% for his career). Caldwell-Pope doesn’t appear to have a future with the Lakers beyond this season and will have to take a pay cut to find work elsewhere.

Dragan Bender, Suns, 21, PF (Down) — Signed to a three-year, $13.4MM deal in 2016
When the Suns drafted Bender No. 4 overall in 2016, then traded with Sacramento for No. 8 selection Marquese Chriss, they seemingly resolved their power forward spot for years to come. Instead, they wound up with two of the biggest busts in that draft. Chriss was traded away to Houston during training camp while Bender is barely seeing the court in Phoenix. He’s appeared in eight games while averaging just 5.5 MPG. Bender needs a change of scenery but he’ll have to settle for a modest deal next year until he proves he’s a genuine NBA player.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Kings, 25, PF (Up)– Signed to a four-year, $15.35MM deal in 2015
The Kings have a lot of young bigs but Cauley-Stein has been a fixture in the lineup. He’s posting career highs at 14.3 PPG and 8.2 RPG while generally playing the same amount of minutes as last season. Cauley-Stein came into the league with a reputation of being a quality defender and he’s posted positive Defensive Box Plus/Minus ratings each season, according to Basketball-Reference. He’ll be a restricted free agent but might be one of the few who gets a substantial offer sheet, considering Sacramento will like choose to make Marvin Bagley III their main man in the middle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Suns To Decline Dragan Bender’s 4th-Year Option

The Suns will decline Dragan Bender‘s fourth-year option, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reports. The move will free Phoenix of Bender’s $5.8MM salary that he would have received during the 2019/20 season.

“Of course I wish they picked up the option, but I am not going to let this stop me from reaching my goals,” Bender said. “I am 20, and I will keep working to be the best NBA player I can be and make it in this league whether it’s with Phoenix or another team.”

Bender was one of the top prospects in the 2016 Draft and one of the most heavily-scouted European prospects in recent memory. He was expected to form a young, up-and-coming frontcourt combo in Phoenix with fellow first-rounder Marquese Chriss. Chriss has since been traded to Houston and Bender has failed to live up to expectations.

Phoenix has the ability to re-sign Bender after the season, though the team would be limited to offering him a starting salary of $5.8MM. Woj notes that Bender playing with the Suns beyond this season is a “doubtful outcome.”

Suns Exercise 2019/20 Option On Josh Jackson

The Suns have exercised their 2019/20 option on Josh Jackson‘s rookie scale contract, according to RealGM’s official transactions log. Picking up that third-year option, a procedural move, locks in Jackson’s $7,059,480 for the ’19/20 season.

[RELATED: Decisions On 2019/20 Rookie Scale Team Options]

The fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Jackson showed promise in his rookie year, averaging 13.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and 1.5 SPG in 77 games (25.4 MPG). The Suns figure to lean a little more heavily on the 21-year-old in his second season, as he takes on a more prominent role among a solid group of forwards that also features Trevor Ariza, T.J. Warren, and rookie Mikal Bridges.

Interestingly, RealGM’s log of official NBA transactions doesn’t list a Suns decision on Dragan Bender‘s fourth-year option for 2019/20. Phoenix has until October 31 to make a decision on Bender’s option, worth $5,896,519, and the club still hasn’t announced Jackson’s option pickup. The Suns could exercise Bender’s option later and announce both moves at once.

Still, it’s worth noting that Bender was viewed by at least one Suns reporter as a candidate to be waived this week when the team needed to cut down its roster to the regular season limit. His 2019/20 option isn’t a lock to be exercised.

Suns Plan To Trade Or Waive Davon Reed

The Suns, who need to remove three players from their roster in order to officially sign Jamal Crawford and reach the regular season roster limit, continue to work on trade scenarios, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. One player involved in those trade talks is second-year guard Davon Reed, who is expected to be traded or released today by Phoenix, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

[RELATED: Suns, Jamal Crawford agree to deal]

Reed, 23, was the 32nd overall pick in the 2017 draft, but missed a significant chunk of his rookie season due to a knee injury. While there was some uncertainty about his place on the Suns’ roster heading into the summer due to the partial guarantee on his 2018/19 salary, he played well in five Summer League games in Las Vegas, posting 13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 3.0 APG, and a .489 FG% in Vegas.

That Summer League showing helped earn Reed the rest of his ’18/19 guarantee and secure his roster spot temporarily, but it appears he won’t make the regular season squad.

Besides Reed, Darrell Arthur also appears likely to be waived by the Suns today, per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link). The team will have to trade or waive one more player in addition to Reed and Arthur, with non-guaranteed players like Richaun Holmes, Shaquille Harrison, and Isaiah Canaan among the candidates due to their contract status. Gambadoro adds that Dragan Bender‘s place on the roster isn’t necessarily totally secure either.