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Keeper/Dynasty Battle: Dragan Bender vs. Marquese Chriss

By Botend. CCSA 4.0. Via Wikicommons (

The youth movement is well underway for the Phoenix Suns. The team that once revolutionized the NBA with the 7-seconds or less offense is now chock-full of young talent with their eye on getting the Suns back in the playoffs. Attempting to improve on a 23-59 record the Phoenix front office decided it was time to work on a competitive rebuild.  This entailed signing interim head coach Earl Watson to officially become  their head coach, and moving up in the 2016 draft by trading the No. 13 pick and Bogdan Bogdanovic to the Sacramento Kings for the No. 8 pick.

This resulted in Phoenix having three draft picks (4th, 8th, and 34th), two of which were lottery selections, who ended up becoming Dragan Bender (4th) and Marquese Chriss (8th). Both picks are highly talented forwards who display two polar opposite playing styles; one has a raw athletic game that can translate very well on a Suns team known for their quick pace, the other is a highly skilled finesse player who is still young and not physically developed, who could turn out to be the steal of the draft if he develops the way the Suns hope. Our goal today will be to differentiate the skill sets of these two players, and see which one makes the best keeper or dynasty league pick.

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Keeper/Dynasty Battle: Dragan Bender vs. Marquese Chriss

Lets start with a profile on the fourth overall pick Dragan Bender, who fits the mold  of today's stretch four/five. At 7' 1" Bender has enough size to be considered a rim protector, but labeling him as such would be doing a disservice to the European big man. At only 18 years old Bender has one attribute that can't be taught, and that is feel for the game. Having this asset as a part of his game at 18 will give Bender some leeway to focus on more deficient parts of his game like scoring. His maturity and basketball IQ are two factors that will ultimately expand his game as time goes on, and the offensive versatility he's displayed on occasion will also end up translating into fantasy production once he is acclimated to the NBA.

During Las Vegas summer league Bender was  given 31.9 minutes over five games, and compiled averages of 8.6 PPG, 1.8 3PM, 5.6 REB, 1.0 AST, 1.0 STL, 1.0 BLK, on 27.5% from the field; the intangibles look to be there for the teenager, as he can conceivably become the type of big man who has the offense run through him a la Demarcus Cousins or Marc Gasol. His passing, ball handling, and transition skills will blossom with more playing time eventually culminating into an impressive blend of skills for a 7-footer.

Chriss, on the other hand, just oozes with athleticism and raw talent when you watch him play. Whether it's soaring for a rebound or climbing the ladder for a poster dunk, the attribute Chriss has that can't be taught is his natural athletic ability. We have seen plenty examples in the past with ultra athletic NBA forwards who fizzle out of the league because they don't grasp the game and merely rely on their superior physical ability (think of lottery selections Tyrus Thomas and Anthony Randolph), so lets look a little closer to try and discern if Chriss will break from or follow that trend.

Unlike Bender, Chriss has a whole 34 games of college experience under his belt, where he put up averages of 13.8 PPG, 0.6 3PM, 5.4 REB, 0.8 AST, 0.9 STL, 1.6 BLK on 53% from the field. His defensive contributions instantly jump out, as he can be a tantalizing prospect because of his ability to collect threes, steals, and blocks. With incremental improvements in his shooting stroke coupled with the Suns incentivized push for youth Chriss is looking to develop into a scary all around threat similarly to what Indiana's Myles Turner has been able to display so far in his career.

As their rookie seasons progress, playing time should not be an issue for either forward. Even though Bender has lagged behind Chriss in minutes through their first two games (16.5 to 9.6) its looking as if he has leapfrogged veteran P.J. Tucker in the rotation early in the year. After the first game of the season coach Watson seemed to like what he saw out of his second unit which consisted of both Chriss and Bender, saying “Mix in the young guys in the second half, that looks like that is our second unit. So now the rotation is down.”

From everything this Suns organization has done as of late we can safely assume both players will be seeing their fare share of minutes once they are up to speed with playing in the Association. Both bigs will also eventually occupy different positions on the court (Chriss at PF, Bender as a stretch C), so there wont be a worry of competition for time between the two. 

The reader will have to reach a final verdict themselves, but it looks as if both players have promising futures ahead of them. For keeper and dynasty league purposes, Dragan Bender has the higher ceiling because of his massive versatility for his size. A center who has the ability to hit a three, run the floor, block shots, and pass out of the low post efficiently all the while being a high IQ player will be coveted by all 30 teams, and that is something of a realistic outlook for Bender given what he has shown us so far. The only downside as of now with Bender is the speed of his development; the Suns look to be bringing him along slowly, so Marquese Chriss might be the first to break out between the two with his defensive output.

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