SAN FRANCISCO — Dragan Bender has much to prove after signing his latest 10-day NBA contract.
The Warriors big man opted to wear the number 10 to signify the moment, in an ode to how many days he has to rectify his career. The gangly 7-footer is a former first-round draft pick who has played for three teams in the last year, including a 13-game G League stint.
Nonetheless, the Warriors believe their system will enable the 22-year-old to find his footing.
“This was a great opportunity,” Warriors assistant general manager Kirk Lacob said before Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans at Chase Center. “Had a chance to find his way in the league, so we pounced on it. We’ll see what he’s got over the next 10 days.”
Bender struggled during his first few years in the league, shooting just 39 percent from the field in three seasons with the Phoenix Suns. The Milwaukee Bucks cut Bender last month, but he averaged 20.5 points and 8.9 rebounds in 13 G League games with the Wisconsin Herd.
The No. 4 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft is the latest reclamation project to join the Warriors. In the last six months, they have signed Glenn Robinson and Alec Burks and traded for 2016 first-round pick Omari Spellman in the hopes of reviving their careers. Golden State traded Robinson and Burks to the Philadelphia 76ers for multiple draft picks, and Spellman was part of the deal that brought Andrew Wiggins — the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 — to the Bay from the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Marquese Chriss has been the most notable, recently flourishing after becoming the Warriors’ starting center and signing a veteran’s minimum deal Feb. 7. Chriss averaged 17.8 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 assists in his last four games before Sunday.
Golden State hopes Bender — who played with Chriss in Phoenix — follows the same path.
“I think when you especially get the guys who are young like this and maybe they haven’t had the chance to fulfill what the promise that everyone saw in them,” Lacob said. “Especially if they’re 22 to 23 years old like Marquese and like Dragan. You hope that maybe this is the right time in their development for them to really pop. So again, we’re looking for players that haven’t had the opportunity yet and found the exact right spot for them.”
The Warriors’ preference for down-on-their-luck first-round picks comes out of necessity. Golden State was against the hard cap after trading for D’Angelo Russell this summer, crippling the Dubs’ ability to add talent.
Now, after trading Russell, Spellman and guard Jacob Evans to Minnesota, Lacob said the Warriors are flexible enough to take chances on players like Bender in the hopes of finding long-term prospects.
“We’re currently under the luxury-tax threshold,” Lacob said. “We feel pretty good about the fact that we’re able to decide what we want to do with the roster for the rest of the year. It won’t impact things one way or another.
“We at this point are just trying to find players that can help us next year. We can sign players for the rest of the season if we want to. If we find a guy that really makes sense, then we’ll do it. …
“We’re really hopeful that all of this is coming together at the right time. He’s got 10 days to show us that we should commit more to him.”
Why Dragan Bender signing is ‘great opportunity’ for him, Warriors originally appeared on NBC Sports Bay Area
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