Release the Dragan: Bender gets chance to shine with Bucks
Welcome to the 2019-20 edition of the Bucks Weekly Spotlight. Each Thursday we'll track the progress of the players who are trying to help Milwaukee make a championship run, give updates on other players from the previous week and sometimes take a look at who is lighting it up for the Wisconsin Herd.
This is the 11th edition of the 2019-20 Bucks Weekly Spotlight
SPOTLIGHT ON …
Forward Dragan Bender
If before the past few weeks you had forgotten Bender was even on the Bucks’ roster on one would have blamed you.
The former No. 4 overall pick in 2016 had appeared in only three games for the Bucks (Nov. 23, Nov. 30 and Dec. 2) up until a couple of weeks ago.
Bender, who was signed by Milwaukee in late July, had mainly bounced from being on Milwaukee’s bench in street clothes and playing for the G League’s Wisconsin Herd, where he is averaging 21.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.7 blocks in 10 games.
But with Robin Lopez sidelined on Jan. 14 against New York, Bender played over 21 minutes. He was inactive for Milwaukee’s next game two days later vs. Boston as Lopez was back in action (Bender was back with the Herd, scoring 23 points).
However, Lopez missed the Bucks’ next two games with an illness and Bender once again got significant playing time.
In a win at Brooklyn on Jan. 18, he played 20:35 and posted six points and six rebounds while owning a box score +/- of plus-14. Two days later against Chicago, Bender had five points (making both of his field-goal attempts), three rebounds, two assists and a block.
The numbers might not seem like much but he had a 13.0 total rebounding percentage and 21.6 defensive rebounding percentage over those last two games. For perspective, only two players have a higher percentage in either of those categories on the Bucks this season (Giannis Antetokounmpo, 20.7% TRB%, 32.0% DRB%, and Ersan Ilyasova, 15.9%, 23.3%).
Plus, Bender’s defensive rating over those two appearances last week was 91 (via basketball-reference, which uses per 100 possessions); Antetokounmpo leads the Bucks with a 96 defensive rating.
It’s only a few games, but Bender has demonstrated he can provide Milwaukee with some valuable minutes. The fact he’s only getting it now just shows how deep this Bucks team is.
-- This week in Giannis: Three games, three double-doubles – and actually the last one was a triple-double when he had 28 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists vs. the Bulls. Antetokounmpo also had 32-17-7 against the Celtics and 29 and 12 at Brooklyn. He also has made at least half of his shots in five straight games and was at 56.5% on the week.
-- We’ll repeat what we wrote in here about Khris Middleton: In Milwaukee’s three games last week he made 25 of 38 shots (65.8%) and hit three 3s in each contest (in just 14 attempts combined). He averaged 22.3 points, 5.3 rebounds and 4.7 assists while being tied with Kyle Korver for the highest plus/minus of the week (+11). Seems like a safe bet to be an All-Star Game reserve.
-- Brook Lopez had games with four, five and three blocks. He has eight games with 5+ blocks this season. Only Portland’s Hassan Whiteside (10) has more this season. No one else has more than five such games. Lopez had seven games with 5+ blocks last season.
-- George Hill took five 3-pointers last week. He made all five. Hill is shooting a league-best 53.3% from downtown. New Orleans’ J.J. Redick is second in the NBA – at 45.9%.