Bjorkgren upbeat after Dragan Bender’s summer struggles

Jul 18, 2016, 5:00 PM
Phoenix Suns' Dragan Bender (35) gets fouled by Denver Nuggets' Mateusz Ponitka (20) to send him to...

Phoenix Suns' Dragan Bender (35) gets fouled by Denver Nuggets' Mateusz Ponitka (20) to send him to the free throw for two shots and to break the tie score with one second on the clock in the NBA Summer League quarterfinal game at the Thomas & Mack Center on Saturday, July 16, 2016, in Las Vegas. Bender missed the free throws but the Suns still won 82-81 in overtime. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

(Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)
LISTEN: Nate Bjorkgren, head coach of the Summer Suns

In one of his first showings in the NBA, the Phoenix Suns’ Dragan Bender struggled to get anything going, but Summer Suns’ head coach Nate Bjorkgren saw some bright spots in the rookie’s performance.

“The biggest thing I noticed with Dragan is his feel for the game and how well he knows how to play and how well he understands it,” Bjorkgren said on the Burns and Gambo show on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM. “With his length, he can cause problems for a lot of people.

“He had untraditional matchups the entire time and I thought he did a heck of a job with it.”

In five games, Bender averaged 8.6 points with 5.6 rebounds and one assist. He also got to see the court a lot. The third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft started every game he played in and averaged 32 minutes a game.

“He’s very, very good at the corner threes right now and he’s shot that, you know, international line his whole life,” Bjorkgren said. “That three-point game is going to really come along and he’s got a nice off-the-dribble game when people start flying at him and really running him off the line.”

Although Bjorkgren said Bender was very good from the corners, he struggled to get shots to drop. Over half of his shots were taken from deep and only 26.5 percent found the bottom of the net.

Bender’s passing wasn’t all there either. He only had five assists against 19 turnovers in five games.

Adding to his shooting woes were his free-throws. Bender went 6-12 from the charity stripe, including back to back misses in a tie game with less than a second to go against the Denver Nuggets.

It may have been a lackluster Summer League performance for Bender but he and the rest of the rookies received a lot of much-needed experience in the NBA.

“We put so much emphasis on defense,” Bjorkgren said. “And now, guys like Dragan Bender, who we’re speaking about, he’s going to come into that first day of training camp for regular season knowing how important defense is and the emphasis we place on it.”

Burns and Gambo

Owner Robert Sarver and general manager James Jones of the Phoenix Suns look on during the NBA pres...
Jake Anderson

Suns’ Robert Sarver tight-lipped on Deandre Ayton’s contract extension

After being drafted No. 1 overall out of Arizona in 2018, Deandre Ayton can become a restricted free agent at the end of this season.
6 days ago
Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim does an interview with The Doug & Wolf Show on 98....
Kellan Olson

Cardinals GM on Jordan Hicks offseason talk: ‘I never tell coaches who to play’

When the Cardinals beat the Titans in Week 1, one of the most surprising statistics was the snap count for linebacker Jordan Hicks.
11 days ago
General manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals looks on during team OTA's at the Dignity Healt...
Sam Graveline

Keim: Cardinals ‘can’t put a price’ on veteran free agent additions

It may be early on in the season, but the early returns on the Cardinals' offseason additions have GM Steve Keim and Co. in good spirits.
18 days ago
Cardinals CB Byron Murphy runs through drills during practice Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Tempe. ...
Arizona Sports

Cardinals CB Byron Murphy says game is slowing down in 3rd season

Cardinals cornerback Byron Murphy is coming off his best game as a pro and starting to feel more comfortable in his third year in the NFL.
21 days ago
Arizona Cardinals kicker Matt Prater (5) celebrates his go-ahead field goal with punter Andy Lee (1...
Kevin Zimmerman

Cardinals GM Steve Keim has never seen ball jump off foot like it does Matt Prater’s

Cardinals GM Steve Keim said Matt Prater's leg strength popped in practice by how it sounds and how it comes off his foot.
25 days ago
General manager Steve Keim of the Arizona Cardinals waves to fans before the NFL game against the P...
Kevin Zimmerman

GM: Cards want to re-sign Chandler Jones; P2 departure was ‘business decision’

Chandler Jones tossed imaginary cash to celebrate a sack, then searched for more money in his general manager's pockets last Sunday.
1 month ago
Bjorkgren upbeat after Dragan Bender’s summer struggles