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3 Busts of the 2016 Draft

Lots of hit and misses. But we like the misses a lot more. Side note; does anyone remember Dragan Bender?

Photo By: Gary Dineen (Getty Images North America)

The 2016 draft is quietly one of the best drafts in recent history. There were some good top of draft picks in Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, and Jaylen Brown. As well as some great finds in Pascal Siakam, Dejounte Murray, and Malcolm Brogdon. However, there were a few draft busts that didn't really pan out the way people expected. So for the 5th edition of the series, let's take a look at some of the biggest busts from the 2016 draft.

1. Dragan Bender, PHX

Coming into the draft, Dragan Bender was nicknamed the "Croatian Sensation" and the Phoenix Suns believed that name enough to take him with the 4th selection of the night. This wasn't a huge reach, as Bender was projected around the 4-7 range. But as you can imagine, it didn't work out too well for Ryan McDonough and the Suns front office. In his rookie year, Bender averaged a staggering 3.4 PPG on 35% shooting and 27% from 3 in 13.3 minutes per game. But right in the middle of the season, he had ankle surgery which kept him out for a while. His sophomore season was no better, although he was able to stay healthy for all 82 games. Bender spent another season with the Suns before his rookie option was declined. He then signed with the Bucks and Warriors the next year.

Well what went wrong with the big man? He had a terrible shot selection and couldn't hit a contested shot at all. He had some of the worst percentages for a player receiving 20+ minutes a game back in 2017. Bender suffers from these same problems in his international career. While playing for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, Dragan's percentages have gone up, but he shoots mostly from 3, where he shoots just around 31%. While the earlier years of the Suns rebuild didn't have the best player developmental system, Bender's unwillingness to change his shot selections contributed to his downward career arc.

2. Kris Dunn, MIN

Kris Dunn was widely considered one of, if not the best defensive player in the 2016 draft. Defense was one aspect that the Timberwolves lacked from a young player personnel perspective. So Minnesota took the guard with the 5th overall pick. For Minnesota, Dunn did practically nothing on the offensive end. He played in 78 games and started 7, and actually gave quality minutes on the defensive end and carried a lackluster Timberwolves defense. But on offense, he was inefficient and unproductive. He was then shipped to Chicago as a part of the Jimmy Butler trade along with Zach Lavine and Lauri Markkanen. In Chicago, Dunn had a complete turnaround on the offensive end. He had averaged 13.4 PPG in his first year and played well in his minutes. However, Dunn suffered a series of injuries, including an MCL injury and a left index finger dislocation.

Dunn now plays for the Capital City Go-Go of the NBA G-League. After being let go from the Bulls, Dunn never caught on to an organization for more than a few months. He bounced around Atlanta, Boston, Memphis, and Portland. He finally got some minutes with a tanking Trail Blazers team in 2022, yet didn't play well enough to receive an NBA offer for the 2023 season. Dunn's main problem was offensive consistency. He never got the confidence to play well enough on offense for a large stretch of time. I still think that Kris Dunn can be an end-of-the-rotation NBA player. But he's probably best suited in the G-League for now.

3. Thon Maker, MIL

Thon Maker was a high school basketball phenom coming out of Ontario. The hype train on Thon Maker had BallIsLife and Overtime on their knees for every move that man made. Maker made the move straight from high school to the NBA and played well enough as an amateur to get selected at 10th by Milwaukee. His rookie year was inconsistent all-around. He played just 9.9 minutes per game, got garbage time minutes early on, yet started 34 games late in the year. He started all the games he played in post all-star break. Yet he still struggled during that time, averaging just 4.5 PPG in 12.7 minutes per game. He continued to struggle in his next year and a half with Milwaukee, and he was shipped off to Detroit.

Thon Maker had all the tools to become the next Giannis Antetokounmpo. He could dribble, shoot, playmake, all of that. He just never really got the minutes to perform at a high level. Jason Kidd just never unlocked that untapped potential that got him drafted as high as he was. Something clicked with Antetokounmpo that didn't with Maker. It was probably the work ethic. Maker's body didn't transform like Giannis', which it doesn't need to. However, Giannis also worked on his game constantly. And by the looks of it, Maker didn't.

Other "Busts": Marquese Chriss (PHX), Georgios Papagiannis (SAC), Denzel Valentine (CHI), Guerschon Yabusele (BOS)


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