Bender has played in each of the Suns' last three games, all of which have been losses by at least 17 points. With that in mind, the elevated playing time Bender received should be taken with a grain of salt, as the Suns made it clear where the big man stands in their organization after declining his fourth-year team option earlier this season. Bound for free agency after the season, Bender probably won't get extended run in competitive games unless the Suns lose multiple rotation power forwards or centers to injury.
The fourth overall pick in 2016, Bender is in his age 21 season and would have been owed $5.9 million next year. He was underwhelming last year in 25.2 minutes per game, averaging 6.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists on 38.6 percent shooting from the field and 36.6 percent from long range. Bender has appeared in just three games so far for Phoenix this season, totaling 11 minutes. It seems unlikely he'll see a significant uptick in workload for the remainder of the campaign. As a result of the team declining his option, Bender will become an unrestricted free agent next summer.
One game after going scoreless over nine minutes versus New Zealand, Bender drained his first two buckets of preseason and remained aggressive, leading to plenty of visits to the charity stripe. The 2016 fourth overall pick has often underwhelmed by a significant margin over his first two seasons, and he hadn't exactly gotten his preseason off to a good start prior to Friday. However, he still projects as the top backup to new acquisition Ryan Anderson at the four, although offseason arrival Richaun Holmes could certainly press him for that spot if Bender fails to remain consistent.
Bender recorded just two blocks in nine minutes during Wednesday's 91-86 preseason victory over the New Zealand Breakers.
Bender's downward spiral continued Wednesday as he was basically an afterthought in the Suns preseason victory. The coaching staff may have given up on Bender and there is a real possibility he falls out of the rotation altogether come the start of the regular season. He is not fantasy relevant in any format until further notice.
Bender finished with just five points and five rebounds in eight minutes during Friday's 90-55 summer league victory over the Spurs.
Bender saw limited playing time in a game that saw plenty of minutes for the bench guys. To say he has had an underwhelming summer league would be putting it nicely. He has shown very little for the coaching staff to get excited about and there is a very real chance he has fallen behind some of the younger guys and is a chance of falling out of the rotation altogether.
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