RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Alex LenPosted by BHayes on June 24th, 2013
The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 27, in Brooklyn. As we have done for the last several years, RTC will provide comprehensive breakdowns of a number of the top collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards and work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation. This post was contributed by RTC’s Bennet Hayes. He can be found on Twitter @HoopsTraveler.
Player Name: Alex Len
Height/Weight: 7’1” / 255 lbs.
NBA Position: Center
Projected Draft Range: Top Ten
Overview: Alex Len put together a very impressive sophomore season in College Park. His freshman year may have included (relatively) limited individual production, but it offered plenty of glimpses at the massive upside of the Ukrainian-born seven-footer, and we began to see Len cash in on that potential in year two. He played 26 minutes per game as part of Mark Turgeon’s 10-man rotation and averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 2.1 blocks per contest. Free throw shooting improved (both percentage and attempts), assist-to-turnover ratio elevated, and offensive-rebounding percentage shot through the roof for Len as a sophomore. All wonderful strides, but the development went well beyond the stat sheet for Len, as anyone consistently watching the Terps this season witnessed a more complete, confident player manning the middle. Len was tougher and more aggressive down low (on both ends) and also more skilled offensively — both with his back to the basket and when roaming the high-post area. Len’s improvement was best highlighted in dominant performances against fellow potential lottery picks Nerlens Noel and Mason Plumlee. In the season opener against Kentucky, Len went for 23/12 versus Noel in a narrow loss. Then, in the February win over Duke, he dominated Plumlee (four points, three rebounds, five fouls) in scoring 19 points and grabbing nine rebounds. Those two performances were as vital to Len’s draft stock as anything, for as far as he came skill-wise in year two at Maryland, he also made it quite clear that he was not ready to back down to anyone – a fearlessness that NBA GMs have to have begun to appreciate.
Will Translate to the NBA: First things first: when it comes to size and athleticism, Len is already working with above-average NBA levels of both. Will he use that raw ability as efficiently as possible? No, but the pure existence of it means he will be prepared to get on the court and not be overwhelmed by the athleticism of NBA opponents. Aside from his frame and athleticism, Len really doesn’t have any other signature attributes that you would term “NBA-ready.” The closest we can come here is probably commenting that his overall offensive game is much further along than that of many of his draft-mates, and unlike most rookie big men, Len may be able to enter the league and flash a little of that offensive skill right off the bat. He has a soft touch down low, an improving mid-range game, and is also a good passer who will move the ball when doubled. None of these traits may be “NBA-ready” on their own, but the overall offensive package is in pretty good shape as Len makes the transition from college to the pros.
Needs Work: Despite the development he showed as a sophomore, Len remains a very raw prospect. There are few areas of the game where you would say Len could use little or no improvement. His jump shot mechanics have been steadily improving, but that’s one area where continued growth would prove very beneficial. Both passing and ball-handling looked improved this season as well, and you would have to think Len will continue to work on those skills as he gets more and more comfortable floating the perimeter. Lastly, teams will want Len to match the toughness of NBA opponents. Part of that will be continuing to add mass to his frame, but he will also need to prove capable of playing big, physical and tough down low. We aren’t in College Park anymore, Toto…
Best Case Scenario: Len has as much potential as any player in this draft. There is definitive All-Star level upside, if not higher. Big men with Len’s combination of size and athleticism are hard to come by, and consequently, quite coveted. If the skill development can continue in his early years in the league, it isn’t that hard to picture Len as a 20/10 type guy. When considering his future, one fun thing to realize is that he has real potential as both a traditional back-to-the-basket big and a pick-and-pop guy, so he will have the chance to carve out a role in the NBA in a couple of different ways. As always in this section, here’s your reminder that this is truly a best-case scenario; there is plenty of growing to be done for Len to begin to scratch the surface of this massive upside.
Best NBA Fit: Len will not last long on draft night, and there is even speculation that the Cleveland Cavaliers could make him the #1 overall pick in the draft. If they do not, there are a couple of teams in the top 10 that should think Len would look great in their colors. The New Orleans Pelicans, drafting at #6, would be a fantastic landing spot for Len. An Anthony Davis-Len 4-5 combination would be long and scary athletic – the kind of frontcourt you want to build a franchise around. If Len is still around at #8 for the Detroit Pistons that could also be a fit, as Joe Dumars would toss the former Terp into an already talented frontcourt that features Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. Really, there are few teams in the lottery where Len would be a bad fit – athletic bigs with high ceilings will always be in demand.
Scout’s Take (from NBADraft.net): “Athletic specimen at 7’1″ with highly intriguing physical canvas … He’s a legit five-man with incredible coordination and agility for his size … Back to the basket game is on the incline – did a much better job establishing and holding position as a sophomore … Quick and decisive moves, predominantly over his left shoulder … Len remains a raw product when forced to make a move outside of a few feet … Limited resources with ball in hand … Face up game is not a part of his repertoire.”