Ron Thompson on Alex Len's draft status
Alex Len is indeed turning pro. On Monday the University of Maryland confirmed reports about the 7-foot-1 center's future plans with a formal announcement coming Tuesday.
The player Len dominated in the season opener is also entering the NBA Draft. Yet despite that one shining moment, the Terps' big man will likely come off the board several slots after Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, who made his announcement on Monday.
Though his freshman campaign ending early because of a torn ACL, Noel could be the No. 1 overall selection in the 2013 draft. DraftExpress.com ranks the athletic 6-foot-10 shot blocker as the top overall prospect while slotting Len at 11.
With his 7-foot-4 wingspan, Noel led the SEC in blocked shots and averaged 9.5 rebounds. It's in those areas he could contribute initially in the pro game, though like Len, Noel must increase his strength to compete against NBA bruisers. Though Noel averaged 10.5 points per game, his offense is all kinds of raw with most of his points generated on dunks, putbacks or in open court situations.
Len averaged 11.9, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks during a productive but at times erratic sophomore season. Facing Noel in the season opener, Len dunked his way to 23 points with 12 rebounds and four blocks. Making his collegiate debut, Noel finished with four points, nine rebounds, three blocks and two steals.
Even though the flat top-sporting center is an intriguing long-term talent, it's rather stunning that Noel could remain in contention for the No. 1 pick let alone be the apparent frontrunner considering his knee injury took place in February. Certainly a good chunk of his rookie season could be lost, meaning a struggling team might remain struggling. Of course when considering the fact that the 2014 draft is considered a loaded class, maybe staying at the bottom for another season isn't such a bad thing.
While the Wizards ideally would target a small forward or another scoring threat, they could target Noel should they win the lottery for the second time in four years. Noel would serve as understudy for Emeka Okafor, who has one-year remaining on his contract.
Notes...other projected lottery picks who have entered the draft pool include Michigan point guard Trey Burke and French center Rudy Gobert. Georgetown's Otto Porter will make an announcement about his plans on Monday afternoon.