NBA Draft profile: Alex Len

NBA Draft profile: Alex Len
June 11, 2013, 11:30 pm
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On June 27, the Wizards will take part in the 2013 NBA draft. Currently the owner of picks 3, 38 and 54, the franchise could go in almost any direction with those selections - including trading them - as Washington attempts a sincere playoff push.

Washington's primary needs, some of which can be addressed during free agency, include adding overall scoring punch, finding a power forward with perimeter touch, long-term answer at small forward, plus backups for John Wall and Bradley Beal. Between now and the draft, we’re going to identify some of the players the Wizards might target whether the team stays pat or moves around in the first round with analysis from coaches, scouts, beat writers and national analysts.

Up next, Maryland center Alex Len. Check below for a running of list of all our draft profiles

Alex Len, Maryland 

Draft Express overall ranking: No. 1 

Height/Weight: 7-1, 255 lbs 

Key stats: 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds, 2.1 blocks in 2012-13 

The player: One of the tallest players in the 2013 draft - and an incredibly coordinated one at that - also sports the highest ceiling of any prospect in the class. That's because at times during his sophomore campaign, Len flashed his high-end athletic gifts inside and running the court, showed quality fundamentals as a scorer and passer, and used his 7-foot-4 wingspan for impressive finishes at the rim and swatting shots of those looking to do the same. His consistency lacked from game to game in part because Maryland's inexperienced point guard play led to stretches with scant touches in scoring positions, though Len's fading from the fray in those instances didn't help. Then there is the stress fracture in his left foot that required surgery in April and a 4-6 month recovery period. Still, there is a reason why talent evaluators on the college and pro level I spoke with for this draft project showed more genuine excitement about Len's promise than any other lottery prospect. 

The fit: Drafting a potentially stud big man is always a fit, so there's that. Emeka Okafor, who anchored the middle of the Wizards top-10 defense and cranked out double-doubles over the second half the season, is entering the final year of his contract. If he does not return in 2014-15, Washington lacks a true rim protector ready to step in. Even beyond a potential Okafor departure, the roster lacks any stable fours or fives beyond the frequently injured Nene. With his athleticism and ability to make plays in the open court, Len should be able to keep up with John Wall's fast-breaking ways. 

The issue: The potential is sincere, but nobody expects Len's blossoming to occur soon - and the Wizards hope their playoff drought ends next season. Even if the Ukrainian recovers from injury in time for training camp, he likely becomes no more than yet another green member of Washington's frontcourt. Then there is the injury itself; the NBA is littered with stories of centers having their cut short because of foot woes including Yao Ming and Bill Walton. Perhaps medical advancements alleviate some concerns, but wear and tear on bigs due to pounding and stress is a constant. 

The analysis (all told exclusively to CSNwashington) 

NBA scout: " I'm a big Alex Len fan. He's in my top-5. He's a legit 7-foot-1, huge. This year, from that Kentucky game on, he was just a different person. If you compare Alex Len today from where he was last year at this time, it's night and day from a physical and skill standpoint. He gained more weight - he still has a long way to go - but he's skilled, he has touch, it seems like he wants to play hard, he runs the floor, he's a good athlete. He's not a great athlete, but he's a good athlete for a guy who is 7-1. He's got a lot of upside. If you're 7-1, skilled and want to work, you can have a long career in this league. If you're 7-1 don't want to play but just play because you're big, that's a potential problem. That is where you do your due diligence to find out what the kid is like, what drives him, what his motor is, what is toughness is. If that checks out I think you have a very good player. ...The other thing you have to factor in is he played with some awful guards at Maryland. He got very low usage. He had like 15 games where he had only 6-7 shots. ...Would like him to demand the ball more, but is he the type of person who does that? ...He's still a project so you have limited initial expectations. It's the 2-3 years down the road where you hope to benefit the rewards.

Paul Hewitt, George Mason head coach (faced Len in BB&T): " I don't know if he's a guy that comes in right away and helps you win games. But he's really athletic for a man that size. He's got very good hands, but I think offensively his games is going to come along. ...He's long, blocks shots, very athletic. It would be a good pick, but I don't think anybody should expect him to walk in the door and all of a sudden be 15 and 10 guy...(inconsistency) I think it's just inexperience. He's a young big guy who is going to get better. It's tough because everybody wants it now. Back 15-20 years ago, you draft a kid like that, he'd be a junior in college... I don't think the fact that he was inconsistent now means that's who he is as a player." 

Ed Isaacson, NBA Scout, NBADraftBlog.com, NBCSports: (drafting Len) "It's a risk on potential. When you look at his skill set, when you look at his size, it's easy to sort off fall in love with that. The problem is most of the time such prospects don't pan out. Len needs to be put into a situation where he'll be one of the top options to get the real benefit for having him. You saw at Maryland when the ball wasn't going to him, he didn't really contribute much and then he would start to fall out of the game a bit. With Wall and Beal, I don't know if Len would be the right fit even with his potential...For big guys you have to find a way to be a contributor when you don't have the ball and for me that is the biggest issue with him. He's not that great at crashing the boards and even at his size, he's not a very good defender. ...(Len vs. Kentucky center Nerlens Noel) Assuming Noel comes back from his injury 100 percent, he'll make an impact on the defensive end so you're already getting something. With Len, there is a lot of potential there, but you don't know if you're going to see it.

The summation: For all the uncertainty in this draft, Len is one of the few who at least displayed starry upside and at the hardest to find position. If the Wizards think they have enough to make the playoffs even if their first round pick is a developmental selection, then why not take an interior threat to go with their maturing backcourt. Based on how recent international selections have fared for this franchise combined with Len's other concerns, there are also plenty of reasons to say no.

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