Gary Williams talks local NBA Draft prospects
Projecting Maryland's Alex Len to the Wizards with the eighth overall selection is no stretch. Several mock drafts did exactly that - and did so before the 7-foot-1 center underwent surgery to stabilize a partial stress fracture in his left ankle earlier this month.
Even with Len out the next 4-6 months, -- meaning he will not be physically able to participate in pre-draft workouts --, it's conceivable he would retain his top-10 status. Considering his potential, the perceived weakness atop the draft and others are also dealing with significant injuries, it's actually probable.
So when Chad Ford, ESPN's lead NBA draft writer, slotted Len to the Wizards in his new mock (Insider only) posted on Tuesday, there was no need for a double take. However, Ford's explanation for the selection and Len's post-injury scenario is worth noting.
Before last week's news that Len was undergoing surgery and would miss the NBA draft workouts, the combine and summer league, it seemed improbable that the 7-foot-1 big man would fall this low. Now, it appears that he's right within Washington's range. Len could be a steal at No. 8 and could fit a long-term need for Washington. He's one of the two or three most skilled big men in the draft and still has enormous upside.
Now, it seemed incredibly likely that once teams brought the athletic big man in for individual workouts, some personnel evaluators would fall in love before the June 27 draft. That Ford believes teams were already making goo goo eyes at Len is the interesting part.
After moving into top-5 discussions following a strong start to his sophomore season, Len's draft stock dropped throughout his inconsistent campaign, according to Ford and other draft analysts. On the day the ACC's leading shot blocker officially announced he would enter the NBA Draft, DraftExpress.com ranked the Ukrainian 11th among projected draft prospects (That list included Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, who ultimately passed on the draft).
Before news of the injury, four mock drafts on Hoopsworld.com had Len either going to the Wizards at eight - Washington's pick if the order does not shift following the May 21 lottery draw - or later.
The Wizards need a stretch-four. Even though Len often scored for the Terps around the rim, he does have range. Emeka Okafor is entering the final year of his contract. Though he must add bulk and muscle to survive the NBA trenches, Len could become the team's rim protector in training.
Besides, we know the franchise isn't shy about drafting international big men.