With college basketball beginning conference play, we can begin to get a better look at some of the prospects for this upcoming draft. For an early look, I want to talk about a few guys who have been surging up draft boards since the year begun and many want to get a look at as they face tougher competition. One of these guys I will be looking at is Alex Len.
Alex Len is a 7'1" 240 lb sophomore center that currently attends Maryland (moved from Ukraine a couple years ago). He is averaging 13.5 PPG, 8.1 REB, and 2.2 BPG while shooting efficiently. He was known to be an intriguing player that some thought had potential this year, and from the first game of the year he proved those people right. He matched up with other top prospect Nerlens Noel but soon all eyes took on him from NBA scouts with his play. Len finished the game with 23 points off of 10-18 shooting, 12 rebounds (7 offensive), 4 blocks, no turnovers, and only 3 personal fouls in 32 minutes. He limited Noel to only 4 points on 2-6 shooting and 9 rebounds. You can catch Len's highlights on offense here. While that was easily Len's best game this year, he has had other solid games as well versus the many cupcake teams Maryland has faced so far this year.
Len is a dominating player on the defensive end and looks to get even better. He has underrated athleticism that helps him along with his impressive strength. He is a natural shot-blocker with good instincts and the physical tools to be a good rim protector in the NBA. Unlike most shot-blockers in the college level, Len does not foul very often and is very good at not biting on shot fakes. And while he may not block every shot, his great length allows him to bother many shots from those who dare come into the paint. Len is not just a shot-blocker either, but a very good all-around defender. He works hard to deny the offensive player position in the post and works hard to deny entry passes. This will most likely improve as he can still add on weight. His good athleticism and mobility allows him to be a good pick-and-roll defender as well. He is a good rebounder due to his length and boxes out well.
Offensively, Len is much more raw but has a lot of stuff going for him in this category. His athleticism allows him to run the floor well and good fit in well in the Wizards' offense in that regard. Unlike another center in recent memory *cough* JaVale McGee *cough* Len is active offensively and does a great job of getting in position offensively in the post and for getting offensive rebounds. He also sets a lot of screens on offense. Due to his length and good touch around the basket he can be effective in the post game and it is developing well, although it is likely he will never be a dominant post player. Perhaps the most unique and intriguing part about Len's offense is a very good jumpshot for a man his size with range that is surprisingly out to the 3 point line and has made a couple 3's in his career. He is good at using his jumpshot out of the post in fadeaways as well. This and his good screen-setting could make him a good pick-and-pop player, not to mention he isn't bad in pick-and-roll. Not to mention he is also an underrated passer for a big man, and seems to be a good outlet passer which would certainly help out Wall. This all creates a unique skill set for Len and allows him to be versatile on the offensive side of the ball. One area i think he could excel in is the high post, where he can put his good passing skills to work and if the defender leaves him, he can make a jumper.
He has no known character concerns to be known and has a very high ceiling especially on the defensive end.
One of the biggest problems with Len is that he may be pushed around in the NBA if he doesn't put on weight. You would hope that when he gets to an NBA weight room this could be changed. Another problem I see with Len is that sometimes he relies too much on his jumper and can shy away from contact similarly to Kevin Seraphin. He doesn't always do this however, and will bang inside at times, but he is not very good at drawing fouls in general. While he is a good rebounder due to his length and boxing out ability, he needs to work on protecting the ball afterwards and holding in high where no one can reach it. Not a great FT shooter at 66% but you would expect this to improve based on his jumpshot. He is a terrible ball-handler with his back away from the basket and has no face-up game to speak of. He is turnover prone in general, this being his biggest weakness.
Someone we should definitely keep an eye on as the draft comes closer. He has awesome potential and doesn't seem to be too bad of a fit for the roster. If you are looking for best-case comparison, think of either of the Gasol brothers. To be honest, it is very tough to find an smart comparison for Len considering his unique skillset. One of the only problems is how raw he is, he won't be much of a contributor right away. But if we are picking at 4-6, I would love to get him there and hopefully we can develop him into a great player. Mark my words though, he will be better than Nerlens Noel.
Note: This was primarily made before Maryland's recent skid in the beginning of ACC play where Len's play has been worse and those weaknesses have crept up on him a bit. I do not think that he has played necessarily bad though, just not what he was doing early on or what he is capable of.
Tell me if you want to see more! All feedback is encouraged and appreciated.