Let me get this out of the way right at the start, I am a University of Maryland alum and have a bit of a soft spot for other former Terps. My evaluation of Alex Len’s 2020-2021 season might be more positive than some of you are expecting but it’s not (solely) because I’m a homer.
I tend to evaluate someone’s contributions based on their salary. Len may not be a huge needle mover overall, but when you consider his production against the $1.7 million the Wizards paid him, I would say he provided strong value. In a perfect world, Len would be your third center on a veteran’s minimum contract and I think that role suits him perfectly.
The highlight for Len, personally, had to be making his first career NBA playoff appearance in a year where he was cut a month into the season. Very few players go from unemployed to starting on a playoff team.
You could very reasonably argue that he was a starter in name only, considering he only played about 16 minutes per game, but starting 40 of 57 games as a Wizard is still pretty impressive considering the circumstances. And to be clear, that’s impressive for him and depressing for Wizards’ fans.
I can’t speak for Len but I would imagine having 12 points and 3 rebounds in a playoff game, while playing admirable defense on Joel Embiid, was probably the highlight of his season. Additionally, a 20 point and 9 rebound game against the Brooklyn Nets on March 21 is probably a game he won’t forget.
Additionally, in late April he had two really strong performances in back-to-back games. On April 26, in a 3-point loss to the Spurs, Len had 17 points and 10 rebounds. Two nights later in a 9-point win against the Lakers he had 18 points, 9 rebounds, and 2 blocks.
Len averaged 7 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1 block in 16 minutes per game. He shot 62% from the field and had an effective field goal % of 63. I mentioned this earlier, but I think his most impressive stat is that he started 40 out of 57 games after being let go by a team that was hurting for competent centers.
When you look at his statistics per 36 minutes, they’re actually not bad. Per 36, he averaged 16 points, 10 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks. Unfortunately, his 4.7 fouls per 36 are not very impressive and a major reason why he is unlikely to ever play major minutes. That type of foul rate is much more palatable at around 15 minutes.
He’s big, is that a strength? He’s also pretty good at not missing point-blank dunks. So, yeah. There’s that.
I thought he protected the rim fairly well overall (although he got bullied off the court in a few matchups). In fact, I like to picture him screaming, “Fear the turtle!” in a faint Ukrainian accent every time he blocks a shot.
He’s mostly devoid of touch and he air-balled a few free throws this year. I feel confident in saying he is not a threat to space the floor.
Future with the Wizards
In a perfect world, Len would be your third center on a veteran’s minimum contract and I think that role suits him perfectly. If Tommy Sheppard brings Len back with that in mind, I’m all for it. But he needs to have the talk with Head Coach Scott Brooks (or whoever has that role) in advance about not getting cute and starting him over clearly better options.