Maryland center Alex Len has established himself as one of the premier NBA draft prospects in the country. He showed promise as a freshman and fulfilled it as a sophomore.
But he'll enter the pre-draft process unable to work out for teams after undergoing surgery to repair a fracture in his foot.
Still, Len's upside has allowed teams to overlook what appears to be a short-term injury. While just about every prospect in this class projects as a supporting cast member, Len has the chance to be a featured member of an offense.
The numbers don't lie. Alex Len is an easy 7'1'' with a monstrous 7'3.5'' wingspan.
All it takes is a mini-hop for his fingers to reach the rim.
He's got a strong frame that has not yet developed, meaning his upper-body strength is only going to build.
Athletically, Len is light on his feet, and at times shows eye-opening agility and nimble footwork when dealing inside. When given room, he has the ability to explode at the rim and finish with authority, combining power and length to form a deadly combination.
Len has shown flashes of a post game that could make him a legitimate No. 2 scoring option in an NBA rotation.
With room to operate, he has the shiftiness to shake his defender and create separation over either shoulder. With an extremely high release point, Len has no trouble getting off uncontested looks. He also sports a soft touch in the paint and on his mid-range jumper.
The first play shown below has Alex Len isolated against Kentucky's Willie Cauley-Stein, a seven-foot athlete who resembles a realistic NBA defender. Len uses two dribbles and a pump fake to separate and turn over his right shoulder, a difficult move for righties to pull off.
For most big men, getting off the shot is half the battle, but that's just not a problem for the 7'1'' Len. If he can start converting them with consistency, he's going to command routine double-teams at the NBA level.
He also shows a nice touch in the mid-range facing up. If he becomes a threat here, it will open up a few more avenues for Len to explore for points. Because of Len's mobility and ability to attack the rim, defenders would have to choose whether to play off or sit back. A mid-range jumper gives him more offensive options, and makes Len a multidimensional threat with the ball in his hands.
In the first play below, Len and teammate Nick Faust execute a perfect pick-and-pop, with Len setting the screen, drifting to space and converting the catch-and-shoot jumper.
As a finisher at the rim, Len isn't just relegated to catching and dunking. While Len can get high enough off the ground where he can throw it down over a defender, he also has the agility to elude defenders in the air and finish acrobatically.
In the first play below, Len finds a way to avoid disruptive arms and pull off the up-and-under reverse. It's an example of how he can turn a difficult, contested look into an easy scoring opportunity.
Alex Len is one of the few, if any, NBA prospects in this year's projected draft class that has the potential to become a star.
The only thing holding him back will be consistency. Though only 19 years old, he doesn't always make his presence felt. Part of that had to do with Maryland's offense, which was too quick to audible if the initial entry pass wasn't available.
At times he's shown fire in his eyes, something everyone wants to see more of.
Along with his offensive skills, Len also projects as a two-way defensive rim protector.
Overall, if Len can sustain the ups and minimize the downs, he's got every trick in the bag shared by the top centers in the game.
Len has the tendency to disappear. He took six-or-less shots 12 different times this year. Len is too big, athletic and talented to allow himself to drift.
Keeping that intensity level up is something he'll need to work on.
In the post, Len just has to polish up his moves. He needs to improve the fluidity of his delivery—making his moves in one fluid motion instead of a choppy one.
The countermoves will come with time as he adjusts to the defense at the next level.
But refining his overall offensive repertoire—jump hooks, fadeaways, mid-range jumpers, face-up moves—will make him a routine scoring threat.
Draft Breakdown and NBA Outlook
It appears that Len has solidified himself as a top-10 prospect in this year's draft. You'd like to think Charlotte is in play at No. 4, Phoenix at No. 5 and New Orleans at No. 6—all teams who could use a high-upside prospect and potential long-term scoring center.
If Len figures this thing out and can remain active when on the floor, we could be talking about a 18-point, 10-rebound guy, two-block guy.
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