The NBA draft circuit got unexpected news when the agent of Maryland's Alex Len announced his client will miss four to six months to repair a stress fracture in his ankle. Len will have surgery on that ankle and will miss the remainder of the pre-draft period, an important phase of the evaluation process.
The immediate question is how Len's absence will affect his draft stock. And this is how I see it: Imagine his draft stock is a windshield and the injury is a rock that gets fired out from under the car ahead. The rock ultimately makes a tiny crack in the glass, though it's small enough where you can keep on driving to your destination.
In other words, the injury won't hurt Len's stock to the point where teams will cross him off their boards, but it won't make it any easier for him to make a move towards the top.
Len will end up missing the NBA draft combine, but that won't be a problem. Prospects sit the combine out all the time with the fear of being exposed. Last year, Dion Waiters saw his stock rise after essentially shutting himself down.
What will hurt Len the most is missing team workouts. He'll be competing for draft position with centers like Mason Plumlee of Duke, Cody Zeller of Indiana, Kelly Olynyk of Gonzaga, Gorgui Dieng of Louisville and Steven Adams of Pittsburgh. And because of Len's 7'1'' frame, effortless athleticism and skill set in the post, he projected as a sound workout prospect.
This would have been an opportunity for Len to outplay his competitors and wow scouts by showcasing his long-term potential in a private setting.
Would you downgrade Alex Len on your draft board after learning of his injury?
He is actually an effective one-on-one player, which is what he could have shown scouts during the pre-draft process.
At Maryland, Len struggled when defenses took away the post, threw him double-teams and denied him position in the half court. But during a workout, he wouldn't have had to deal with spinning into traffic or trying to get involved in the flow of a game.
These workouts test skills and physical tools, which can look a lot sharper when there's no defense there to challenge them. And Len has excellent physical tools and a promising skill set.
There is a slight chance that this injury becomes a blessing in disguise. By not playing, there's no chance Len gets exposed, while others like Olynyk, Zeller and Plumlee have weaknesses to hide. If these other centers in the field fail to make a positive impression, a team might feel inclined to make a high-risk, high-reward decision and select Len based on intrigue and potential.
That is more of a glass-half-full approach, but I just wanted to throw out every possible scenario.
According to our very own injury expert Will Carroll, Len's particular setback doesn't seem to be a long-term concern:
@nbadraftwass Usually heals. Bones heal, easy to see with x-rays. You'd rather not have it of course. Don't often hear fixate on stress fx.— Will Carroll (@injuryexpert) May 3, 2013
Based on Len's strengths, however, I'm going to say that this injury hurts his chances of making a draft board push. I don't think it knocks him out of the lottery, especially considering the uninspiring pool of talent, but this would have been a great opportunity for Len to show up the other big men and maximize his draft stock. And now, he's not going to get it.