If the Cleveland Cavaliers select Alex Len first overall in the 2013 NBA draft, they will have chosen the No. 1 pick with the lowest ceiling in years.
Chris Sheridan reported that the Maryland center will indeed hear his name called first on Thursday night.
Sheridan Hoops’ Joe Kotoch reported in his final mock draft that sources have “emphatically stated” that Len sits atop the Cavs’ big board, not Nerlens Noel, who ESPN’s Chad Ford had projected going No. 1 in each of his seven mocks.
It’s impossible to know for sure who will go on to have the better professional career between Len and Noel. One thing is for certain: Len would have least potential out of any prospect selected first overall in recent history.
Noel is a superior athlete to Len. Unfortunately, neither big was able to test at the NBA Draft Combine due to injuries, but one of the only physical edges that Len was supposed to have on Noel—length—was debunked at the combine.
Len only averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game as a sophomore. Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks—to lead the nation—per game as a freshman. Len was pitiful as a freshman, averaging just 6.0 points per game in only 5.2 less minutes per game than he played this year.
According to ESPN, Noel is entering the draft with a better block percentage in his college career than Greg Oden who drew Hakeem Olajuwon comparisons in 2007.
Not only does Len possess less potential than Noel, but he has the least potential out of anyone picked No. 1 in the past decade.
Anthony Davis is a superior athlete to Len and led Kentucky to a title as a freshman, winning National Player of the Year and averaging 14.2 points, 10.4 boards and 4.7 blocks along the way. Kyrie Irving dominated the few healthy games he played at Duke, averaging 17.5 points per game while shooting 46.2 percent from downtown.
John Wall, one of the fastest players with the ball in his hands ever, took college basketball by storm averaging 16.6 points and 6.5 assists per game. Blake Griffin, another freak athlete, shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as Len in terms of college production. He averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 boards per game.
Derrick Rose (notice that Len would shatter quite a trend of elite athletic specimens) led Memphis to the national title as a freshman averaging 14.9 points per game. Len couldn’t even lead the Terrapins to an NCAA tournament berth this season. Greg Oden, who could’ve been one of the greatest bigs of all time if his knees didn’t hate him, also led his team, Ohio State, to a national title in his first year on campus, averaging 15.7 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.3 blocks.
Andrea Bargnani doesn’t have a college resume, but he’s 7’0”, 256 pounds and shoots like a wingman. Len doesn't. Andrew Bogut’s collegiate stat line is also superior to Len’s. He averaged 20.4 points and 12.2 rebounds at Utah, leading the Utes to the Sweet 16.
With LeBron James and Dwight Howard selected first overall in 2003 and 2004 (and Yao Ming in 2002 if one wants to keep going), there isn’t a No. 1 pick in the last decade who had less potential entering the draft than Len. One could scan the last 50 years of first overall selections on NBA.com and struggle to identify more than a few.
Len could ultimately develop into a respectable starter. However, in terms of the tools which he’s shown on the hardwood in two years at Maryland, few No. 1 picks in league history have shown less.
David Daniels is a breaking news writer at Bleacher Report and news editor at Wade-O Radio.