The Lottery Picks: Will Alex Len Join the Club?

Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Five Terps basketball players have been selected with NBA Draft lottery picks. How does Alex Len stack up?

With the NBA draft tonight, we’ll see if Alex Len will join Maryland’s club of lottery picks. The NBA instituted a lottery system for their entry draft in 1985. The lottery determined the order of the top seven picks in the draft, which has since been expanded to 14.

Maryland has had five players selected in the draft lottery. Four others (Buck Williams, John Lucas, Al Bunge and Gene Shue) would have been in the lottery but came along before its time.

Collectively, the lottery picks have played in nearly 3000 NBA games, grabbing over 18,000 rebounds and scoring 35,000 points along the way.

Of course, none of these totals bear any contribution from Len Bias, Maryland’s most famous lottery pick who died the night after he was selected second overall by the Boston Celtics in the 1986 draft.

The most recent Terps lottery pick was big Chris Wilcox, who won the National Championship and declared for the draft in 2002. He was drafted eighth overall by the Los Angeles Clippers.Wilcox is the only one of the five that is currently playing in the NBA. He came of the bench this past season for the Boston Celtics.

Wilcox and Len are an interesting comparison. Both played 2 years at Maryland at the center position before declaring for the draft. In terms of per game statistics, Len beats out Wilcox: he played more minutes (24 vs. 17), scored more points (9.7 vs. 7.9), secured more rebounds (7.0 vs. 4.7) and blocked more shots (2.1 vs. 1.0). Yet for the statistical prowess and the athletic ability Len possesses, Wilcox has him beat in one crucial factor: winning. Wilcox has a National Championship, while Len has never played in a NCAA tournament game.

The other Terps big man selected in the lottery was Joe Smith, who was taken with the top pick in the 1995 draft by the Golden State Warriors. He finished second in rookie of the year voting that year (the winner was Damon Stoudamire) but became a journeyman throughout his career. He is tied for the record of playing for the most NBA teams, having worn 12 different jerseys in his 16 year career.

Smith was dominant in his two years at Maryland, helping them reach the Sweet 16 both times. His stats reflect a number one pick as well. He averaged a double-double over his 2 years with over 20 points and 10 rebounds a game, all while shooting 55% and blocking 3 shots. He won the Naismith Award in 1995 as the top college player in the country.

This puts Len right in the middle, statistically speaking, of the two recent big men that went in the top 10 from Maryland. Unlike Wilcox and Smith, Len is not a proven winner, but it is his athletic potential is what has scouts so excited.

The other two Terrapin lottery picks were Walt Williams and Steve Francis, neither of whom spent most of their time in the post. Williams was an All-American by his senior year in 1992 when he averaged almost 27 points a game, but the stats from his first two years in College Park are more in line with Len’s. He had a long NBA career, playing in more than 700 games during an 11-year career after being drafted seventh by the Sacramento Kings in 1992.

Stevie Franchise has had the most success at the professional level. He was one-and-done at Maryland after playing in JuCo*, taking off after his freshman year to become the second overall pick to the then Vancouver Grizzlies. He averaged 18 points a game over his nine-year NBA career, and finished second in the Slam Dunk Contest to Vince Carter in 2000.

Interestingly enough, no Maryland player who became a lottery pick has gone on to win an NBA championship. Maybe the sixth time can be the charm as Alex Len joins the lottery pick club.

*Thanks to EricPat for correction.

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