The various SB Nation blogs lucky enough to have a player likely to be selected in the upcoming NBA Draft are doing features on those players and looking at their prospective pro careers. Today, we do our part with Alex Len.
We take a stab looking at Alex Len's prospective professional career.
1. How is this prospect perceived on campus/how will he be remembered?
As a recruit, Alex Len kind of came out nowhere. Turgeon added him late in the 2011 recruiting season, and besides some impressive U-18 stats, not much was known about him. At the time of his commitment, we said he looked like "Berend Weijs plus four inches", and speculated that yes, he probably would take up a scholarship spot. Soon after, lottery speculation flew around as experts on European basketball weighed in on the young center, and expectations soared for Maryland's newest get.
Len put together a pretty solid freshman campaign - his talent was as apparent as it was raw, and averaging 6.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game could hardly be called a disappointment, especially with a teammate like Terrell Stoglin robbing him of numerous opportunities.
With Stoglin gone, weight put on, and NBA scouts breathing down his neck, expectations for Len skyrocketed even higher. The thought was that he would be the cornerstone Maryland would build their team around, and while it was likely he would leave after his sophomore year, the Terps might be able to make a tourney run with his presence in the paint. That, obviously, turned out not to be the case.
While Len improved in his sophomore season, it was not nearly enough to make up for the huge increase in expectations for him. With an additional five minutes per game and the departure of Stoglin, he was expected to carry the team to glory, and his 11.9/7.8/2.1 line with a drop in his field goal percentage from the year before proved to be not enough.
In all likelihood, Alex Len will be remembered as a guy who had a better pro career than a college one - many Maryland students questioned his toughness and desire, and he frankly didn't have the sophomore year many thought he should have.
2. What anecdote or story best typifies his time at your school?
Besides his affinity for Boston Market? There's no singular moment for Len, it was his maddening inconsistency that typified his time at Maryland. In the season opener, he scored 23 points with 12 rebounds and four blocks against Kentucky, and followed that up with 11 points and seven rebounds against Morehead State. Now, 11 and seven is not a bad line by any stretch of the imagination, but this was Len's pattern all year - huge numbers against the big teams, and a middling performance against anybody else.
This got to be more of a problem when it came time for conference play, where Len had three games of five points or less, and simply looked overmatched by just about every ACC center he played against.
Any time you watched a Maryland basketball game this season, whichever new announcing team was in town would spend half the game commenting on how bad Len looked. "This is the guy everyone wants to take in the lottery? Him?" They weren't wrong, in a sense - Len had awful spurts in his sophomore year with Maryland, and has MUCH work to do before he's even a passable basketball player.
3. What parts of the draft evaluation coverage about the prospect do you think is wrong or missing?
He will need at least a year before he can play in the NBA. If the team selecting him is smart, that will be in the D-League, but we've seen early picks thrust too early into the big leagues before.
The potential is undoubtedly there, and with it, it's easy to understand why teams want him. He's tall, has great length, is a plus shooter, and his defensive awareness is growing steadily. His biggest problem remains on the offensive side of the ball - he has NO idea what to do with himself in the post - but that can be taught (and weight can be put on). The comparisons to Nowitzki and Gasol will likely be endless, but that's pretty lazy. Instead, in a perfect world, I see him closer to Amare Stoudemire, with less inside explosiveness. Len is incredibly athletic, and can dunk with the best of them, and has that great outside shot to back him up. All he needs to work on is his game in the post - once he's got that, the rest is golden.
4. What will fans of the NBA love and/or hate about this prospect?
Len has outstanding athletic ability - it's what really separates him from a lot of the other European big men, and putting that together with a sweet-mid range game gives him some serious offensive potential. On the defensive end, his sizeable wingspan gives him some shot-blocking ability, and all the raw tools are there for an All-Pro player. Combined, those can end up in some serious explosive, game-changing plays on both sides of the floor.
Hate is a strong word, but Len's rawness will certainly get on the nerves of whatever team picks him, especially if he skips the D-League. He certainly lacks awareness on either side of the ball, and while questioning a player's heart is a dangerous games, there were plenty of games where it looked like Len was giving little-to-no effort last season.
5. Anything else you want to share about him?
He's a good kid - never heard one bad story about him, and once he's given the time in the weight room and on the practice court to develop his game, he could become one of the premier centers in the league. Patience is going to be needed for any fan that follows his career, but down the line it just could work out better for you guys than it did for Maryland.