Alex Len is one of the most intriguing prospects in this draft class, featuring a rare combination of size, length, mobility and skill. What are his strengths and weaknesses and where can we expect him to get picked on draft night?
Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
Alex Len had an intriguing, but somewhat disjointed freshman season at Maryland, slowed by a ten game suspension by the NCAA revolving around his amateur status and his own acclimation making the significant transition from Ukraine. After a full year in the United States, Len was much better prepared for his sophomore season, and it showed in his production, as his numbers increased significantly in a number of key areas, namely his scoring, rebounding, passing and ability to stay out of foul trouble.
Len has added a significant amount of weight to his outstanding 7-1 frame, even if he wasn't quite able to maintain it as the season moved on. Nevertheless, his physical potential is off the charts, a he sports a 7-4 wingspan, a very solid base, and excellent agility and dexterity for a player his size.
Offensively, Len increased his production from just 11.9 points per-40 as a freshman to 17.5 as a sophomore, without seeing a major drop-off in efficiency. While he's still somewhat of a work in progress on this end of the floor, he shows tremendous potential in a variety of different areas, as he has excellent fundamentals, soft hands, good touch, and the framework of a versatile skill-set, to go along with his fantastic physical profile.
41% of Len's offense came with his back to the basket, and he showed to be able to score over some of the best centers in college basketball this season, such as Nerlens Noel and Mason Plumlee. He dropped some terrific glimpses of potential from time to time, using pivot moves, fakes, jabs and rip-throughs, and being able to finish creatively from many different vantage points thanks to the excellent extension he gets due to his length and agility.
With that said, Len is not yet an efficient option in the post, as he converted just 38% of his field goal attempts in these situations this season. His footwork, countermoves, left hand, and the range on his jump-hook are all a work in progress, as he isn't always strong enough to establish deep post position against bulkier defenders at this stage, making it difficult for him to impose his will on opponents. He also lacks a degree of toughness and nastiness in this area both establishing himself and calling for the ball aggressively once he has his man sealed off, something that should improve in time with added experience and strength.
Len was also not in a great situation to showcase his back to the basket game, as his team suffered from very poor offensive spacing for much of the season. They mostly opted to use an offensively challenged power forward alongside him instead of someone that can stretch the defense, which brought an additional opponent inside the paint at all times. Maryland's guard play also left a lot to be desired, as Len's teammates often did a very poor job of getting him the ball when he did have position established, seemingly having no idea how (or simply being unwilling) to make basic post-entry passes, something that surprisingly did not improve at all during the season.
Off the ball, Len shows excellent potential as a pick and roll and catch and finish threat, converting 65% of his non-post-up attempts around the basket on the season according to Synergy Sports Technology, which is among the best rates in this draft. He sports an enviable combination of size, mobility, hands, length and explosiveness to help him get the job done, setting screens and rolling to the basket with terrific agility, and being capable of playing above the rim with ease. He keeps the ball high and can finish with power from great distances thanks to his long wingspan and solid leaping ability off two feet, even if he still needs to gain strength to improve his ability to finish through contact.
Len also shows a solid skill-level from the perimeter, being capable of putting the ball on the floor at times in a straight line, sometimes in impressive fashion, and also make an outside shot with his feet set. Len isn't a terribly consistent jump-shooter at this stage (he made 36% of his catch and shoot attempts this season), but his soft touch, solid mechanics, and the fact that he was able to convert 69% of his free throw attempts leaves a lot of room for optimism down the road.
While not a polished player at this stage and clearly lacking experience, Len generally shows a solid feel for the game, as he executes well offensively, is highly coordinated, capable of passing out of double teams, and doesn't turn the ball over that frequently.
Defensively, Len shows great potential with his size, long arms and mobility, but is still somewhat of a work in progress at this stage. On one hand he shows the ability to hedge screens out on the perimeter thanks to his quick feet and excellent agility, stepping out and recovering back to protect the rim and being difficult to shoot over thanks to his excellent length. On the other hand, his intensity-level leaves something to be desired at times, as he doesn't always get a hand up on opponents, can be lackadaisical running the floor, and will give up deep post position inside the paint, allowing himself to get schooled by more experienced opponents.
Len is extremely difficult to score over when he's fully dialed into getting a stop, as his length is a huge asset in contesting shots and also allows him to come up with plenty of deflections, rebounds and blocks. He pulled down a very solid 11.5 rebounds per-40 this season, boxing out effectively and sometimes going well out of his area for loose balls, and also blocked a solid 3 shots per-40, which ranks in the top-10 in this draft. He loses his focus easily at times, though, and isn't always as aggressive as you might hope, which is something he'll have to work on as he adds strength and experience and benefits from better coaching than he's received up until this point in his career.
One of the younger big men in this draft in terms of age (not turning 20 until mid-June), physical development and experience, Len is very much still figuring things out as a basketball player, but shows some of the best potential of any prospect in this draft. While somewhat inconsistent at times in terms of production, he dropped some phenomenal glimpses of talent this season, executing moves that only a handful of 7-footers anywhere in the world can pull off. It's difficult to ascertain just much of his full potential we were able to see from him at Maryland, and how much tougher and more aggressive he'll get once his frame fully fills out, but there's a lot to be optimistic about.
Len is unlikely to be a dominating presence in the NBA from day one, as he'll need to go to a team that is willing to be patient with him as his body improves and his skill-level continues to round out. There is little doubt that he has all the tools to be an extremely valuable piece for a team down the road, though, as players with his physical attributes and talent are coveted commodities and virtually impossible to acquire outside of the draft. Len is drawing heavy interest throughout the top-10, being hampered somewhat by a stress fracture in his left ankle that will prevent him from conducting any workouts and will sideline him for 4-6 months. It wouldn't be a surprise to see someone roll the dice on him earlier than most have projected, though, or even to see someone trade up to acquire his rights.