The 2013 NBA draft is one of unparalleled unpredictability, as there appears to be an absence of superstar talent in this year's class of prospects. With that being said, there are a select few players that display the upside necessary to be a franchise player.
One of those prospects is polarizing center Alex Len—a player whose potential can only be defined by a full examination of what he brings to the table.
Len has become one of the most difficult players to project in this year's less-than-stellar draft class. While the physical gifts and basketball skills are in place for him to be a perennial All-Star, Len often lacks the necessary aggression to take over a game.
The question on every general manager's mind is simple—is he worth the risk?
Weight: 225 pounds
2012-13 Season Averages: 24.04 PER, 26.4 MPG, 11.9 PPG, 7.8 RPG, 1.0 APG, 2.1 BPG
Alex Len is one of the most physically gifted players in this draft—standing at 7'1" with a 7'4" wingspan. While his 225-pound frame is thin, he does have the body necessary to add muscle and thus bang down low.
Until that time comes, Len has the offensive skills to play a diverse and unpredictable style of basketball.
Len is strong with his back to the basket, as he's capable of scoring with either hand. His greatest strength, however, is the ability to face-up and score both off of the bounce and with his jump shot.
Paired with the uncanny ability to pass out of the high post, this makes Len a dynamic offensive prospect with the upside to be one of the better all-around big men in the NBA.
Defensively, Len isn't the most polished product, but he's made drastic improvements as a rebounder. Not only does he box out better than in recent seasons, but he contests the low post with more patience than he had as a freshman.
Instead of always going for the block, Len appears more inclined to alter the shot without fouling or biting on pump fakes.
Being able to explode at the basket for a block or dunk is certainly helpful, but it's the mental progression that matters most for Len. The game seemed to slow down for him in 2012-13, but there's one question.
Did it slow down too much?
Areas of Weakness
When you realize how physically gifted Alex Len is, there's already reason to invest an early draft choice in him. When you touch upon the fact that he's developed a strong set of offensive skills, you're inclined to believe that he's a sure thing.
Unfortunately, there's one question that has everyone concerned—is he too passive to pan out?
Len has the ability and athleticism to take over games, but it often appears as if he's afraid to step on his teammates' toes. Instead of commanding the ball and pounding it down low, Len often takes what's given to him.
That's the perfect approach for a guard—not so much for a big man.
Len needs to be a more vocal player, and when he has the ball, he must look for his shot first. It's an extraordinary skill to be able to pass as well as Len does, but if a team is drafting a center in the lottery, they likely expect them to be an offensive or defensive anchor.
Until Len displays the killer instinct necessary to take over a game, there's reason to believe he'll fall short of reaching his full potential.
For the average prospect, how their career pans out depends entirely on where they end up. Under the wrong head coach or playing with improper teammates, a supremely talented player can often see their career go to waste due to their misuse and resulting morale.
The question here is, where would the most ideal location be for Alex Len?
Len would be best suited to join a team with an established point guard, as he's more likely to succeed with a teammate creating his looks. He can score from the post, but as a rookie, Len is most likely to find success facing up and attacking, or using his mid-range J off the catch.
For that reason, the Minnesota Timberwolves, New Orleans Pelicans and Phoenix Suns all make sense as potential top 10 destinations.
Nikola Pekovic could return for Minnesota, but Len has the higher upside of the two—specifically on the defensive end of the floor. Offensively, point guard Ricky Rubio has mastered the pick-and-roll and should have no problem incorporating Len's European style of play.
In New Orleans, Greivis Vasquez is labeled as a player that offers the ability facilitate, but not much else. With that being said, Vasquez wasn't just good, but he was third in the NBA in assists per game without a back-to-the-basket threat to pass to.
As for Phoenix, they have both Goran Dragic and Kendall Marshall running point. Dragic is the more creative playmaker, but Marshall maintains a steady pace and thrives as a facilitator.
Both men would help Len develop in a rather rapid manner.
No team will be the perfect landing spot for Len, unless he manages to fall to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 12. OKC, a team with established stars in Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, simply needs a half-court threat to get the interior basket when the jump shots stop falling.
Len could be that player.
Regardless of where he ends up, there will be a learning curve and fans will, inevitably, question whether or not Len deserved to be a lottery pick. When it's all said and done, however, Len should be a high-quality NBA big man.
It's all about finding the coach and teammates that can help him develop a more aggressive approach to the game.
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