During his collegiate career at Maryland, Alex Len proved he was an athletic big who could protect the rim at a high level — led the ACC with 2.1 blocks per game in 2012-13.
But when discussing the Phoenix Suns’ selection of Len with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, the focus often turns to the 7-foot-1 center’s offensive production at College Park, or sometimes lack there of.
During his sophomore season, the 20-year-old’s offense was often the foot note of his skill set, not the highlight. He averaged just 11.9 points per game — the lowest total for any player taken in the top 10 not named Nerlens Noel.
On Draft Night, Suns head coach Jeff Hornacek said the organization wasn’t overly concerned with Len’s offensive stats, because they had less to do with a deficiency and more to do with the fact that “he didn’t get the ball enough.”
Friday, general manager Ryan McDonough echoed similar sentiments to Arizona Sports 620’s Burns and Gambo.
“Alex is 7-1, he can’t dribble the ball up the court and then throw an entry pass to himself,” McDonough said. “So when I watched him play in person and when I studied the film, he got great position a lot of the time and he had his man sealed under the basket, had a good target ready to receive the ball, and I thought his guards did a very poor job of getting him the ball.”
At his introductory press conference Friday afternoon, Len went a step further.
“In the NBA, there is better spacing [than there is in college],” Len said. “It makes it easier on the big guys, because we have more space to work on the block.
“I know I can contribute right away on the defensive end of the floor. I have size, I can alter shots, I can rebound and run the floor. On offense, we’ll see what Coach [Hornacek] wants me to do. I’ll just do my role.”
While the Suns’ No. 5 pick noted that he can’t wait to play at a level where floor spacing doesn’t “suck”, he also reiterated to the media how thrilled he is to play in an offensive system that highlights his strengths: agility and athleticism.
“I know the Phoenix Suns like to play high tempo, run up-and-down, so I think it fits my game well,” said Len.
“My agility came from a long time ago when I did gymnastics when I was young. It helped me with my coordination and my agility, it’s a good thing. The high-tempo game fits me well.”
His head coach seemed to agree that the fit will be a good one for both the Suns and Len offensively.
“Like Alex said, we’re going to be pushing the ball,” said Hornacek. “But if we get into some quick swing-actions, he’s either going to be the first one down getting in that post-up area, or he’s going to trail the play, swing it and go into quick pick-and-rolls.
“He has great pick-and-roll pop action, where he can make that 15 to 17-foot shot. So, there’s a variety of ways we can use him.”