Alex Len was on the court for just nine minutes in the Suns’ 111-106 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans Monday night, with his playing time being the lowest of any Sun who took the floor.
As a fourth-year pro who was expected to take another next step in his career, Len was expected to play more. But so far, that hasn’t been the case.
Len is averaging 19.4 minutes per game, which has many wondering why he isn’t a bigger part of the rotation.
Suns coach Earl Watson joined Doug and Wolf Tuesday morning on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM and provided an explanation.
“I think Alex Len has potential to be an excellent center,” Watson said. “I think with Tyson (Chandler) and Alex Len and the way the NBA is going, it’s very difficult to find minutes with two seven-footers, two traditional centers.”
While Len is struggling to find the court, the veteran Chandler is averaging 28.3 minutes per game.
Chandler, 34, is averaging 8.7 points and 11.8 rebounds per game in year two of a four-year, $52 million deal signed in 2015. Conversely, Len has averaged 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, albeit in fewer minutes.
“Alex Len can still develop, can still get better,” Watson added. “I thought he had a solid first half (in New Orleans); he was big blocking shots. His time is going to come. The season, as long as you navigate it, opportunities start to develop.”
Normally, a backup center not getting playing time would be much of a story. But Len is approaching restricted free agency this summer after the Suns did not agree to an extension with him by this year’s deadline, and combined with his limited minutes and Chandler’s long-term contract, some think Len could soon be part of a trade. And if not him, then maybe Chandler would be the one to go.
But even if Watson wanted a deal to be made, he acknowledged he doesn’t have enough clout to make that call.
“As a coaching staff and as a head coach I haven’t won enough games to dictate any trade, to have any voice on trades or roster moves,” Watson said. “So with me, the only thing I can do is focus on getting the guys as many minutes as possible to develop in situations.
“Do we want to play Alex Len more? We would love to.”
Watson went on to say Wednesday’s game in Memphis, against a Grizzlies team that has size and an inside presence, will offer a better chance to get Len involved.
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