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Empire of the Suns trade deadline preview: Alex Len

Phoenix Suns center Alex Len, of Ukraine, watches from the bench during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2018, in Denver. The Nuggets won 134-111. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

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Empire of the Suns is taking a look at Phoenix’s five most likely players to be moved prior to the NBA’s trade deadline on Feb. 8. So far, we’ve discussed Tyson ChandlerGreg Monroe, Jared Dudley and Troy Daniels.

We end the series with a former top-5 pick of the Suns, Alex Len.

Player: Alex Len

Age: 24

Contract situation: $4.1 million expiring this season

Role on Suns: Backup center

Season stats: 42 games played, 8.4 PPG, 8.1 RPG, 1.3 APG, 55.5 FG%, 73.7 FT%

Current standing

After going through summer as a restricted free agent, Len has responded to settling for a qualifying offer by having a career year.

Moving with more energy across the court, Len has proven he’s a great rebounder, fine rim protector and his high-post skills of passing the ball aren’t completely dead, revived in Jay Triano’s offense.

He still has limited upside due to his poor finishing around the rim and lack of any individual offense, but a simplified game has done him wonders.

Trade outlook

Kevin Zimmerman: It would take a desperate team to take on Len, and even then, don’t expect the Suns to acquire much more than a second-round pick or the equivalent talent of a former second-round pick in any deal.

There would need to be a serious injury to a key player for a team to trade for Len, whose expiring deal could give a team a half-season of a look to see if he’s worth investing in long-term. For example: If the Miami Heat lost Hassan Whiteside, maybe they get desperate to acquire a similar player. Outside of that very theoretical case, what other team relies upon a center to that extent that Len would be desired?

To be fair, he does hold some value. He’s been reasonably effective on defense, to the same degree as his aging mentor, Tyson Chandler. Offensively, Len has taken small steps forward. It’s still a toss-up when he dives to the rim, struggling to hold onto the ball and allowing smaller players to block or swipe at it. But when he does gather and keep the ball safe, he’s been solid scoring around the cup.

The most promising improvement to his game is his passing ability as the Suns have run the offense through him, where his handoffs and high-post passing has surprised.

The first question regarding his trade value is whether the Suns have seen enough of him and want a small asset in return — or if they want to retain him and build around the flashes of good he’s delivered since signing the qualifying offer this summer. But the looming issue that there is little demand for a true center on an expiring deal, even if that deal isn’t hard to fit on most salary caps.

Kellan Olson: For the reasons just mentioned, there’s no reason for the Suns to trade Len despite him clearly not being the team’s top center for the present and future.

The 2018 NBA Draft could very well dictate how the Suns go about his situation. The Suns have two big needs at center and point guard, and luckily for them, the top-10 of the class is filled with ’em.

Luka Doncic, Trae Young and Collin Sexton could be at the floor general spot while Deandre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley III and Jaren Jackson Jr. are possible interior presences.

If the Suns draft one of those four bigs, they could have them play with Chandler and have Alan Williams serve as the team’s third big. That leaves no room for Len, and he can move on.

If they don’t draft a center, though, bringing back Len on a short-term deal isn’t out of the question.

For that reason, along with the current role Len serves on a second unit that has had some great moments this year, he should stay put.

Likelihood of being traded: 1/10

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