ESPN’s Elhassan: Suns C Alex Len’s contract negotiations are a two-way street
The fourth season for a first-round draft pick in the NBA can be the most critical year of their career.
Some players, however, like the Milwaukee Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo and Oklahoma City Thunder’s Victor Oladipo, won’t have to worry because they agreed to a contract extension before the Oct. 31 deadline to make them a restricted free agent for the following summer. Other players, though, like Phoenix Suns center Alex Len, will have to play for their deal this season.
Len, the No. 5 overall selection by Phoenix in the 2013 NBA Draft, watched as centers picked after him got paid a significant amount of money. Thunder center Steven Adams, selected No. 12, agreed to a 4-year, $100 million deal and Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, the No. 27 pick, made over $100 million in his four-year extension.
As Kevin Zimmerman at Empire of the Suns noted earlier in the week, Len has yet to find his niche in the NBA.
Adams and Gobert are some of the best players on the planet at their position, while Len’s value is debatable, making contract negotiations seemingly very difficult.
“It’s always, remember, that it’s a two-way street,” said ESPN’s Amin Elhassan Friday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s Burns & Gambo show. “It might have been a wise decision for Alex Len not to accept what was on the table.”
The question of what was on the table will not be answered, but it’s very unlikely a hypothetical Phoenix offer was anywhere close to that value.
“Steven Adams, Rudy Gobert, they both got 100 (million),” Elhassan said. “Now, they’re much better players than Alex Len, but I think the comparable guys are (Cody) Zeller in Charlotte, Gorgui Dieng in Minnesota.”
Those two other big men from Len’s draft class also agreed to four-year extensions before the deadline, with Dieng making $64 million and Zeller’s deal amounting to $56 million.
“Now you’re talking about those numbers, I can kinda see if that was available for them to offer and for him to accept, maybe that would have been a way to go,” Elhassan said.
Len’s talent level as a top-five pick and inconsistencies across the board make it an arduous process to find an agreed upon deal, which Elhassan notes.
“It’s so difficult because you don’t know if Alex Len is sitting there and saying ‘I want 90 (million) and nothing less’ and if that’s the case, if I’m the Suns I’m like ‘alright, go earn your 90 (million) this year,'” Elhassan said.
Len had an 18-point bounce-back effort against the Portland Trail Blazers Wednesday, but his well-documented battles with efficiency have continued in the start of the 2016-17 season. The 23-year-old is shooting under 40 percent from the field, a disastrously low number for a 7-foot-1 center.
Archie Goodwin was also selected by the Suns in the first round of that draft but was surprisingly released prior to the start of the regular season.