NBA Draft Capsule: Maryland C Alex Len

NBA Draft Capsule: Maryland C Alex Len

June 21, 2013, 6:45 pm
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Alex Len, 7-foot-1 center, Maryland: A true center with the willingness and ability to play with his back to the basket, the Ukraine native made significant progress between his freshman and sophomore years. Len's development was aided greatly by adding bulk to his frame, but his natural agility for his size, offensive repertoire and defensive presence can't be discounted. While he struggled with both injuries and bouts of inconsistency during an up-and-down campaign for the Terps, the pivot man came up big in some matchups with highly-touted opponents.

Career highlights: Following a 10-game NCAA suspension for playing on a professional team, Len had his moments as a freshman, including a 12-point, 11-rebound game against North Carolina State and a 12-point, nine-rebound, four-block effort against a North Carolina frontcourt featuring three 2012 NBA first-round draft picks, not to mention gaining a reputation for his defensive prowess. He started out his sophomore season with a bang, going for a career-high 23 points, as well as 12 rebounds and four blocked shots in a head-to-head matchup with Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, then two stellar performances against Duke's Mason Plumlee, amongst other eye-opening contests that led him to average 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game. Len concluded the season, in which he earned all-ACC honorable mention and all-defensive team honors, with a 16-point, nine-board and career-high six-block outing in Maryland's NIT loss to Iowa.

Strengths: Incredibly, it often appeared as if getting the ball to Len wasn't always the team's focal point, but when he did get touches, it became obvious that he was equipped with an array of maneuvers in the post, if not a go-to move. The skilled big man is also capable of stepping outside to knock down mid-range jumpers and with his improved strength, he displayed an ability to rebound at a high level. On the defensive end of the floor, Len's size was a clear deterrent to opponents, but with the athleticism of the former gymnast that he is, he could develop into a solid pick-and-roll defender and have the capability to run the court in transition.

Weaknesses: While Maryland's strategy and guard play received blame for the lack of team success and Len's fairly pedestrian statistics, the center holds some responsibility, as he occasionally appeared to be disinterested or unmotivated, his signature games against top competition notwithstanding. Although he's gotten stronger, Len is still susceptible to being pushed around by physical opponents, so he'll need to continue filling out his frame. His offensive potential is unquestioned, but finding his niche with his back to the basket and in the pick-and-pop game will also be essential.

Draft projection: Len has gained buzz as the potential No. 1 overall pick and is a lock to be selected in the upper half of the lottery, despite an ankle injury not permitting him to work out during the pre-draft process. He'll get every opportunity to be a starting center in the league and if the flashes of brilliance he showcased in college can turn into consistent production, while he might not become a superstar, he could certainly be a top-tier NBA player at his position, barring injury. The team that picks him will need to exhibit patience, but with his skill set, he should be a solid building block for a franchise, as he has the potential to affect the game on both ends of the floor and in a mediocre draft class, he's more of a sure thing than some of his talented peers, yet possesses more upside than other well-regarded prospects.