Having seen Alex Len during the summer 2010 in the U18 European Championship at the age of 17, you could already see what kind of talent he is. After having moved to the United States and played a short freshman season with Maryland, it is about time to make an update on his situation as he is currently being considered as a NBA Draft 2013 lottery pick.
The first thing that you see when comparing Len today with the summer 2010 is that he has grown physically. He looks a lot stronger and larger now but still has some room to become bigger. Additionally, he was listed at 2m10 back in 2010 and is now a legit 7-1 center (with shoes). This is a tremendous development compared to his wiry body even if this gain of weight might have limited his explosiveness a bit. But first of all, Len remains a terrific athlete for his size, running the court up and down without any problem and often being the first in transition offense to finish with easy baskets in early offenses.
Being a great defensive rebounder due to his good positioning, boxing out and long arms, Len is very effective on the defensive end in College Basketball where his shot blocking timing makes him a real goalkeeper in the paint. With the added weight, he can hold his player in the low post, even if he has some problems when playing against short more agile big men in order to stay in front of them.
On the offensive end, Len’s game is quite interesting as he is not only a pure low post player living from its physical tools but he shows a good technique and overall understanding of the game. When playing with his back to the basket, Len is capable to score of the normal jump hook with both hands but he can also face-up his player and attack him on the dribble. Additionally, with his great footwork, he can execute a rather quick spin move when attacking the basket in a small area which gives him more offensive options. Lifting of the floor rapidly, Len dunks the ball also against defense without fear. But the Ukrainian big man has also great fundamentals and can for example score difficult layups in an up and under mode in order to protect himself against potential shot blockers.
Len is also an excellent offensive rebounder, grabbing nearly 25% of his team’s offensive boards. What he does well is that he keeps the ball up very high after the rebound making it virtually impossible for shorter players to steal the ball at that moment which gives him the chance to finish with a quick second jump. He needs though to become a little stronger in his lower body in order to keep the balance in these situations as he sometimes gets challenged physically and can not finish perfectly. He draws a good amount of fouls though in these situations and his improving free-throw shooting (58.7% last season, 68.0% this season so far) is an asset that he has to continue to work on.
Along with his improvements from the line, Len has also a very nice jump shot. He uses it in turn-around situations in the low post to score with the quick 3 meter shot from the baseline where he is very effective. As a relentless screener, he is a very dangerous Pick and Pop player already as he is capable of netting the shot up to the three-point line. His mechanics are fluid and quickly executed and he will most likely develop a very regular jump shot around the key in the next years. Paired with his size and foot speed, Len has all the tools to become a very dangerous offensive threat with a multitude of possibilities to score the ball.
Compared to the other European big guy prospect Rudy Gobert, Len looks a lot more polished on offense as his repertoire is composed of different scoring possibilities. He lacks the terrific length that Gobert possesses but the Ukrainian 1993 born player is still a very long big guy. His improving physical shape and the potential to become even bigger make him certainly the more interesting player on the long term. If Len can add a bit of ball handling and the potential to attack the basket from outside, he can develop into a Pau Gasol type of player in the future. He needs to become more aggressive in asking for the ball as his team mates sometimes forget to feed him in the post. This is though not a major problem as he is not getting frustrated quickly when he does not get any touches.
The question on Len is if he will enter the NBA Draft already this spring. His stock has skyrocketed in the different draft boards recently, especially after he dominated Nerlens Noel from Kentucky. Another season with Maryland would certainly help Len in becoming more of a leader of his team, as right now, he is more or less just running with them and not being at the head of the offense. Being born in 1993, he turns only twenty this year which gives him a huge progress margin, especially for a low post presence. In any case, his current situation will certainly assure him a Lottery Pick which is something he will look at in detail. We will learn more about this once the College Basketball season is over.