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Top frontcourt prospects: Alex Len

Is Alex Len who we think he is? Who do we even think Alex Len is?


Considering the Bobcats' recent draft history (i.e. Bismack Biyombo and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), they seem to have no issue with taking on younger, long-term projects with high ceilings. This is both a gift and a curse, since it displays the front office's understanding that constructing an NBA roster takes prudence while simultaneously forcing fans to endure seasons that make you question the merits of basketball as a sport. Alex Len, the 19-year-old sophomore center out of Maryland, would be much of the same.

The run-down

Now, I wouldn't exactly label myself as an expert on the subject, but I wouldn't be surprised if peer-reviewed studies suggested that being seven feet tall, intriguingly quick and active with a high motor had a massive positive impact on one's abilities as an NBA player. Len is quicker and taller than most centers at the collegiate level, and likely the NBA level, for what it's worth. His 7'3" wingspan and 255 lb frame don't leave much to be desired but what really struck me was his activity. Len is always, always, always moving. Whether he's setting off-ball screens, fighting for offensive rebounds or looking for backdoor cuts, the big guy keeps his opponent busy. He's as polished as you can expect from a player his age, dawning a solid post repertoire as well as an ever-developing solid jump shot that keeps the defense honest. Unlike an unnamed Bobcats' project at the center position, Len has good hands and a solid touch around the rim to accompany that.

Len's rebounding shouldn't be too much of an issue in the pros, as displayed by his 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes this past season, but he does occasionally struggle to get strong position against stronger players -- both in terms of rebounding and post position. At the same time, Len is about as strong as you can expect a 19-year old center to be. On defense, Len is adept at using his quickness and size to squander his opponents one-on-one chances. This is what I think will make or break Len as an NBA player. If he can translate his quickness into effectively guarding the pick-and-roll at the next level, he'll be paramount to any teams success. In today's game, it's an absolute necessity for good defensive attacks to have at least one big man on the floor at all times that can hedge and recover effectively. If Len can do that, he'll have himself a solid career.

The beef with Len is that he doesn't dominate. With his athleticism and skill, some scouts are disappointed that he never took complete control of Maryland's offense and established himself as an anchor on both ends of the floor. He's often characterized as passive, a moniker that is very popular in the scouting community.

Fit with the Bobcats

This sort of comes down to what you think of Biyombo, and the idea of taking on another long-term prospect. Rufus On Fire's resident brown-eyed (Ed.: hey, my eyes are not brown - Ben) bombshell/senior editor/my boss gave his take earlier in a post about Rudy Gobert:

The Bobcats can't really afford to take on another project player, especially a frontcourt player since they already have Bismack Biyombo...Gobert's a long-term project and the Bobcats don't have the time to take risk on a mostly one-dimensional player

Of course, Gobert and Len are different players, but much of the sentiment will ring the same: no more projects. Considering how the Cats are just one more year away from a chance at Wiggins, I wouldn't really mind taking the time to try and mold Len. What this comes down is how good the front office thinks he can be. It's difficult to gauge the true talent of a prospect like Len. He could completely falter, with his skills proving to be just a little too weak at every level for him to make a true impact. On the other hand, Len could pan out as a jack-of-all-trades-but-master-of-none kind of guy. Better yet, his physical dominance could translate in to the NBA and his 23 points and 12 rebounds against Kentucky's Nerlens Noel may become the rule rather than the exception.

With the 4th pick in the draft and Len's stock falling thanks to a stress fracture in his left ankle, it's likely the Bobcats go in a safer direction.