Mar 9, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors forward Andre Iguodala (9) Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) fight for control of a loose ball in the first quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Last summer, a debate rang throughout College Park on Alex Len and his NBA potential. Some Maryland fans believed that Len should have stayed in school one more year, while others agreed that he was making the best decision for himself and his family by leaving early. The debate gained some closure when it became known that Len had played the end of his last season at Maryland injured. His injury continued to hold him up when he arrived in Phoenix and prevented him from playing in the 2013 NBA Summer League and much of the 2013-2014 NBA Season. Most of us can now agree that if Len was going to spend a year injured and not playing much basketball, it would be better to be cashing a top five pay check while recovering then eating South Campus diner food.
The Phoenix Suns were one of the biggest surprises of the NBA season. While the Suns missed the Playoffs, they greatly surpassed their preseason expectations. The Suns finished with a 48-34 record, just one game out of the eight seed in the Western Conference. Quite a season for a team who Vegas set the over/under win total at 19.5 before the start of the season.
As great as Phoenix’s run this season was, it may not have cost Len some time to get into NBA shape. Once Len was fully recovered from his ankle injury, Phoenix was in a playoff run and thus it became tough for first year coach Jeff Hornacek to find minutes for Len. The 7’1″ center, averaged 8.6 MPG in the forty two games that he played in, and scored eighty six points on the season.
His rookie year may seem like a bust, but the Suns feel confident that a healthy offseason will help Len become a contributor next season. Phoenix traded Marcin Gortat before the season started, which leaves Len and Miles Plumlee as the only true centers on the roster. A full offseason to work out and play on the Suns Summer League team can do wonders for Len and his NBA future.
Miles Plumlee played in fourteen games his rookie year with the Indiana Pacers, and only averaged 3.9 MPG before coming to Phoenix. The Suns coaching staff did a great job of turning Plumlee into a 24.6 MPG player who averaged 8.1 PPG and 7.8 RPG this season. This is why they feel confident that with a full offseason to work on Len they can get a similar rookie to sophomore year turn around.
After taking Alex Len with the fifth pick in last years draft, Phoenix is committed to Len for the next couple of seasons. Finding a 7’1″ center is a tough task now a days, which is why Phoenix will work to make sure that Len isn’t a bust. The Suns have three first round picks this season, and NBADraft.Net doesn’t have them selecting any players that could fight Len for minutes next season.
Even with Plumlee breaking out this season, he only averaged 24.6 MPG, which leaves Len plenty of time to get into the game as well. Similar to Len’s jump from his freshman year to sophomore year at Maryland, fans and coaches will be hoping that Len can add muscle and continue to shoot well from outside the paint. If Len can add enough muscle to hold his own in the paint and shoot the mid-range jumper at a high rate, he can be a valuable piece for the Suns future.