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Maryland’s Alex Len could be the No. 1 pick. Why is that?

Jun 27, 2013, 8:45 AM EDT

Alex Len, Tahjere McCall, T.J. Cline, Antoine Mason AP

Alex Len put up nice but not thrilling stats at Maryland last season — 11.9 points a game on 53.4 percent shooting, with 7.8 rebounds a game. He’s seen as talented but raw. After the season he had surgery on a stress fracture in his ankle, and there are concerns his health issues could be chronic.

So why are we talking about this guy as a potential No. 1 overall pick?

Why is this the guy that the Thunder and reportedly others want to trade up into the top five to get?

Because he’s a big man with potential.

Of course, so were Michael Olowokandi and Kwame Brown, but at this time of year general managers get seduced with potential — and Len certainly has that. In a draft with no franchise changing, lock No. 1 pick teams have been drawn to the potential of Len. The upside, if you like your cliché draft words.

There’s no question the Ukrainian born Len — at 7’0”, 255 pounds — has NBA big man size. Plus this guy has all the physical tools you want in a center — he moves well, has soft hands, has shown good touch around the rim, can pass, can blocks shots, and he rebounds.

At least, that’s what the team that drafts him will say, but the reality is a little different — Len is raw offensively. There’s a lot of potential, but a lot of questions. Questions such as why other reasonably-sized big men could push him out of the post in college.

Len is hot in part because we haven’t really seen what he can do, and therefore haven’t picked apart his strengths and weaknesses to the same degree as others.

It was hard to get a read from his days at Maryland how good he was because guards couldn’t get him the ball (the Terrapins’ floor spacing was terrible). If you thought you could get a good read on him at the NBA Draft Combine or private workouts, guess again. The ankle surgery did that in. So teams are searching for better information about Len.

When an NBA team drafts a guy it’s not what he can do for them this coming season that matters, it’s what he can do three years down the line. Five years down the line. Some GMs think Len could be better than Noel three years from now. So they are willing to roll the dice on him more than anyone else is this draft.

Opinions around the league vary on Len — some teams love him, some want nothing to do with him. But all it takes is one GM near the top of the draft to put a lot of pressure on Len and pick him near the top. And on that GM takes on the pressure too for taking the risk.

But if it’s not No. 1 it is top six for sure. Len is going to go high up.

  1. ulaanbaatarscot - Jun 27, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    It may be cliched but his work ethic is also undeniable. He came from Ukraine only two years ago and had to learn a new language and adapt to a different style of play from that in Europe. The guy will have a really good future in the NBa

  2. tigerpork - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:09 AM

    robin lopez 2.0

  3. dezglobal - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    Another Darko.

  4. anhdazman - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:17 AM

    Once again, NBA brass over value on big men, especially centers. Most of them end up as Bust. Len looks the part of another over drafted big man that’s going to have to much pressure and hype to live up to if he’s drafted #1 overall.
    How many big man drafted actually reached their potential after getting drafted in one of the top slots? Especially when they weren’t even one of the best player in college basketball the season before?
    Just another train wreck waiting to happen if he’s drafted #1.

  5. jbeagles23 - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:21 AM

    No one is another darko. I still think the raptors arujo pick was just as bad

  6. aschreit - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:23 AM

    There was a comment about “other big men pushing him around”. Actually the 2 times he was played one-on-one (ala NBA) were against KY and Duke. Two of his best games. The rest of the season he was double and triple teamed. Maryland did not have the guard-play to feed him this year, but when he gets the ball, even at 17 feet, he’s deadly. This is a guy who will thrive in the NBA.

  7. azarkhan - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:39 AM

    Why? Because you can’t teach height.

    • money2long - Jun 27, 2013 at 10:15 AM

  8. ras1tafari - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:50 AM

    Yeah because skinny tall white guys from America are really crushing the league right now, so let’s make him #1.

    • wvuandsteelers - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:56 AM

      He’s from the Ukraine.

      • jamieaadams - Jun 27, 2013 at 12:34 PM

        Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

  9. bucrightoff - Jun 27, 2013 at 9:52 AM

    Because this draft sucks? Because every team in the top 5 would give their picks away for free in exchange for a top 5 pick next year?

    • money2long - Jun 27, 2013 at 10:18 AM

      how do you get something in exchange for the thing you’re giving away for free ?

  10. cantonbound13 - Jun 27, 2013 at 10:29 AM

    Why not draft McLemore or Oladipo? They are pretty much the only 2 guaranteed stars from this draft. Then you trade Waiters for a serviceable center. That would give you a solid backcourt.

    • rmfields - Jun 27, 2013 at 11:06 AM

      No one is a guaranteed star in this year’s NBA draft as far as I’m concerned.

      • gpatrick15 - Jun 27, 2013 at 11:19 AM

        True, but I’d rather roll the dice on those 2 instead of reaching further for Len

      • unxpexted1 - Jun 27, 2013 at 12:45 PM

        guard driven league, big men just dont have the same value in today’s NBA.

  11. jadaruler - Jun 27, 2013 at 1:54 PM

    I would draft him and put him in a gym with Big Z all summer.

    I could see them take Victor, but Ben is a big time no. I can’t shake the image of him struggling in the tourney. If the self professed “Next Ray Allen” can’t get it done in college, why would I take you first in the draft.

  12. twilson962 - Jun 27, 2013 at 4:16 PM

    I’m a Terp. Graduate, and lifetime fan. I watched every Terps game last year…at no point did I think Len was going to be the #1 pick. At no point did I think he was good enough to be a lottery pick. Heck, when someone asked where I thought Len should go in the draft I immediately thought, back to Maryland.

    I wish him all the luck in the world. But I’m not expecting much…

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