When Alex Len was selected with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 draft, many Suns fans at the time were left scratching their heads. To the surprise of many, both Ben McLemore and Nerlens Noel were still on the board, but Phoenix instead went with the very talented but extremely raw big man out of Maryland.
It’s no secret that Len’s career with the Suns certainly got off to a shaky start. The 21-year-old was unable to play in his first Summer League because of ankle surgeries, which hurt his development right off the bat.
More from Phoenix Suns
- Things Will Get Worse Before Better For Phoenix Suns
- Phoenix Suns: Ryan Anderson Was an Unsung Hero in First Win
- Phoenix Suns: 3 Takeaways From Opening Night Victory Over Dallas
- Shaquille Harrison Among Phoenix Suns Waived As Opening Night Nears
- Phoenix Suns: Jamal Crawford Signing Would Benefit Devin Booker
The lack of health during his first summer as a pro made things tough for Len during his rookie campaign. The seven-footer was able to appear in only 42 games during his first season in the NBA, averaging 2.0 points and 2.4 rebounds per contest.
Unfortunately, after just one season, some fans were already calling Len a bust due to being top 5 pick in the draft. Little do those people know is that big guys develop at a much slower pace compared to guys at other positions, especially in Len’s case who just started playing basketball at age 13.
It is amazing how a short period of time can change the opinions of people.
In only his second year in the league, Len is coming along very nicely. His overall season numbers might not jump out at anyone (6.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20 minutes per game), but his numbers since taking over the starter’s role from Miles Plumlee are rather impressive for a young center still in the early stages of learning the game.
Since becoming the Suns starter at center on Dec. 15, Len has seen in an increase in his numbers across the board. In 16 starts, Len is averaging 8.0 points, 7.7 rebounds and 2.5 blocks per game. He’s had seven games where he’s had at least three blocks, including three contests where he’s had at least five blocked shots.
Eat your heart out, Dikembe Mutombo.
Len’s shot blocking totals has been the most impressive thing about him. Not only are those totals at an elite level, but Len does a great job at changing shots of opposing players because of his length and athleticism, something that stats don’t show. The Suns defense has been remarkably better as of late because of it.
His ever improving play has changed the outlook of the Suns season. Instead of being below the .500 mark, Phoenix is now 23-18, just one game behind the San Antonio Spurs for the seventh seed in the Western Conference, thanks to going 11-5 since Len took over the starter’s role.
Now, Suns fans need to put things in perspective. Len has had a great stretch over the past month, but he’s a still very young and raw in terms of the number of years he’s played the game, so he’s going to go through rough patches as he continues to grow and develop.
It’s hard not to get excited about his immense potential though. If he continues improving at this rate, the Suns could finally have that franchise center that they have been longing for.