Scouting Report by Jonathan Givony. Video Analysis by Mike Schmitz
Alex Len had an intriguing, but somewhat disjointed freshman season at Maryland, slowed by a ten game suspension by the NCAA revolving around his amateur status and his own acclimation making the significant transition from Ukraine. After a full year in the United States, Len was much better prepared for his sophomore season, and it showed in his production, as his numbers increased significantly in a number of key areas, namely his scoring, rebounding, passing and ability to stay out of foul trouble.
Len has added a significant amount of weight to his outstanding 7-1 frame, even if he wasn't quite able to maintain it as the season moved on. Nevertheless, his physical potential is off the charts, a he sports a 7-4 wingspan, a very solid base, and excellent agility and dexterity for a player his size.
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Offensively, Len increased his production from just 11.9 points per-40 as a freshman to 17.5 as a sophomore, without seeing a major drop-off in efficiency. While he's still somewhat of a work in progress on this end of the floor, he shows tremendous potential in a variety of different areas, as he has excellent fundamentals, soft hands, good touch, and the framework of a versatile skill-set, to go along with his fantastic physical profile.
41% of Len's offense came with his back to the basket, and he showed to be able to score over some of the best centers in college basketball this season, such as Nerlens Noel and Mason Plumlee. He dropped some terrific glimpses of potential from time to time, using pivot moves, fakes, jabs and rip-throughs, and being able to finish creatively from many different vantage points thanks to the excellent extension he gets due to his length and agility.
With that said, Len is not yet an efficient option in the post, as he converted just 38% of his field goal attempts in these situations this season. His footwork, countermoves, left hand, and the range on his jump-hook are all a work in progress, as he isn't always strong enough to establish deep post position against bulkier defenders at this stage, making it difficult for him to impose his will on opponents. He also lacks a degree of toughness and nastiness in this area both establishing himself and calling for the ball aggressively once he has his man sealed off, something that should improve in time with added experience and strength.
Len was also not in a great situation to showcase his back to the basket game, as his team suffered from very poor offensive spacing for much of the season. They mostly opted to use an offensively challenged power forward alongside him instead of someone that can stretch the defense, which brought an additional opponent inside the paint at all times. Maryland's guard play also left a lot to be desired, as Len's teammates often did a very poor job of getting him the ball when he did have position established, seemingly having no idea how (or simply being unwilling) to make basic post-entry passes, something that surprisingly did not improve at all during the season.
Off the ball, Len shows excellent potential as a pick and roll and catch and finish threat, converting 65% of his non-post-up attempts around the basket on the season according to Synergy Sports Technology, which is among the best rates in this draft. He sports an enviable combination of size, mobility, hands, length and explosiveness to help him get the job done, setting screens and rolling to the basket with terrific agility, and being capable of playing above the rim with ease. He keeps the ball high and can finish with power from great distances thanks to his long wingspan and solid leaping ability off two feet, even if he still needs to gain strength to improve his ability to finish through contact.
Len also shows a solid skill-level from the perimeter, being capable of putting the ball on the floor at times in a straight line, sometimes in impressive fashion, and also make an outside shot with his feet set. Len isn't a terribly consistent jump-shooter at this stage (he made 36% of his catch and shoot attempts this season), but his soft touch, solid mechanics, and the fact that he was able to convert 69% of his free throw attempts leaves a lot of room for optimism down the road.
While not a polished player at this stage and clearly lacking experience, Len generally shows a solid feel for the game, as he executes well offensively, is highly coordinated, capable of passing out of double teams, and doesn't turn the ball over that frequently.
Defensively, Len shows great potential with his size, long arms and mobility, but is still somewhat of a work in progress at this stage. On one hand he shows the ability to hedge screens out on the perimeter thanks to his quick feet and excellent agility, stepping out and recovering back to protect the rim and being difficult to shoot over thanks to his excellent length. On the other hand, his intensity-level leaves something to be desired at times, as he doesn't always get a hand up on opponents, can be lackadaisical running the floor, and will give up deep post position inside the paint, allowing himself to get schooled by more experienced opponents.
Len is extremely difficult to score over when he's fully dialed into getting a stop, as his length is a huge asset in contesting shots and also allows him to come up with plenty of deflections, rebounds and blocks. He pulled down a very solid 11.5 rebounds per-40 this season, boxing out effectively and sometimes going well out of his area for loose balls, and also blocked a solid 3 shots per-40, which ranks in the top-10 in this draft. He loses his focus easily at times, though, and isn't always as aggressive as you might hope, which is something he'll have to work on as he adds strength and experience and benefits from better coaching than he's received up until this point in his career.
One of the younger big men in this draft in terms of age (not turning 20 until mid-June), physical development and experience, Len is very much still figuring things out as a basketball player, but shows some of the best potential of any prospect in this draft. While somewhat inconsistent at times in terms of production, he dropped some phenomenal glimpses of talent this season, executing moves that only a handful of 7-footers anywhere in the world can pull off. It's difficult to ascertain just much of his full potential we were able to see from him at Maryland, and how much tougher and more aggressive he'll get once his frame fully fills out, but there's a lot to be optimistic about.
Len is unlikely to be a dominating presence in the NBA from day one, as he'll need to go to a team that is willing to be patient with him as his body improves and his skill-level continues to round out. There is little doubt that he has all the tools to be an extremely valuable piece for a team down the road, though, as players with his physical attributes and talent are coveted commodities and virtually impossible to acquire outside of the draft. Len is drawing heavy interest throughout the top-10, being hampered somewhat by a stress fracture in his left ankle that will prevent him from conducting any workouts and will sideline him for 4-6 months. It wouldn't be a surprise to see someone roll the dice on him earlier than most have projected, though, or even to see someone trade up to acquire his rights.
Suspended by the NCAA for the first ten games of the season due to eligibility issues revolving around his professional background dating back to his time with former club Dnipro in his home country of Ukraine, Olexiy/Alex Len had an inconsistent freshman season, but showed enough sparks of potential to leave significant optimism around his long-term outlook.
The intrigue around Len begins with his outstanding physical profile. Standing 7-1, with a huge wingspan, big shoulders, and a frame that will surely fill out nicely over the next few years, Len clearly has terrific tools to work with. He's also a very good athlete for his size, as he runs the floor well, elevates off the ground quickly, and is capable of playing above the rim with ease.
Playing just 21 minutes per game last season upon becoming eligible, Len was up and down as a freshman as noted, stringing together a handful of very impressive performances, but also being a total non-factor in many Maryland contests. This is somewhat understandable considering the cultural adjustment involved with moving from Ukraine, as the language barrier and adaptation to a completely new style of basketball and academic schedule would be a significant burden for even the most talented prospect to shoulder.
Most freshmen at least get the easier non-conference portion of their team's schedule to get their feet wet, but Len was thrown directly into the fire of arguably the toughest conference in college basketball, matching up with future NBA players virtually every single time he stepped on the floor. A pesky ankle injury he suffered mid-way through the season likely didn't help matters either.
Len did not play a very big role in Maryland's offense last season, as he sported just the fifth highest usage rate on the team, despite being their most efficient scorer. With undersized shooting guard Terrell Stoglin, who led the ACC in field goal attempts per-minute by a huge margin, being booted off the team, there will now likely be a much larger emphasis on incorporating him into the offense. Len should be able to shoulder additional playing time and a bigger role as a sophomore after a full offseason in the weight room and more practice time to develop chemistry with his teammates.
With his impressive foot speed and ability to effortlessly elevate around the basket, Len was much more effective as a finisher last season than he was as a post-presence. Showing soft hands and excellent touch, he's capable of scoring with either hand inside the paint. He shows a nice basketball IQ moving the ball within the flow of the offense, sometimes with a nifty bounce pass to a cutter diving to the rim. He also has nice shooting mechanics, making a couple of mid-range jumpers last season.
With that said, Len is still figuring out how to effectively use his talent on a consistent basis. His frame is simply too thin to allow him to establish and hold deep post position, and when he does catch the ball inside the paint, he doesn't always have the footwork, balance and coordination to get a good shot off, particularly in traffic. Continuing to get bigger, tougher and stronger are huge keys for his future, as will simply gaining experience on the basketball court, something he clearly sorely lacks at the moment. He turned the ball over on 25% of his possessions last year, and made just 59% of his free throw attempts, two areas scouts will want to see improvement in this season.
On the other end of the floor, Len's terrific size, length and mobility give him tremendous potential on defense. He led the ACC in blocked shots per-40 minutes last season, over the likes of NBA draft picks John Henson, Tyler Zeller, Bernard James and Miles Plumlee, and averaged a solid 10 rebounds per-40p.
Len has quick feet and good timing stepping out and hedging screens on the perimeter, something you usually don't see 7-1 centers do too often. His main virtue lies as a rim protector, though. He's so tall and long he often doesn't even have to leave his feet to block a shot, and he has a tremendous knack for using his wingspan to alter and reject shots around the rim.
With that said, Len had his fair share of issues in many ACC contests last season, averaging nearly five fouls per-40 minutes versus in-conference competition. He didn't always have the strength, experience or toughness to deny opposing big men deep post position, not fighting hard enough early in possessions to prevent them from catching the ball with two feet in the paint. As he gets older, smarter and more physically mature, scouts will want to see him do a better job in this area.
An extremely talented prospect, yet still in a very early stage of his development, this upcoming season will tell us quite a bit about Len's long-term potential. If he was able to have a productive offseason on and off the court, Len could be poised for a breakout year on a national level. His early season matchup with Nerlens Noel and Kentucky in New York City on November 9th will likely be scrutinized closely.