2013 NBA Draft: Cleveland Cavaliers Should Pass on Maryland’s Alex Len at No. 1

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Updated: June 19, 2013

By Bob Evans
Senior Writer

Each day leading up to the NBA Draft presents a new rumor, report or flavor of the week in regards to the Cleveland Cavaliers and the No. 1 overall selection. Thanks to New Orelans Times-Picayune writer Jimmy Smith, this week’s report is that the new frontrunner—according to Smith—for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft is Maryland center Alex Len.

While that rumor was quickly debunked by Fox Sports Ohio’s Sam Amico in his latest article, it appears Len is still in consideration for the No. 1 overall selection. Amico stated, “…FSO sources said such is not the case, and for the time being, there is no favorite.” Since Amico is very well connected to the Cavaliers’ organization, for the time being we will take his word over a New Orleans Pelicans’ writer.

Len may not be the frontrunner, but he is certainly among Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore and Otto Porter as possible future members of the Wine and Gold. And while this writer typically does not buy into different rumors spreading across the web, there are a lot of reasons why the 7’1” and 255-pound center’s name is high on the Cavaliers’ draft board.

At just 20-years old, Len averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game as a sophomore at Maryland this season in just 26.4 minutes per game. After coming over from the Ukraine just two years ago, Len has added bulk (nearly 30 pounds) to his 7’1” frame and it appears he is not done growing yet thanks to his larger upper body and wide shoulders.

There is a lot to like and dislike about Len’s game, which is why so many people are torn on his NBA potential. At first glance on film you see a big man with a nearly 7’4” wingspan with the ability to run the floor well, finish aggressively above the rim and hit mid-range jumpers with ease. Len shoots at a high percentage from the floor (53.4 percent last season), and seems to position himself well on offense in order to get those high percentage shots. Thanks to his ability to move, he continuously is moving without the ball and can cut to the basket with the best of them on the Pick and Roll.

Unfortunately when you study his film more, you see quite a few glaring negatives in his game as well.

At first glance it seemed as if Len had a very polished offensive game near the basket, however, when you look more closely he has a tendency to be passive when in a mid-range situation. He settled for the outside shot on numerous occasions when he could have attacked the basket with ease thanks to his mobility. He also is very poor when forced to utilize his left hand, throwing up wild hook shots among other poor shots. NBA coaches will recognize this immediately on film and have their post defenders forcing him to his left early in his career.

On the defensive side of the ball, Len is an excellent rebounder and seems like he could be an elite rim protector (2.1 blocks in 26.4 minutes per game). However, that same film study showed that while he should be effective in transition, he was often late in rotating back to his man, allowing easy baskets in the process.

This writer’s biggest concern with Len also came while studying his defense, as the big man was pushed around by smaller offensive players that established good post position. Despite being as big as he is, Len routinely allowed players under 6’9” to make him look pretty soft down low. If he could not handle defending smaller players at the collegiate level, how is Len going to body up aggressive centers weighing 260-plus pounds at the NBA level?

There is certainly a lot of intrigue with Len, as he looks like he could develop an offensive game similar to that of Brooklyn Nets big man Brook Lopez. While Lopez has developed into one of the best offensive centers in the league, there have always been questions about his toughness and being outworked down low.

Undoubtedly Len will be selected in the Top 10 of the 2013 NBA Draft—his skillset and size certainly warrant that. But as a potential No. 1 overall pick, Len lacks that “it” factor that will separate him from the other candidates. So unless the Cavaliers make some blockbuster move and trade down from the No. 1 pick, Chris Grant and the front office should just say no to Len.

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