PHOENIX — Alex Len, not long ago tabbed as a potential surprise No. 1 pick, fell to the Phoenix Suns at the fifth pick in the 2013 NBA Draft.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports they will keep him despite rumors indicating Phoenix was looking to move out of its fifth spot. Considering the options that fell in the Suns laps, that’s not that surprising — Len was first on their draft board to start the night.
“I like the sun so I’m happy to go there,” Len said to the Phoenix media via a conference call. “When I was there, they told me (I was first on the board). I love the Suns, can’t wait to start to work.”
Anthony Bennett was the shocker No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers, defying the odds to even the most in-tune basketball reporters. Victor Oladipo went second to the Orlando Magic, and Otto Porter went third to the Wizards in one of the only to-be-expected happens of the day.
“I think it started with that first pick in the draft,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s been kind of a crazy draft so far. When we saw who was going to go first, that changed things.”
After Oladipo went second, it was clear the Suns would have Len, Nerlens Noel and Ben McLemore on the board, making a trade out of that fifth spot seemingly more unlikely.
When the Charlotte Bobcats picked Cody Zeller fourth, the Suns had all three available.
That was three prospects who had at one point or another been considered No. 1 choices. Phoenix went with Len, who must recently usurped Noel as the Cavs’ pick at No. 1. Len’s upside is legitimately equal to or better than Noel’s, as Mike Schmitz of Draft Express told us in our Monday Google+ show, and the pick gives the Suns a chance to move Marcin Gortat via a trade.
Oddly enough, ESPN Insiders’ player-only mock draft had Len falling to Phoenix, and it was ironically Marcin Gortat who made the decision with himself in mind.
“It’s not easy to find bigs, and I believe that to win a championship, you need two true big men — Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler in Dallas, Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett in Boston — and I think Alex can play the 4,” Gortat says. “But I’d have him come off the bench for the first year or two while he’s learning, just like I learned behind Dwight Howard in Orlando. Every young guy has to go through hell in the NBA, learning how to practice three hours a day, and then play the next day, for 82 games.”
Len said he was most excited to work with Suns point guard Goran Dragic. Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said Len didn’t get the opportunities to be a go-to offensive threat at Maryland, and he stressed that his all-around game was the alluring part of his game.
The 20-year-old from Maryland averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game in his sophomore season.
“Anytime you get a 7-foot-1 guy with a long wingspan, those skills,” Hornacek said, “it’s not often you can get those types of players. If you look at that production at Maryland, he didn’t get the ball enough.”
Looking forward to playing in an up-tempo, spread out NBA offense, Len believes he’ll be able to operate more in the post. But he said he’s most ready to contribute defensively.
Len is recovering from a stress fracture in his ankle. He should be available for training camp and can begin playing again in August.