Phoenix Suns: 10 Takeaways From The 2014-15 Season (Part 1)

Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) reacts against the Boston Celtics at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Brandon Knight (3) reacts against the Boston Celtics at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
4 of 6
Phoenix Suns
Jan 21, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns center Alex Len (21) celebrates as Portland Trail Blazers forward Thomas Robinson reacts in the closing seconds of the game at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Blazers 118-113. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

8. Alex Len Could Be A Franchise Center

It seems like a lifetime ago that Miles Plumlee was an NBA starting center, but at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, he was holding down that position for the Phoenix Suns. Don’t laugh. It’s true.

In his rookie season, Len started the year recovering from offseason ankle surgeries. Then he injured his knee, and he finished the year only playing 42 games with forgettable averages of 2.0 points, 2.4 rebounds and 0.4 blocks in 8.4 minutes per game.

During the summer leading up to the 2014-15 season, it seemed like Len was the prototypical injury-prone big man that every NBA team has nightmares about drafting. He broke his pinkie finger in his first Summer League game and Suns fans braced themselves for another season of not getting the chance to see what he could do.

We were wrong.

It took longer than many thought it should have, but Len eventually overtook Plumlee for the starting spot. It was only a matter of time until that happened, but Len accelerated the process with excellent shot-blocking and a surprisingly smooth midrange touch on the offensive end.

Len finished the season averaging 6.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 22 minutes per game. Those numbers aren’t exactly Rudy Gobert-esque, but Len raised his field goal percentage to 50.7 percent, he shot 70 percent from the foul line and he anchored a defense that was surprisingly competent with him in the middle.

Improving his rebounding will be a focus for this 21-year-old, but Len has his own list of areas for improvement:

"“Keep building on what I have right now, develop a post game and just keep getting stronger, pay attention to the little things.”"

Len would also do well to avoid getting in foul trouble so he can actually stay on the floor. But in the injury department, other than an unfortunate ankle sprain and a broken nose — two freak incidents — Len was able to stay on the floor health-wise, playing in 69 games.

Is it possible the Suns have a franchise center on their hands here?

It’s too early to say for sure, but my inclination would be “yes.”

To be clear, by “franchise center,” I’m not talking Hakeem Olajuwon or David Robinson here. But when was the last time a contender won a title with their best player being a center anyway? Shaquille O’Neal and the Los Angeles Lakers? I guess you could argue Kevin Garnett on the Boston Celtics, but the fact remains that dominant offensive big men don’t particularly lead teams to championships anymore.

What does help a team win championships is a big man who can defend the rim, alter shots in the paint, pull down rebounds and finish near the basket. At 21 years old and 7’1″, there’s no reason to think Len can’t become that guy.

Though he’s not particularly athletic, Len makes up for it with his sheer size. And what’s scary is this kid is only going to get bigger and stronger.

Len still has a lot of areas for improvement, but as a starter this season, he averaged 6.9 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game. Per, Len held opponents to 53.1 percent shooting on shots from less than six feet. Just for reference, that narrowly edges what Anthony Davis, the NBA’s leading shot-blocker, gave up on such shots (53.2 percent).

To be fair, the Brow saw a much higher volume of shots given how many more minutes he played this season, but the point still stands: Len has the potential to be a game-changer on defense. For a young team that desperately needs to improve on that end, I’d say that makes Lensanity a huge part of this team moving forward.

Next: No. 7