The 2013 NBA Draft was a memorable one; however, it was only memorable because of how little talent it produced. Anthony Bennett, who only played 52 total games with the Cleveland Cavaliers, was selected first overall and now finds himself in and out of the G-League. Giannis Antetokounmpo, selected 15th overall and brother of Dallas’ late (really late) 2018 second-round pick Kostas, has been the most successful player to come out of that draft. Five players selected in that draft have found their way into a Maverick jersey at some point in their career: Shane Larkin, Nerlens Noel, Jeff Withey, Pierre Jackson and Ricky Ledo. Now, heading into an exciting, future-centered summer, the Mavericks may be taking a look at acquiring another former 2013 pick in Alex Len, who was selected fifth that year.
After Phoenix renounced their rights to Alex Len (along with Elfrid Payton), he will enter free agency fully unrestricted. According to Mike Fisher of 247Sports.com, the Mavericks will explore signing the 7-foot-1 big man. While he will not be a “Plan-A” option, he may be a safe backup plan if Dallas cannot land someone like DeAndre Jordan via trade or free agency. There is even a chance Len could be brought in in addition to one of the bigger-name free-agent centers. But what would Len bring to Dallas?
After drafting Luka Doncic and Jalen Brunson in last week’s draft, the team is in desperate need for a young center to add onto their growing core of Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes and now Doncic. Len is just 25 years old and is entering his fifth year in the league. His age is a plus and would help the Mavericks’ youth movement.
Alex Len was underutilized in Phoenix. Even though the Suns were in full-on tank mode this past season, Len still only saw 20 minutes of action per game. He was efficient in those 20 minutes, however, averaging 8.5 points and 7.5 rebounds on a career-high 57% shooting from the field. Len led the Suns in double-doubles last season with eleven, even though he was not usually in the starting lineup.
The Mavericks were 27th in the league in rebounding last season, so Len’s near eight boards per game and 7’1 frame would bring much needed help in that area. Dallas’ leading rebounder last season was Harrison Barnes, who played both forward positions interchangeably throughout the year. He averaged 6.1 boards per game and pulled down 468 all season. Len, who played nearly 14 less minutes per game than Barnes, managed to pull down 518 rebounds last season. In one particular game, the Maryland product grabbed a career-high 19 rebounds.
The former fifth-overall pick has shown flashes of why he was selected so high throughout his career. While he may not be a lob threat, he is an underrated athlete that finishes well above the rim and in the paint in general. In the restricted area last season, he shot nearly 62%. On cuts to the basket, Len shot 74%, and with Doncic and Dennis Smith Jr. in the lineup, he could thrive off of their playmaking abilities.
While scoring would be a plus from their big man, front court defense is going to be the priority with Dallas’ next starting center. Dennis Smith Jr. proved himself to be a capable defender last season, but Luka Doncic may need some assurance behind him. Alex Len could provide that. While he only blocks about one shot per game, he has logged a career-best six blocks in four different games throughout his time in the league. At 7’1, 260 pounds, his low-post defense would be strong and would scare cutting wings out of the paint. He has shown flashes, but he would get a larger defensive role in Dallas and expand on that untapped potential.
While he may not be the first phone call the Mavericks make on July 1, Len would be a great fit for the Mavericks next year. Whether he is backing up someone like DeAndre Jordan or DeMarcus Cousins, or he finds himself in the Dallas starting lineup, Alex Len could be another building block for the right price.
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