Thankfully, the egregious contracts that were being handed out to role players finally stopped. Remember when Timofey Mozgov received a 4-year deal worth $16 million annually from the Los Angeles Lakers? Now, All-Star big men like Demarcus Cousins, are struggling to find teams willing to invest that kind of money into them. That makes it much easier for lesser teams to find some diamonds in the rough at an affordable price.
Len was signed by the Hawks in the offseason to a bite-sized, 2-year, $8 million contract. A former 5th overall pick out of Maryland, he never reached that potential in his stint with the Suns. In five years with Phoenix, Len never started more than 46 games in a season and never averaged more than 24 minutes per game. This resulted in a pedestrian scoring average of just over 7 points a game.
But as they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. That could be the case for the Hawks. With both Dewayne Dedmon and John Collins missing the early part of the season, Len has had the opportunity to start in all 13 games. Statistically, the numbers are not dramatically different. However, Len is showing progress in expanding his game that could prove to be valuable by season’s end.
At 7’1″, the one thing Len has been solid at his entire career is protecting the paint and rebounding. In the three-happy NBA that exists today, that’s not always enough for a center to earn minutes. That is where Len is really working to improve. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Len had only attempted 25 threes over his five-year career. In his 13 games with the Hawks, he has already shot 27.
The three-point shooting percentage may barely be sniffing 30 at this point, but the eye-test looks a lot better than the numbers. Len has a pretty nice stroke from behind the arc. He also clearly has no problem letting it lose, averaging close to four three-point shots per 36 minutes. If the shot can become more consistent for Len, there are going to be several teams calling the Hawks prior to the trade deadline.
Other than Atlanta developing their young talent, their main goal is flipping the rest of their roster for future assets. Alex Len falls into a little bit of both those categories. At 25, the Hawks could see him as a project for the next two years that could eventually develop into a quality piece when the team is competitive again. But at the very least, an improved Alex Len under an extremely manageable contract could allow Atlanta to stockpile even more draft picks, much like the Boston Celtics did over the course of their rebuild.
Len’s progress overall, especially as a shooter, is something worth monitoring going forward.