Alex Len was notorious for one thing while in Phoenix – underachieving. The former #5 overall pick never found his footing in his five seasons with the Suns, averaging nine points on 42.3% from the field in his best scoring season. Turns out that was more of a knock on the Phoenix coaching staff rather than Len himself. The Suns have picked in the lottery year in and year out for the last decade and only have Devin Booker to show for it. They’ve had a rotating door of head coaches, and Len told me during last season, that is one of the reasons he never felt comfortable there.
“In Phoenix, there was a lot of changes. I went through three different coaches, three different coaching staffs,” Len said. “It was a lot. A new coach comes in, and he puts in a new system. There wasn’t a lot of stability.”
And none of those coaching staffs were able to recognize one of Len’s most significant advantages – his shooting for a man that stands 7’1″. He had only attempted 25 threes in his career before joining the Hawks, a number that would see an exponential spike in year one.
“Once I got here; Lloyd (Pierce) saw me shoot it and was like I want you to develop that part of your game,” Len said.
Len quickly adapted the three-point shot and chucked them up at will during the 2018-2019 season. He attempted 2.6 three-pointers a contest and made them at a more than respectable 36.3% clip.
At the time I spoke to Coach Pierce about Len, the center was shooting around 34% from behind the arc. Pierce said, “If we can get him over 35%, I’d love to get him at least three attempts per game.” So expect an even more trigger happy Len in his second season in Atlanta, and opportunities will be aplenty as the full-time starter with Dewayne Dedmon heading to Sacramento.
This is new territory for Len. He’s playing for the same coaching staff – one that believes in him – for the second year in a row. It will also be the first time he is viewed as the sure-fire starter, and he’s coming off a career year. There’s a reason for him to be confident, and he has the chance to prove he deserves a long-term contract in Atlanta.
Per 36 minutes, Len put up some eye-popping numbers:
19.9 points, 9.9 rebounds, 49.4 FG%, 36.3 3-PT FG%, 2.0 assists, and 1.6 blocks
I don’t expect him to play 36 minutes this season, but I do believe he will crush his career numbers that he set just last year. Trae Young’s playmaking will leave him with tons of open three-pointers, and he should get even more easy baskets at the rim with shooters like Cam Reddish and De’Andre Hunter added in the draft. Plus, he’s a handful to cover on the offensive glass with his tremendous size and has excellent hands.
On a team full of youthful top draft picks, Len flies under the radar. He doesn’t have the superstar potential of guys like Trae Young, John Collins, Cam Reddish, or even De’Andre Hunter. But just 26 years old, Len is only scratching the surface of his potential. He will be a critical piece to this Hawks team on both ends of the court, and I expect him to take full advantage of this glorious opportunity.