Following somewhat of a breakout year, Alex Len was named the Hawks starting center heading into the 2019-2020 season. But it didn’t take long for it to become apparent he was uncomfortable in his new role.
In his first nine games, Len averaged a measly 4.0 points on a dreadful 33.3% shooting from the field and 11.8% shooting from the three-point line, with 4.4 rebounds in just over 17 minutes per game – not exactly what the Hawks were hoping for when they moved on from Dewayne Dedmon. So Lloyd Pierce made a change before Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets, moving Len to the bench, and it seems that is where he will be staying for the foreseeable future.
Len played his best game of the season, scoring 17 points and grabbing seven boards in close to 22 minutes of action. He was a +18 on the night – the first time his plus/minus hasn’t been negative since he posted his best mark of the season in Game 3 – which was a +1. Len was one of the catalysts to a Hawks win, and after the game, Coach Pierce blamed himself for Len’s early struggles.
I asked Lloyd Pierce about Alex Len's great game tonight.
"Bad coaching," Pierce says of starting Len earlier in the season instead of bringing him off the bench.
Says he will keep bringing Len off the bench moving forward.
— Sarah K. Spencer (@sarah_k_spence) November 13, 2019
Pierce went on to say some players are just better suited to come off the bench. Len is clearly one of those players. Against starting centers, he struggles, but when facing the opposing team’s second unit, his size is overpowering. And once Len is able to get going with a few easy buckets, the basket starts to look much wider when shooting from the outside. It will be intriguing to see if Len can continue to thrive now that he is returning to his more comfortable bench role.