His recovery from offseason surgery on a partial ankle stress fracture will keep Alex Len sidelined well through summer, but the former Maryland center is keeping plenty busy at this week’s NBA draft combine.
Len arrived in Chicago on Wednesday night night and promptly met with four teams — the Utah Jazz, Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Boston Celtics. The Jazz, Kings and T-Wolves all hold lottery picks and are three of 10 such teams scheduled to meet with the 7-foot-1 Len this week. Several others outside the lottery, like the Celtics, have also lined up interviews.
Len’s injury precluded him from participating in workouts, preemptively silencing a golden opportunity for Len to showcase his inside-out game for NBA executives and boost his stock. But because Len won’t be off crutches for some time, practicing his answers and ever-improving English has taken top priority in the past several weeks.
Len also isn’t alone in sitting out the combine’s workout portion. Fellow front-court prospects Cody Zeller (Indiana), Mason Plumlee (Duke), Nerlens Noel (Kentucky) and Anthony Bennett (UNLV) were all out for various reasons, from injuries to personal preference.
After wrapping up in Chicago in three days, Len will continue rehabbing and conduct on-site interviews with interested teams.
Whether Len’s injury actually affects his stock depends on a few factors. One NBA executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, predicted that the actual draft order, once it’s determined by the lottery, will have a huge effect on the order in which players are selected, much more so than in past years. The projected positions will fluctuate depending on individual team needs. Even the No. 1 pick isn’t set in stone. Where the ping pong balls fall on May 21 could dictate where Len lands, as well as whether his foot injury will have teams shying away.
Speaking over lunch last week, Len’s agent Michael Lelchitski said individual workouts would have played toward Len’s advantage, allowing the 19-year-old – he turns 20 in mid-June before the draft – to showcase his athleticism, speed and soft shooting touch, the traits that have scouts talking about his long-term potential. It’s highly unlikely, however, the injury will drop Len out of the 14-team lottery altogether, especially given that Robert Anderson, the NBA’s most trusted and highly regarded ankle surgeon, performed the operation.
Colleague Michael Lee is on site in Chicago, and will have more when available.