So here’s Maryland center Alex Len’s sales pitch to be a top pick in the June 27 NBA draft:
“I’m 7-1 or 7-2 (in sneakers). I’m pretty agile. And I can step out and shoot, which makes me different from other (big) guys.’’
Then Len, who’s from the Ukraine, noted how often he’s compared to Zydrunas Ilgauskas, the Cleveland Cavaliers center who played in the NBA from 1997 through 2011.
Ilgauskas, also an Eastern European, is a good analogy: A guy with true-center size who could shoot well enough to place defenders in predicaments. Ilgauskas scored nearly 11,000 career points.
But there’s a way the Ilgauskas-Len comparison works against Len.
Ilgauskas had chronic foot problems over most of his pro career. Len is in a walking boot, after having surgery in April to stabilize a partial stress fracture in his left ankle.
Noted Charlotte foot specialist Dr. Robert Anderson did that surgery. Len’s rehab schedule suggests he’ll be cleared to start running in August and be fully recovered by the time training camp starts in October.
So he’ll miss summer league, which rookies need, but he won’t be alone in that regard. Two other candidates for the Bobcats’ No. 4 pick – Kentucky center Nerlens Noel (torn ACL) and Nevada-Las Vegas forward Anthony Bennett (rotator-cuff surgery) – are also unable to work out for teams leading up to the draft.
Len, a gymnast in his youth (he did it because he likes Jackie Chan movies), started playing basketball at the relatively late age of 13. He averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocks as a Maryland sophomore before turning pro.
He clearly got some strong coaching overseas – the kind of varied skills you seldom see from American big men these days.
“It’s that European style where big men can do whatever they want to,’’ Len described. “It just makes me a little different.’’
Translation: The European basketball philosophy is not to segregate “guard drills’’ from “big-man drills.’’ Everyone is expected to learn how to dribble and shoot.
Len says his skill set will likely fit better in the NBA than it did in college basketball. As he noted, the spacing is better in the pros, so it’s harder to constantly double-team the center.
Certainly the Bobcats could use an inside scoring presence. They’re never going to get that from Bismack Biyombo. Last season shooting guard Gerald Henderson was the Bobcats’ best post-up threat.
Asked how he’d feel about playing for the Bobcats, Len was effusive about one thing:
“I would love to play with Kemba’’ Walker.
The Bobcats hold their first pre-draft workouts Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Look for Indiana big man Cody Zeller, younger brother of former North Carolina center Tyler, to be among the participants.