Stinar: Len could be at center of things for young Hawks

Alex Len is primed to have a breakout season for the Hawks.

Alex Len was drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft for a reason. He can handle the ball, shoot and rebound, a rare mix of talents for a 7-footer. Because of circumstances out of his control, he wasn’t able to become the player he could have been during his five-year tenure with the Phoenix Suns.

However, with the Atlanta Hawks last season, he had a career high in points, while playing the least amount of minutes since his rookie season.

I don’t think we have even seen half of his potential unlocked.

The Suns have failed to develop their talent from within, and there is a track record to show that it isn’t just the players’ fault. Outside of DeAndre Ayton, their last two top-five picks have been put into situations where they have also struggled. Josh Jackson was taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2017 draft and they recently traded him for essentially nothing. Dragon Bender was taken with the fourth overall pick in and he is no longer with the team. The list goes on and on of failed top draft picks in Phoenix and at some point, the finger has to be pointed at the team instead of the player.

One big thing that I think totally put Len in an impossible situation in Phoenix was the lack of a point guard. At one point, the Suns infamously had Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe. They had too many point guards and since then they’ve had basically none.

Playing with Trae Young did wonders for Len last season and his stats backed that up. In just more than 20 minutes per game (not even two quarters), he averaged 11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and nearly one block per game. He shot better than 36 percent from three and nearly 50 percent from the floor. However, his numbers look even better when looking at what he did after the All-Star break. He put up 13.4 points per game on 41-percent shooting from three and 51.6-percent shooting from the field. Those kind of numbers for an entire season would be in the Brook Lopez-caliber of a player, and Len put up those numbers in just 22.3 minutes per game.

While he just completed his sixth season in the NBA, he actually only turned 26 this summer. There is a case to be made for him to be included with the bright, young core in Atlanta. As of right now, the Hawks have three centers on their roster in Len, Bruno Fernando and Damian Jones. If they do not add another center with their two open roster spots, there is a real possibility Len will be their starting center on opening night. This would be the first time he could truly show his worth in a winnable situation. His per-36 minutes stats last season were 19.9 points and 9.9 rebounds per game. He won’t be playing those kind of minutes, but there is a real chance he could play close to 30 minutes a game.

In fact, in the games he played 30-plus minutes last season, he averaged 20.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

Makes you wonder.

In Atlanta, Len is now in the perfect situation to thrive and I believe with a starting role, he could be the center of the future for the Hawks.