There was a congratulatory atmosphere Monday at Georgetown as Otto Porter Jr. announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft. It was the celebration of two seasons of progression and success. After being named a first-team All-American and Big East player of the year, the consensus opinion is that Porter is ready for the next level.
When Alex Len announces his decision to enter the draft at Maryland on Tuesday, it won't feel quite the same. In his two seasons, the Terrapins didn't get quite as much out of Len as they put in. The departure of the 7-foot-1 sophomore feels like the unfinished business of an unfinished product.
But who can blame Len for bolting? He will be a lottery pick and an instant multimillionaire. Coming to America from the Ukraine, College Park was always a means to an end, which coach Mark Turgeon was quick to acknowledge every time he was asked this year about the possibility of Len leaving.
While Porter had more to lose by staying in school, it's not as clear in the case of Len. What would another year of muscle building under trainer Kyle Tarp have done for Len's body? What would another year of learning under Turgeon have done for his game? And what would another year in a program that is trending upward have done for Len's draft stock?
Len has a dazzling skill set, which explains why a player of his modest numbers -- 11.9 ppg, 7.8 rpg, 2.1 bpg -- is such a valued commodity. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com has Len as the eighth-best prospect in the draft, ahead of two of the nation's most productive college players, No. 9 Marcus Smart and No. 10 Victor Oladipo. The NBA's thirst for 7-footers who can run the floor, shoot from 15 feet and handle and pass the ball apparently is insatiable.
The holes in Len's game are obvious. He gets pushed around inside. He's not a solid finisher in traffic. He struggles in the halfcourt offense. And he's a weak defender one-on-one. But all of these shortcomings can be addressed with more physical development and game experience. He would have received both in another year at Maryland. It will be interesting to see how much he gets next year in the NBA or -- more likely -- the D-League.
- Kevin Dunleavy