When the Phoenix Suns picked Alex Len with their 5th pick in the 2013 NBA draft, it looked like the Suns had started the next phase of their quest to win an NBA championship. After more thought, buyer’s remorse has set in and I fear the odds are not in the Suns’ favor when it comes to drafting their “Big Man of the Future.”
What are the expectations of Alex Len?
In the past 20 years there have been 124 centers drafted in the first round (according to http://www.basketball-reference.com). The expectations of each of those centers were not to average 30 points, 15 rebounds and block 2.5 shots. Rather, a center who can give his team 20 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks would be hitting NBA draft gold. Last year, Dwight Howard was regarded as the top center in the league and he averaged 17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds and 2.4 blocks.
Of the 124 first-round centers, how many centers averaged a journeyman stat line of 8 points, 6 rebounds and 1 blocked shot a game for their career? 50%, 75%. Try 19%. Those are not hard standards, but only 24 centers were able to make 4 baskets a game, catch 6 rebounds and block one shot. The numbers are even worse when you raise the expectations up to 10 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks a year. Six players have averaged over 10 points, 8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
- · Anthony Davis (1st Pick, 2012)
- · Andrew Bogut (1st Pick, 2005)
- · Dwight Howard (1st Pick, 2004)
- · Emeka Okafer (2nd Pick, 2004)
- · Yao Ming (1st Pick, 2002)
- · Pau Gasol (2nd Pick, 2001)
Those players, each of whom was picked 1st or 2nd, are the only centers who have performed to a minimum level of acceptability for a first-round pick. Twelve of the 24 players to meet journeyman status were all drafted with the first four picks of the draft.
Even scarier is if you look at every draft that did not have a center taken before the 5th pick, just like this year, and there is only one year in eight that produced a journeyman center in those drafts. In these years, being the “best big man in the draft” is similar to telling teams, “Don’t waste your time with me. I will not be here after five years.”
The position of center has changed from the key player in the league to a supporting cast. If you look at the last 10 years, how many champion teams had a center who met the standards for a journeyman center? Andrew Bynum in 2009 and Ben Wallace in 2004 were the only teams that had a center meet the qualifications for a journeyman.
Teams tend to favor the faster game and the three point shot, rather than the slow down and post up plays. The role of center is to provide picks, rebounds, blocks and put backs.
How many centers reached an acceptable performance in this last season (2012-2013)?
Five: Anthony Davis, Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard, Joakim Noah and the Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat. For all the talk of the importance of having a top center, no wonder Dwight Howard got so much attention during the free agent period of 2013. He is the only center who could be considered a franchise player, and that could be debated.
After reviewing this information, one has to wonder “What are the expectations of Alex Len with the Phoenix Suns?”
Not much, just 8 points, 6 rebounds and 1 block per game for the next 5 years.
But there is only a 19% chance of that.
Greg Sherwood has followed the Phoenix Suns since they were playing at the state fairgrounds in the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum.