The Phoenix Suns made a trade on Friday afternoon, sending center Marcin Gortat and three other players to the Washington Wizards for center Emeka Okafor and a first-round pick in 2014. Gortat missed the final 21 games of last season with a foot injury and had been rumored to be on the trading block as the Suns head toward a rebuilding year, so the move was not a surprise.
Alex Len was selected by the Suns with the fifth overall pick in June’s draft after two seasons at Maryland, and he averaged 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.1 blocked shots per game in just over 26 minutes per game for the Terrapins last season. He had surgery on his left ankle in May and then surgery on his right ankle in July, and he has been eased back into action this preseason (15.4 minutes per game in five games played). Suns’ general manager Ryan McDonough said earlier this week that Len wouldn’t be rushed into action, but the trade of Gortat seems to go against that thinking and may be proof he is 100 percent healthy with the season on the horizon.
Should fantasy basketball owners take notice of Phoenix’s rookie center?
At first glance the acquisition of Okafor would seem to block Len’s path to playing time, but he is out indefinitely with a neck injury and his inclusion in the trade looks to be for mostly financial reasons. The Suns do have Vyacheslav Kravtsov and Miles Plumlee remaining in the mix at center, and Channing Frye may also see time in the middle now that he has returned from heart surgery, but if Len is healthy there is no reason he won’t see significant playing time right away. That said, Plumlee impressed the team in Summer League prior to being acquired from the Indiana Pacers and could carry that momentum into starting some games early in the season.
From a fantasy perspective Len has the most to offer in rebounds and blocked shots, as long as he is healthy enough to see and sustain a notable level of playing time. Len’s skill set seems to be a good fit for Phoenix’s up-tempo style, and if his ankle issues stay behind him his scoring opportunities could grow as the season goes on with his point production following suit. Len is only worth drafting in deep leagues, and owners that are so inclined can consider him worth stashing with an eye toward getting a greater contribution from him later in the season.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.