There was some thought that Alex Len's stock could have gone up even higher had the former Maryland center been able to attend private on-court workouts for a number of NBA teams picking at or near the top of next week's NBA draft.
It now appears that the 7-foot-1 Len could become the No. 1 pick by the Cleveland Cavaliers despite being sidelined since early April after undergoing surgery to repair a partial stress fracture in his left ankle. At least one mock draft has Len going ahead of former Kentucky center Nerlens Noel.
Some of the shift has to do with the uncertainty surrounding Noel's recovery from a torn anterior cruciate ligament, and whether he will be ready to play at the start of next season. But the Cavaliers were among a handful of NBA teams that scouted Len extensively last season.
I talked with former Cavaliers center Zydrunas Ilgauskas a couple of times at Comcast Center over the course of Len's sophomore season, and Ilgauskas said Len's skill set and size translated well to being a successful NBA player.
The Cavaliers also recently hired one of their former players, Vitaly Potapenko, as an assistant coach. Potapenko was known as the "Ukraine Train" and was the first player from Len's country to be drafted into the NBA when he was picked 12thoverall in 1996.
With all the speculation that Miami Heat star LeBron James is contemplating a return to his hometown after his current contract runs out, having a center with some sort of offensive game might help attract King James back to Cleveland.
Len's offensive game is way ahead of Noel's, and Len's defense, particularly around the rim, improved during his two years in College Park. The ability of Len hitting outside shots in the NBA's pick-and-roll game could also be enticing to a team currently building around point guard Kyrie Irving.
The latest indications are that the two teams picking right below the Cavaliers -- the Orlando Magic and the Washington Wizards -- are not interested in Len. There has also been mention of Len going No. 4 to the Charlotte Bobcats, who recently named Patrick Ewing as associate head coach, as well as to the Phoenix Suns at No. 5 or the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 6.
A lot could change in the next week and it still wouldn't surprise anyone if the Cavaliers trade the No. 1 pick to position themselves better for next year, when the draft is going to be much stronger. But if they hold onto it, there's a chance that Len could be the first player invited up on the stage of the Barclays Center by retiring NBA commissioner David Stern.
It seems a fitting place, considering that is where Len entered everyone's radar last November with what might have been his best all-around game in a Maryland uniform: 23 points, 12 rebounds and four blocked shots against Noel and the then top-ranked Wildcats.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun