Atlanta Hawks: Alex Len proving to be a free agency bargain

(Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images)
(Photo by Will Newton/Getty Images) /

The Phoenix Suns decided Alex Len was no longer a part of their long-term future. They set him free last summer and the Atlanta Hawks took advantage with a “prove it” contract that Len has delivered on.

The Atlanta Hawks signed young center Alex Len to a two-year, $8.5 million contract last summer, and he proved to be worth every penny this season.

Len was a former top-five pick in the 2013 NBA Draft of the Phoenix Suns. The Suns let him go because he was not developing into the player they envisioned when the team used a lottery pick on him.

It’s not often that a former top-five pick, still in his mid-20s, hits the open market. Atlanta capitalized on what the team saw as a potential steal for one of the best player development staffs in the league.

This season, Len averaged the most points per game of his career and extended his shooting range out to the 3-point line. He shot 36.3 percent from the downtown on 2.6 attempts per game and was especially efficient from the corners. The Hawks have been all about empowering players to shoot 3s since Mike Budenholzer took the helm in 2013-14, and Len embraced the challenge under first-year head coach Lloyd Pierce.

In 77 games played on the season, Len averaged 11.1 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 0.9 blocks per game on 49.4 percent shooting.

Len’s contract was something of a surprise when he signed for two years and $8.5 million. The big man saw his market begin to dry up as a combination of inefficiency and play style hampered his value. However, Len’s contract now seems like a huge bargain because of his cheap salary. Free agency bargains are difficult to find now in the age of overpaying and supermax contracts.

Len is the 213th-highest paid player in the NBA. Players who are similarly compensated include Kyle Singler, Glenn Robinson III and Kyle O’Quinn. His salary is similar to that of a first round draft pick in his first year in the league.

Formerly seen as a defensive liability, Len worked his big body into better positions to both contest shots and eat up rebounds. Much of his success can be attributed to Pierce, along with the rest of the Hawks’ growth.

Pierce was a defensive guru during his time in Philadelphia and has already instilled much of his prowess into this young Hawks team that is so eager to learn.

With Len becoming an offensive presence and improving on a solid defensive campaign at just $8.5 million through two years, his value eclipses his contract worth — and he is still improving as he approaches his 26th birthday.

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Another low-risk, high-reward acquisition for Atlanta looks to pay dividends as the rebuild accelerates quicker than anticipated.