According to the president of the Basketball Federation of Ukraine, Mikhail Brodsky, Len has promised to defend the colors of the team next year, but now it is important to approach the new season without injury and in good shape because of its games will depend on the signing of a new five-year contract with the "Phoenix".
Len, who turned 22 this summer, is entering the third year of his NBA career. While his contract is controlled by the Suns for a full four years, he will eligible next summer for an early contract extension that would kick after year four.
If Len signs a contract extension with the Suns next summer, there would be no open market competition for his services. He would only be working on the good graces of the Suns front office, like the Morrii did in summer 2014. Sorry, that was a cheap shot.
True 7-footers with defensive skills and rebounding acumen are in high demand every summer. No matter what role he plays this year backing up Tyson Chandler, the Suns would be wise to lock him up to a reasonable (by exploding salary cap standards) deal like they did the Morrii before he hits the open market in 2017 at only 24 years old.
He is fully prepared to come off the bench all season behind Chandler.
"Obviously, he's going to start," Len said without hesitation in early July after news of Chandler's signing broke. "He's an All-Star caliber player. My mentality right now is trying to get better every day, try to come early and try to get ready for the season."
When pressed harder for discontent, he reminded us, "I started my first two years off the bench."
Len later re-iterated that excitement in interviews during Summer League, and Tyson Chandler expressed excitement about working with Len the next few years. Len was one of the first Suns players Chandler met when he came to the Valley to sign his contract.
"I'm really looking forward to mentoring and working with Alex Len," Chandler said at his introductory press conference in late July. "I think he's an incredible young player. I got a chance to see him yesterday and I think we're going to work real well together."
Coach Hornacek is excited as well. He praises Len's voracious desire to learn, including using Synergy all the time and being in the gym every day.
"All the little vet tricks that Tyson pulled on him over these last couple of years," Hornacek chided, "Alex is gonna love learning."
You might see the stark contrast between Len's reaction to the Chandler signing and Markieff Morris' reaction to the Suns pursuit of LaMarcus Aldridge, but that difference speaks more to the differences in their career trajectories. While both started most/all of last season for the first time in their careers, Morris has already 'arrived' as an NBA player and received his contract extension, only to be minimized afterward. Len has yet to find his NBA ceiling. I'd compare Len's reaction more to Morris' year-long acceptance of a backup role in 2013-14 behind Channing Frye despite better production.
This IS a big year for Alex Len, coming off the bench or not. He needs to prove this year that he can stay healthy, and that he can become a force offensively while also maintaining his defense and rebounding. He has spent the entire summer in Phoenix, working out at the arena with Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin and a few other Suns. Even Sonny Weems joined them earlier this month.
Emulating Tyson Chandler - who also needed several years to actualize himself - could be perfect for Len. Chandler did not become a full-time NBA starter until his 5th NBA season, yet later won a Defensive Player of the Year award, started at center for the 2012 U.S. Olympics Gold Medal winning team, and made the NBA All-Star team. Learning from Chandler could be the best thing to ever happen to Len.
Len has a lot of growing up to do. As it stands today, he is still completely lost on offense. He has a wide range of offensive skills, but has not figured out when to use them in a game situation. In that regard, he's quite the opposite of T.J. Warren. Warren knows exactly how to get the most out of his scoring opportunities.
Let's hope that Len's career does not completely follow that of Chandler, who did not become one of the league's best players until he left Chicago.