Young Phoenix Suns center Alex Len has turned the ripe old age of 23 today.
If you see him walking down the street, be sure to give him a fist bump and commiserate on the impending creaky knees and back he's about to endure for the rest of his life. Because, you know, that's what we do when someone gets older.
As we look back at Len's youth, let's consider his place in Suns history.
Healthiest 22 yr old Suns 7-footer ever
Bet you wouldn't have guessed that one, eh?
*All stats in this article courtesy of basketball-reference.com
Only four 7-footers have ever even PLAYED for the Phoenix Suns at the young age of 22. Can you believe that?
Of those, Len played the most minutes and appeared in the most games.
Let's recall on his best games of the year: 31 points, 15 rebounds versus the Orlando Magic.
Most productive 22-year old 7-footer in Suns history
Given there's only been four 22 year olds in Suns uniforms at least 7-feet tall, that's probably not a high bar to jump over. But Alex Len did it, and none of them can take that away.
Len's 9 points and 7.6 rebounds per game for the season far outpaces any of his Suns competition.
Top-10 across NBA
Among active 7-footers in the NBA today (for example, including Rudy Gobert, but NOT Shaquille O'Neal) who played in the NBA at age 22, Len ranks 8th in points per game and 7th in rebounds per game among the 28 active 7-footers in their 22nd year on the planet.
Of course, a large factor in pure statistical production is opportunity, and Alex Len had a lot of that. The Suns even started him at power forward for half the year to stop stunting his minutes. But even in terms of per-36, which levels the playing field a teensy bit, Len still ranks favorably (14th and 9th, respectively).
In terms of Suns franchise history, this is where Alex Len needs to put his fingers in his ears and yell lalalalalalala!
Robin Lopez played hurt physically and mentally his whole 23rd year, the 2011-12 season, and lost his job to Marcin Gortat by January. Jake Tsakalidis played in only half as many games (33) as he had when he was 22, supplanted on the depth chart by veteran Scott Williams as the Suns turned to young Amare Stoudemire and Shawn Marion in the front court. Tsakalidis was traded the next year for Brevin Knight. Nick Vanos played a lot more at age 23, but his production stayed quite modest, as back then young players just didn't get the same opportunities as veterans. Sadly, Vanos life ended way too early in a plane crash the next year.
So this is Alex Len's chance to be the VERY BEST 23 YEAR OLD 7-FOOTER IN SUNS FRANCHISE HISTORY!
Here's his competition.
Not a tall hill to climb, Alex. You can do it!
Across the league
Most of the league's players get better in their 23rd year versus their 22nd year, so we can expect the same from Len as long as he stays healthy.
Among active 7-footers who played in the NBA in their 22nd and 23rd year on the planet, every single one of them got better. All of the guys above Len on the 'across the NBA' chart above got better, including the Suns own Tyson Chandler back when he was with the Bulls.
So we can expect the same from our Ukraine Train. (or is there a better nickname for Len out there? Seriously, we are an awful community if after three years we can't come up with something that everyone agrees with!).
Len has improved every year in the NBA, no matter how you slice and dice his production. Sure, he has a long way to go, but that just makes it even easier to improve, amiright?