Toronto Raptors

What Alex Len brings to the Toronto Raptors

After losing Serge Ibaka to the LA Clippers and Marc Gasol to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Toronto Raptors quickly pivoted by picking up Aron Baynes and Alex Len in free agency to shore up their centre rotation for the 2020-21 season.

I've already broken down what Baynes brings to the Raptors, so let's take a closer look at what Len brings to the table.

MORE: Fast facts on Len

Rim-running

Len generated around half of his offence as a roller (28.8 percent) and cutter (20.3 percent) last season. While he ranked in only the 43rd percentile in scoring efficiency as the roll man and the 49th percentile in scoring efficiency as a cutter, he's a huge target and a solid finisher around the basket.

According to NBA.com, Len made 68.3 percent of his shot attempts in the restricted area last season, a similar rate as Clint Capela, Montrezl Harrell and DeAndre Jordan. That was up from 62.0 percent the season prior and 61.6 percent in 2017-18.

Len doesn't offer much from floater range or midrange, but the Raptors can surround him with four shooters at all times, opening up the paint for him to play to his strengths as a rim-runner.

If nothing else, the Raptors will expect Len to set hard screens and make himself available around the basket on offence to take advantage of teams loading up on Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam. Having played with Devin Booker in Phoenix, De'Aaron Fox in Sacramento and Trae Young in Atlanta, Len has experience playing alongside All-Star calibre players, which should ease his fit next to each one of them.

3-point shooting

Len has flashed some potential as a 3-point shooter over the last couple of seasons.

In the first five seasons of his career, Len attempted a total of 25 3-pointers. Over the last two seasons, he's taken a total of 263 3-pointers, representing around a quarter (27.2 percent) of his field-goal attempts.

The bulk of Len's 3-point attempts came in the 2018-19 season when he attempted 2.6 3-pointers per game and made them at a 36.3 percent clip, both of which are impressive numbers for a 7-footer. The Raptors can only hope they get that version of Len because he wasn't as much of a threat from the 3-point line in 2019-20. Not only did his volume plummet (1.1 3-point attempts per game), he made only 27.1 percent of his 3-point opportunities.

If the Raptors do get that version of Len, it would help replace some of the floor spacing Gasol and Ibaka provided at the centre position. The Raptors at least have Baynes, who is coming off of the best 3-point shooting season of his career, so they don't necessarily need Len to be the 3-point shooter he was two seasons ago, but it would make him much more valuable if he can regain his shooting touch because it would give Lowry, VanVleet and Siakam even more room to operate in the halfcourt.

Rim protection and rebounding

Len isn't the type of centre that offers much switchability. Based on data collected by Krishna Narsu of The BBall Index, Len posted a defensive versatility rating of 54.3 last season. That was closer to the defensive versatility rating of Hassan Whiteside (52.7) than it was of Gasol (57.3) and Ibaka (59.7).

Instead, Len is a capable rim protector who is at his best playing drop coverage.

Len averaged 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes last season, which would've put him behind only Chris Boucher (2.7) for most on the Raptors. That wasn't a one-off either. For his career, Len is averaging 1.8 blocks per 36 minutes, putting him on the same page as the likes of Capela (2.0), Andre Drummond (1.8), Joakim Noah (1.7) and Gasol (1.6).

To boot, Len held opponents to 50.2 percent shooting around the basket last season, a similar rate as Ibaka (51.5 percent).

Once again, Len is a massive presence in the paint, standing at 7-feet with a 7-foot-3.5 wingspan. With Lowry, VanVleet, Siakam and OG Anunoby surrounding him, the Raptors shouldn't need Len to do much more than patrol the paint.

Len is also a strong rebounder, both on offence and on defence.

Len split the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks (40 games) and Sacramento Kings (15 games). In Atlanta, he rebounded 8.7 percent of the team's misses when he was on the court, putting him in the 62nd percentile at his position. He rebounded 17.5 percent of the opponent's missed field goals, which ranked him in the 48th percentile at his position.

Len was an even better rebounder in the 15 games he was with the Kings, pulling down 12.7 percent of Sacramento's misses and 23.8 percent of the opposing team's misses. Those marks ranked him in the 92nd percentile and the 88th percentile, respectively, at his position.

Small sample size? Sure. But Len has been an above-average offensive and defensive rebounder for his entire career, per Cleaning The Glass.

The stats to pay attention to in the table below are fgOR% (the percentage of his team's missed field goals that he rebounded) and fgDR% (the percentage of his opponent's missed field goals that he rebounded). The darker the shade of orange, the higher the player's percentile rank is at their position.

The Raptors were a below-average rebounding team last season, ranking 22nd in defensive rebounding percentage and 24th in offensive rebounding percentage. With Baynes and Len on the roster, the Raptors have the potential to be much better in both.

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