As the No. 5 selection in the 2013 NBA Draft, Alex Len holds the distinction of being the highest-drafted player on the Raptors roster. That lofty draft status has inspired a bust label for the seven-footer, who hasn’t found a great fit across four previous NBA homes. But Ujiri isn’t afraid of a developmental project, particularly one who is still just 27 and boasts impressive Per 36 numbers.
Now, the Ukrainian big man gets something of a fresh start in Toronto, where he could see time working alongside erstwhile coaching consultant Jack Sikma, who helped tutor Jonas Valanciunas. More significantly, there’s also the presence of Lowry, who has made larger teammates a lot of money (just ask Bismack Biyombo) thanks to his mastery of the pick & roll.
At worst, Len can spell Baynes and Chris Boucher for a few minutes while offering some rim protection and rebounding. But there’s the chance that the seven-year vet, who averaged 11.1 points and 5.5 rebounds just two seasons ago, could represent the type of hidden gem that Ujiri has been so good at extracting.
Another low-risk flyer, DeAndre’ Bembry makes up for a complete lack of offensive polish with a non-stop motor on the defensive end. In true Raptors form, the 6’5″ wing is also a very versatile defender, capable of chasing around point guards and bodying up on bigger forwards.
The Bembry signing, curiously broken by ESPN NFL insider Adam Schefter, won’t do much to bolster the club’s second unit scoring (Norm Powell will still be relied upon there), but it will improve overall depth, make them tougher to play against and add another player who fits the culture of the team.
One thing that will have to be resolved ahead of training camp, however, is Bembry’s No. 95. That number, of course, has adorned the jersey of The Raptor, Toronto’s beloved mascot, since day one as a tribute to the franchise’s year of birth. The number carries an entirely different significance to the 26-year-old former Atlanta Hawk, who wears it as a tribute to deceased younger brother, Adrian, who was shot trying to break up a fight. Surely Toronto can find a way to accommodate a number that carries so much meaning – especially since there’s no NBA rule about sharing a number with the team mascot.