Alex Len

Why Hawks trading for Dewayne Dedmon made no sense to Kings' Alex Len

Why Hawks trading for Dewayne Dedmon made no sense to Kings' Alex Len

The Atlanta Hawks had a chance to re-sign center Dewayne Dedmon last summer.

Atlanta passed on the opportunity and let Dedmon leave in free agency, where he eventually signed a three-year, $40 million contract with the Kings.

But in an odd twist, the Hawks brought Dedmon back in a Feb. 5 trade with the Kings.

One of the two players the Kings acquired, Alex Len, recently spoke to The Athletic about his time in Atlanta and the trade that landed him in Sacramento.

“They didn’t want to pay him in the first place, so it didn’t make sense to me,” Len told Chris Kirschner. “If they wanted him, they could have just paid him. So they get him as a backup now and end up paying him anyway."

Len was taken No. 5 overall by the Phoenix Suns in the 2013 NBA Draft and signed with the Hawks as a free agent in 2017. He was hoping to be part of the group that returned Atlanta to prominence, and told The Athletic he didn't want to be traded.

“One-hundred percent -- I wanted to stay,” Len said. “I like the coaching staff. I liked my teammates. Everyone was cool. It really had a family feel to it. Last year, you could see the trajectory was going up. Everyone was getting better towards the end of the season. The way we started this season -- I think the mistake we had was we had too many young guys. I didn’t think we had enough veterans and leadership on the team. This season didn’t work out as planned, so they had to make changes. It’s a business, so I understood they had to do it.”

The Hawks appeared to be making progress last season. With Lloyd Pierce in his first season as coach and Trae Young bursting onto the season, Atlanta finished with a 29-53 record. Expectations were high entering the 2019-20 campaign.

[RELATED: Len pleasantly surprised by Kings trade]

But when the NBA suspended the season due to the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Hawks were in possession of a 20-47 record, the second-worst in the Eastern Conference.

Len wanted to stay in Atlanta, but he entered an NBA playoff race when he joined the Kings.

In nine appearances with the Kings, all off the bench, Len is averaging 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in 16.7 minutes.

How Alex Len's trade to Kings has been 'pleasant surprise' this season

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How Alex Len's trade to Kings has been 'pleasant surprise' this season

Alex Len didn't expect to be traded, let alone to the Kings.

He wanted to sign an extension with the Atlanta Hawks after the season, but the Hawks rebuilt their roster on the fly at the NBA trade deadline. Len, along with Jabari Parker, was traded to the Kings in exchange for center Dewayne Dedmon and a pair of second-round picks.

What awaited him in Sacramento caught Len off guard.

"Once I got there, it was a pleasant surprise," Len told The Athletic's Chris Kirschner earlier this week. "I like the team. We were winning games, and I could just do my part. My role is more defined over there.” 

Len quickly fit in with his new teammates. The Kings went 6-3 in Len's first nine games before the NBA season was suspended following Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert's positive coronavirus test, and the 2013 draft's No. 5 overall pick averaged 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds in just over 16 minutes per night.

Sacramento had the NBA's fifth-best net rating (plus-4.8) and the league's 10th-best defensive rating (107.6) following Len's arrival. The Kings were 21st (minus-2.7) and tied for 20th (109.1), respectively, in the first 55 games of the season.

The NBA entered its indefinite hiatus with the Kings just 3 1/2 games back of the Western Conference's last playoff spot, and Len's play off the bench was a big reason why. He told Kirschner that Sacramento's postseason pursuit reinvigorated him.

“There was a whole different mood and vibe around the team because we were going for the eighth spot,” Len said. “When I was (in Atlanta), it’s tough to play knowing you’re not making the playoffs. You go into the game, and guys are thinking about their points and themselves. (In Sacramento), it’s all about team and winning. Guys don’t care how many points they score; it’s all about winning. Everybody was playing a lot harder. We were playing all five guys on a string. It makes your job easier because everybody else is a lot better.” 

[RELATED: Five things to remember from wild Kings '19 win over Grizz]

Len will play a big role in the Kings' playoff chase, assuming the NBA season resumes with Sacramento still in contention.

That isn't where Len imagined he would be coming into the season, but he's thriving amid unexpected circumstances.

Kings' Alex Len, Trail Blazers' CJ McCollum fined for shoving match

Kings' Alex Len, Trail Blazers' CJ McCollum fined for shoving match

Alex Len and CJ McCollum got into a minor tussle Saturday night in Portland, and their wallets are lighter for it.

The NBA announced Sunday that both Len and McCollum were fined for their altercation. The Trail Blazers guard was fined $20,000 for shoving the Kings center and trying to escalate the situation. Len was docked $15,000 for shoving.

Was it worth it? Not really. 

The Kings left Portland with a 121-111 win, their first victory in the Rose City since Dec. 12, 2012.

[RELATED: Len proves Kings won't be pushed around]

The win moved the Kings closer to the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Luke Walton's club now sits just 3 1/2 games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 seed. 

The Kings are back in action Sunday night when they host the Toronto Raptors at Golden 1 Center.