The NBA draft lottery slotted the Suns fifth in the selection order, assuring they will not get a chance to pick Nerlens Noel without a trade.

But they could take the center who dominated Noel to start the past college season.

Maryland’s Alex Len, whose freshman year was slowed by a language barrier and a 10-game suspension, opened his sophomore season with a 23-point, 12-rebound, four-block game against Noel and Kentucky in a loss. The Ukrainian did not regularly post such lines in averaging 11.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.0 blocks but his youth (he turns 20 next month), size (7 feet 1 and 255 pounds with room to grow) and athleticism make him at least a lottery candidate, if not an option for the Suns at No. 5.

“I have the biggest upside in this draft with the big guys,” Len said at last week’s draft combine. “I think maybe 10 years from now I’ll be the best player out of this draft.”

Len is either confident or still grasping English, which he learned as a freshman when Maryland kept him from doing interviews.

Like Noel, Len could not participate in the combine due to injury. Two weeks after declaring his draft eligibility, an MRI showed that Len had a partial stress fracture in his left ankle that he played with because he said doctors diagnosed it as a bone spur.

Len moved into a walking boot last week and said he has a four- to six-month recovery ahead. That will work against a player who could have solidified top-10 status by displaying his speed and agility.

“I was trying to be proactive,” Len said. “I didn’t really have to do the surgery but the doctors told me it was going to help me in the long run.”

An early injury to a big man’s feet or ankles is a caution light, but Len is fairly new to basketball. He grew up in gymnastics because he was a Jackie Chan fan and developed a specialty on the parallel bars until he outgrew them. At 13, his school’s basketball coach told him he needed to join his team. Len went to the court, picked up a ball, made his first shot and decided it was meant to be.

Len’s background, including a mother who competed in track, has made him look like a mobile big man, but his role models are more fundamental — Tim Duncan and Roy Hibbert.

Len purports to have an offensive touch and he believes that it will develop more in the NBA than it could have at Maryland. Until then, he said he can impact a team instantly as an active defender and rebounder.

“Coach (Mark) Turgeon is a defensive-minded coach,” Len said. “All he wanted me to do was just guard and help the team on defense. He didn’t really care how I played on offense. I just did my role.

“When I get stronger, it’s just going to take me to another level and I’ll just become a sleeper player.”