BY JAKE HENSON
I remember thinking on draft night that Mason Plumlee would never be a star, but it’s also pretty hard to see him out of the league in 5 years. He was hyped as a high-character, hustle-and-energy guy that could come in and help a team with some enthusiastic minutes off the bench.
At 7 feet tall with a 36″ vertical, Plumlee always showed a willingness to learn, compete, and improve in four years under Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski. But in recent times, we have seen a few more tricks come out of Plumlee’s bag and hopefully there is plenty more to come.
“Mase gave us a lot of energy running the court,” Joe Johnson said of Plumlee recently. “He set great picks, he was able to rebound and block shots.”
What he’s doing well
Plumlee’s offensive efficiency has transcended from college nicely – he’s shooting 63.3% from field and a respectable 62.4% from the line.
How has he achieved this? Check out his shot distribution chart!
A grand total of 7 shots outside of the deepest section of the painted area. Plumlee is literally only dunking or laying in the basketball, thus ensuring his high field goal percentage.
Plumlee provides the team with a burst of reverse-dunk energy that is infectious. He plays with enthusiasm and often without fear. This can provide a nice balance to the more methodical play of veterans like Pierce, Johnson and Garnett.
What needs improvement
As evidenced by his shot chart, Plumlee doesn’t have much range (if any) at this early stage of his NBA career. As a result, he is going to get as many open mid range jumpers as he wants for the next 18 months. NBA teams give players these shots until they can prove they can consistently make them. So that’s the challenge this offseason: develop a little something that resembles a mid range jump shot. Maybe a hook shot too -– we saw glimpses of it at Duke.
Rebounding issues were glaring in his first few months in the NBA, but across February and March he lifted his output to a more respectable level. In 2013, Plumlee was averaging 3.5 rebounds per game whilst playing 17.3 minutes. In February and March, he has increased this to 5.3 per game rebounds in 16.7 minutes.
Though he can often provide a highlight-reel chasedown block, Plumlee is an inconsistent and below average defender. Constant guidance and tutelage from the ‘Big Ticket’ himself, Kevin Garnett should help to improve on this.
What can we expect
Plumlee is a well-documented gym rat. Coming out of college, Plumlee was a great rebounder, so we can expect his 2014 improvement to continue. His size, hustle and brilliant athleticism should allow Plumlee to develop into one of the better rebounders in the NBA.
At Duke, Plumlee was a very good post defender. He’s now playing against bigger bodies and more talented players, but he can improve on this aspect of his game with experience and from sticking to Garnett’s pocket at practice.
Eventually I think we can see him step out a little bit and shoot some jumpers. It will never be a staple of his game but I’m not willing to write him off as purely a ‘D and dunk’ guy just yet.
But those dunks…
Happy birthday, Mason Plumlee.
Jake Henson is an Australian-born NBA writer. You can follow him on Twitter @jwhenson_.