Ask one person about Mason Plumlee and they'll tell you he has All Star potential in the NBA. Ask another and they will say he still isn't ready to be a professional despite playing four years at Duke. Plumlee has been an interesting topic discussion due to the disparity of reports on him. Despite the contrary reports, Mason Plumlee is expected to be selected anywhere from the middle of the lottery to around the 18th pick.
Mason Plumlee played significant minutes in all four of his seasons with the Duke Blue Devils, but it wasn't until his senior season that he cracked 30 minutes per game, with 34.7. He averaged 17.1 points on 59.9 percent shooting, 10 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.4 blocks per game before Duke's season ended in the Elite 8 against the eventual champion Louisville Cardinals.
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Mason Plumlee is an exciting player in transition, often finishing fast breaks with huge alley-oop dunks. He's efficient in catch and finish situations, which is the main reason he shot 59.9 percent as a senior. However, Plumlee is not a shooter due to a noticeable hitch in his shot release. Plumlee's a terrific screener, which makes him a threat in the pick and roll. Plumlee has the tools to get better on the offensive end and has improved on the post, but still needs to take his game to another level to proven he can play in the half court.
Plumlee is an extremely athletic player but it doesn't exactly translate to the floor. He's not a shot blocker and is a very bad pick and roll defender. Mason often gets beat by ball handlers even when he has good positioning on them. Despite the concerns on the perimeter, he is a solid defender on the post. On the boards, Plumlee does a great job of boxing out and establishing positioning for rebounds.
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At the NBA Draft Combine, Mason Plumlee proved that he is an impressive athlete. Plumlee is a good leaper, recording an impressive 36-inch vertical. This makes him useful on the offensive end but his lackluster 30.5-inch standing vertical and short wingspan could hinder his ability elsewhere on the court.
Running the floor, Plumlee shows great speed, frequently getting in front of the defense on the offensive break. However, when it comes to lateral speed, Plumlee is quite slow. This gets him into trouble on the defensive end since he can easily get beat by quicker players.
Plumlee's most significant weakness on the offensive end is his jump shot. Mason looks like he "pushes" the ball towards the basket instead of actually shooting the ball. NBA teams would have liked him to make strides in his senior season but it didn't happen. Plumlee still shoots with no confidence around the perimeter and hasn't improved technically.
Click here to watch DraftExpress' perfect breakdown of the problems Plumlee has when shooting the basketball. The hitch in his delivery forces him to shoot the ball flat towards the hoop. Considering his height, it almost appears that his shot is a line drive. If Plumlee simply removes this hitch from his delivery, he will create more arc with his shot, and a higher success rate. However, considering the lack of improvement since his freshman year, it's a wonder if that adjustment will ever be made.
His lack of shooting ability is especially concerning because it doesn't make him a threat in the pick and pop. Plumlee arguably sets the best screens out of any of the bigs in the draft, so it's a shame that he doesn't have a jumper to compliment that. As a result, defenders will always play him to roll to the basket since he isn't a risk to hit the outside shot. However, if Plumlee can improve his jumper, he will be a huge threat in the pick game due to his strong hands and mobility when heading towards the rim.
Mason Plumlee has made improvements on the post since he first arrived at Duke but still has room to improve. Mason has a solid hook shot and an improving drop-step along with his success facing-up the defender. While these moves are nice, they are quite basic for a player already at 23 years old. It's a concern that these moves are good enough to cut it at the next level.
What Plumlee truly lacks is a power move. When he can't use one of his basic post moves, he often faces up and settles for out of control shots eight feet from the basket. During this play, Plumlee has plenty of room to make a power dribble move towards the baseline but instead opts for a one-dribble hook shot about ten feet from the hoop. While Plumlee's hook shot isn't a weak part of his game, he was much too far away from the basket to take that shot.
Mason Plumlee's greatest strength around the basket is his ability to finish. He's often the recipient of alley-oop passes in transition. Plumlee is able to flaunt his vertical leaping ability, frequently finishing passes with one-hand flushes for dunks. He's very good at timing his jump and receiving the ball at its peak point. On the other hand, if Plumlee receives the ball too early, he can get out of control after the dribble.
Plumlee is an advanced passer and it shows more than anything when he faces up against the defender. In the plays here and here, Plumlee makes two very nice on-target passes to his teammates. He shows good awareness when double-teams are coming, as well as in situations when a player is open underneath the basket. Off the dribble, Plumlee does a good job of drawing the help before making a pass to an open player.
Plumlee has flashed the ability to be a very good post defender since he puts his athleticism to good use. He does a solid job of positioning himself, whether he is fronting his opponent or bodying them from behind. Plumlee uses his body well, forcing players into traffic or towards the baseline.
Mason Plumlee is also a smart defender; he rarely bites on pump fakes and does a good job of staying with his man. In the past, Plumlee would sometimes get caught sleeping, allowing his man to wander free, but as a senior, Plumlee seemed to solve that problem for the most part.
Something Plumlee needs to improve at is his ability to block shots or simply disturb shots. Whether it's on the post, the perimeter or on help defense, Plumlee is not a very good shot blocker, averaging only 1.4 blocks per game as a senior. Interestingly, his blocks per game dropped since his sophomore year despite an increase in minutes each season. Plumlee has yet to prove that he can be a rim protector inside the paint.
Perimeter/Pick and Roll Defense
Despite Mason's athleticism, his most notable problem is his lack of lateral speed. He has very good straight-line speed but can't change directions very well; this makes him a liability as a defender on the perimeter. In this clip against Louisville, Plumlee is actually has good positioning against Russ Smith, but he still gets blown by since he can't move fast enough. As the replay shows, Plumlee "crosses" his feet and doesn't slide when heading towards the basket. It's not a speed problem for Plumlee, but a fundamentals problem; defenders must stay balanced and slide with the ball handler. Mason seems to play too high and would benefit more by establishing a wide base, freeing him to slide more quickly.
Mason Plumlee is a great rebounder, averaging 10 per game as a senior. On the offensive glass, Plumlee does a good job of reading where the ball will go and gets into proper position for a chance at the rebound. If Duke didn't take so many long jump shots, Plumlee likely would've had more opportunities for offensive boards. Despite that, Plumlee still did a good job of cleaning up, grabbing rebounds for put back slams.
Defensively, Plumlee shows very good technique when boxing out. He immediately finds his man and puts a body on him, getting himself in proper position for the rebound. Even when not boxing out, Plumlee's athleticism and instincts allows him to elevate over other players crashing the boards. It's also worth noting that after grabbing defensive boards, Plumlee is very good at outlet passing. He knows where the point guard is and quickly gets the ball to him, allowing the offense to get into sets more quickly.
The problem with Mason Plumlee is the fact that he spent four years at a premier basketball school in Duke and we still don't have any idea on how he'll pan out at the next level. Plumlee has nice athleticism and has improved his fundamentals, yet other attributes of his game are completely underwhelming. Could Plumlee become one of the better scorers in the league when playing on the post, if he makes some subtle improvements to his game? Maybe. But could he be destined to be your fourth or fifth big off a team's bench too? Well, yes, that's the problem. Plumlee has a relatively high ceiling but a low floor too.
It makes most sense to just look at Plumlee and ask yourself this question, "what has he shown so far at Duke?" He's proven that he can be an efficient player. Sometimes he will perform at a high level, other times he will struggle. Plumlee is what he is, nothing more, nothing less. Perhaps Plumlee will be a role player in the NBA and that's it. But what's wrong with that? The NBA needs role players and he has proven that, at the least, he can be that.
How He Fits on the Celtics
Mason Plumlee likely wouldn't get much playing time if the Boston Celtics drafted him, unless Kevin Garnett retires. Plumlee's deficiencies in the pick and roll would make him a liability on the floor. KG, Jared Sullinger, and Brandon Bass are all ahead of him defensively, making it hard for Plumlee to grab much playing time right away.
Looking ahead, Plumlee would fit in nicely on the fastbreak with Rajon Rondo running the point. Plumlee runs the floor extremely well and would be a top target for Rondo alley-oop passes. In the half court, Plumlee would be useful in the pick and roll, but his pick and pop game must improve so he can reach his full potential.
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