Mason Plumlee: Breaking Down Duke Star's NBA Potential

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterMarch 9, 2013

Feb 21, 2013; Blacksburg, VA, USA; Duke Blue Devils forward Mason Plumlee (5) shoots the ball over Virginia Tech Hokies forward Cadarian Raines (4) during the first half at Cassell Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports

Duke Senior Mason Plumlee has revamped his offensive repertoire, and it's lifted his ceiling as an NBA prospect.

For the first three years of his college career, Plumlee was a productive off-the-ball contributor who relied on his size, athleticism and mobility to make plays above the rim.

But as a senior, Plumlee has implemented some offensive creativity into his arsenal, and it's helped him to become more of a multidimensional threat with the ball in his hands.

He averaged 17.1 points and 10 rebounds on 59.9 percent shooting.


Physical Tools and Easy Buckets

You won't find many better pound-for-pound athletes at the college level when you consider all the physical tools he has to work with.

AT 7'0'', he's got the size of a center with the athleticism of a small forward. He's also an incredible leaper and agile runner with hand-eye coordination that only professional athletes possess.

Because of his mobility, hops and athleticism, Plumlee has tremendous range as a finisher inside. He's a glowing target at the rim, turning difficult scoring opportunities into easy ones.

Watch as Seth Curry triggers the defensive collapse by penetrating the perimeter, then tosses it up anywhere within the vicinity of the rim, knowing Plumlee can grab it and convert it into points.

Most big men have to catch that lob, come down and gather, while allowing the defense to set, before going up for a contested shot. But Plumlee's hops and coordination allow him to grab it with his off hand and slam it in for two—an easy two that wouldn't be so easy with anyone else.

How about on the move? Think of the slow-footed big men who play the center position and then picture Plumlee flying down the floor and skying above the rim:

And one more for good measure:

These are easy baskets that every team can use, but not every team can get.


Post Game

Though he's not an adept shot-creator from the post, it's an area of his game in which he's added to as a senior.

Plumlee is the biggest threat facing up, where he sports quick feet and agility attacking the rim. If there's room and no help defenders within reach, there's a good chance Plumlee can at least get to the line.

Below, he shows a combination of quickness, balance and nimble footwork to counter a challenge and get off an easier look:

He's still limited in the post with his back to the basket, though he's added a go-to move that's been effective for him all year.

The play I've set up below shows Plumlee completely isolated in the post, where he can go to work, using his new favorite shot: the over-the-shoulder jump hook.

He's got this shot down. The next step is adding counter moves. That way, when he turns into the lane and there's a waiting help defender, he can spin back the other way to create an easier look over the other shoulder. Diversifying his offensive services will give him more purpose on the floor and could be the difference between him being a 12-minute guy and a 25-minute guy.

Though we've seen a mid-range jumper in small doses, he's clearly not yet confident in going to it for points. A reliable outside stroke would open up the rest of his game and make him a much tougher cover for an NBA frontcourt.



We haven't seen enough of a jump shot. Plumlee becomes a whole lot tougher to guard if he can square up in the mid-range and knock down jumpers.

He improved his free-throw percentage from 52.8 percent to 68.1, so he's got one in there somewhere. Plumlee should be able to show scouts whether he has a jumper or doesn't during pre-draft workouts.


Draft Breakdown and NBA Outlook

Plumlee has a high basement, meaning that his chances of busting as an NBA draft pick are slim. He's just too good of an athlete with too much size to not find a spot in a rotation.

Worst comes to worst, Plumlee is good for rebounding, finishing and making plays above the rim. And it's not such a bad thing to have a mobile seven-footer roaming the paint as a defender, either.

Whether he develops as an option in the post will determine his value to a team. His role at the next level will depend on what floor the elevator stops at, but if Plumlee can get to the roof, he's got a shot at activating the star power that comes with high-flying seven-footers.

Consider Plumlee a top-20 lock.