Despite the 2013 NBA Draft being considered one of the worst drafts ever, the Brooklyn Nets were able to get arguably the biggest steal of the draft with the 22nd pick in the first round. The team selected forward/center Mason Plumlee, a four-year graduate from Duke University.
Coach Jason Kidd and his teammates all trusted Plumlee. Kidd started the rookie 22 times in the regular season. Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Shaun Livingston all loved the energy, smarts and athleticism that Plumlee brought to the table. He’s a unique player that not many opponents could truly match. Plumlee definitely rewarded them.
Plumlee finished his rookie season with some of the best averages in many statistical categories from his draft class. His 7.4 points per game was eighth best among rookies. His field goal percentage of 65.9% was the best. He was tied for fourth with .79 blocks per contest. His 4.4 rebounds was also tied for fourth best. Plumlee did all this while playing in 70 games and playing 18.2 minutes per game. He also finished with a player efficiency rating of 19.04. He even blocked LeBron James’s game-winning dunk attempt in a match-up at the Miami Heat.
The first round pick ended up being voted to the NBA All-Rookie first team.
The Blue Devils alumni’s first regular season was a success. Then came the playoffs.
Plumlee struggled to find his groove in the playoffs. He averaged just 2.2 points and 2.3 rebounds while shooting just 43.8% from the field. The Toronto Raptors and Miami Heat both focused on keeping a body on Plumlee so he wouldn’t receive any easy dunk attempts around the basket. They also either attacked Plumlee on the offensive end, or spread him out way from the basket, taking away his shot-blocking ability.
Now, as he looks to further develop into a better player, Plumlee has several things to work on.
One of his biggest problems came on the defensive end. Plumlee was often times over-matched by more experienced big men. He simply was not big enough to be able to defend some of the more physical players in the league. He also had a tendency to reach a lot and commit poor fouls. This would contribute to Plumlee often times being in foul trouble.
Despite playing just over 18 minutes a game, Plumlee committed and average of 2.4 fouls per contest. This amounts to close to five fouls per-36 minutes. Plumlee will need to learn to better position himself defensively to make entry passes into the post more difficult so his opponent is less likely to catch the ball in a good spot. He will also have to rid himself of reaching and committing bad fouls when they are really not all that necessary.
His biggest weakness offensively is without question his inability to make any shot from outside of the paint. Of his 199 made field goals, 116 of them were dunks. As seen on this shot chart provided by NBA.com, Plumlee did not make one field goal from outside of eight feet from the basket. In fact, he only attempted nine field goals from eight feet out or further.
One way he can improve his offensive game is by simply working on a mid-range bank shot from the baseline area, a la Tim Duncan or even his teammate, Brook Lopez. He has the leaping ability to rise above his opponents, making his jump shot extremely difficult to block.
There is not question now that Plumlee will be a quality role player in the NBA for years to come. His play is also extremely vital to the Nets success. Now, he just needs to keep improving.