The Cleveland Cavaliers will have a top-six pick and the 19th pick in this upcoming draft. In the next few weeks here at Right Down Euclid, we will be profiling players the Cavaliers might draft in the first round on June 27th. Today, we profile Mason Plumlee.
Tale of the Tape
Name: Mason Plumlee
Weight: 245 lbs.
Honors: 2013 All-American 2nd Team, All-ACC 1st Team
2012-2013 Per Game Stats: 17.1 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, 1.4 BPG, 59.9 FG%, 68.1% FT%
2013 NCAA Tournament Stats: 16.0 PPG, 8.0 RPG, 63.2 FG%, 80.0 FT% over four games
Last year, we got to witness as the Indiana Pacers took Miles Plumlee in the first round of the NBA Draft, much to the surprise of many. This year, another Plumlee is available, as brother Mason looks to be a much more justifiable first-round option. While Plumlee is only good at a few things, my goodness is he good at those few things. Today we look into how the 2nd-Team All-American’s game translates to the NBA.
Plumlee’s got some nice size at 6’11” and 245 pounds and should be a guy who will have no problem sizing up with NBA post players. He’s also an effective leaper with some good explosion, which makes for his patented highlight-reel finishes off missed shots. He enjoys running the floor and can play in fast or slow paces. He’s not going to overpower anyone with his strength, but he’s fairly quick for a guy his size, and that plays into his advantage. He’s a much, much better physical specimen than his brother, and I think he will be fine in the NBA because of this.
Plumlee’s offensive game is highly specialized. He does a few things really, really well and a few things really not so well. His best quality is his efficiency in the post. Plumlee is a great offensive weapon down low, quick enough to catch opponents off guard and with a few nicely developed moves that helped him score almost 40 percent of his points in the post. In particular, he’s fairly effective at dropping hook shots and drop-step moves, able to finish hooks with either hand and using his body and his quickness to position himself well to execute these moves. While he doesn’t have a great variety of moves, the ones he does have could be enough to get by on, and he’s also getting a lot better with decision-making in the post, knowing when to pass out and attempt to draw contact. Plumlee is also really good in the open court, thriving on fast breaks and in PNR situations. He’s excellent at slipping screens cutting to the basket in particular but sets his fair share of hard picks and can be tough to fight over. He also finishes really well in transition or off misses on the offensive glass, as he’s an effective offensive rebounder.
Plumlee’s strengths are well defined, but his weaknesses are as well. The main one is that he cannot shoot. He has a hitch in his jumper that causes him to shoot line drives, and he’s so ineffective, and knows he’s so ineffective, that he only attempted 10 jump shots last season. TEN!!!!! That’s a problem, because it makes him fairly limited offensively to just the post and eliminates spot-ups as an option out of high screens. He also has a history as a fairly terrible free throw shooter, but his numbers jumped from 53 percent his junior season to 68 percent last season, so there is hope that he can become effective here, especially with how much he gets to the line. Plumlee is really only going to be effective in the post or up top for high screens, which somewhat limits him, but he’s talented enough in those situations that he’ll still be effective at the next level.
Plumlee’s a solid post defender, someone who will frustrate opponents and make good decisions with help defense and body positioning. He’s also gotten a lot stronger as he’s progressed through college and should be fine handling even the best of NBA post threats. He’s also a great defensive rebounder, getting good position routinely and using his strength and leaping ability to grab rebounds over opponents and box out effectively. This is something that Plumlee’s really going to excel at right away. He’s not so much a rim protector, but he can be an effective shot blocker, registering 1.4 per game last season. His main defensive deficit is one that was a team-wide problem last season at Duke: PNR defense. Duke was terrible at this last season, and a lot of that was Plumlee, who often got lost hedging screens, didn’t hedge effectively and struggled to get back to his man. Perhaps a change in philosophy of fighting screens would help Plumlee, but it’s honestly somewhat shocking that someone that effective on the offensive end in these situations could be this bad at reading them defensively.
Plumlee’s 23, so the same issues of growth and development that come attached to Gorgui Dieng will affect Plumlee’s draft stock. Some of his issues are definitely things that can be fixed at 23, such as post moves and his jumper, but for the most part he is who he is. There are also questions concerning Plumlee’s toughness, as he’s not one to challenge shots from opponents driving into the paint and can get frustrated by more physical defenders. However, from what I have seen of Plumlee, this concern isn’t something that will affect his game much, and when it comes to things like boxing out and low post D, he seems plenty tough. He’s also a very smart guy, and that’s going to help him transition. Overall, I don’t think Plumlee is someone who’s going to be an NBA starter right away, but he’ll be a very effective bench guy, someone who can run the floor and play solid defense for 15-20 minutes a game.
While one was an undersized power forward, and the other is a perfectly-sized center, Mason Plumlee and Leon Powe have a lot in common with how they play the game. Powe was an outstanding rebounder, defender and post-up threat, someone who thrived off the bench and became a championship bench guy (and would still be there if his knees had stayed healthy). Plumlee does much of the same, and while Powe was a more physical player, Plumlee’s size makes up for it. If Plumlee’s ceiling is a key bench player for a perennial playoff contender, I think that’s fine for him.
How Does He Fit on the Cavaliers?
Sadly, I don’t think the Cavs would need Plumlee. They already are working with Tyler Zeller as their offensive center weapon, and Anderson Varejao is a much better post defender than Plumlee. Since he’s not a rim protector, the one aspect the Cavs need in the post, I don’t see them grabbing Plumlee unless the run on centers that’s expected in the middle of the first round happens before expected, and Plumlee is the only one left. Plumlee would be a much better fit on a team that wants to run as well, such as OKC or Atlanta, who will both pick before Cleveland at 19. Like C.J. McCollum, I don’t think that the Cavs will end up with Plumlee, as he’s in that awkward late-lottery range that may fall to 19 but probably won’t. Regardless, I don’t really think he’s a good fit for Cleveland anyway.