One of the most talented freshmen in the country last season, Mason Plumlee
played a role much smaller than what he was capable of due to the incredibly deep Duke championship squad. Relegated mostly to finishing on cuts and offensive rebounds on the offensive end, Plumlee played his role well while also showing occasional flashes of why he's so highly regarded as a prospect.
Standing 6'11 with a decent frame, average length, and superb overall athleticism, Plumlee has the prototypical physical profile for an NBA power forward. Extremely explosive and agile with great coordination and a very high motor, Plumlee has the potential to excel anywhere on the court on the offensive end should he develop the requisite skills.
While Plumlee did most of his damage on simple finishes around the rim for the Blue Devils, he shows the groundwork of skills in a variety of areas when he gets the occasional chance to create his own offense, being at least adequately capable of dribble drives, perimeter jumpers, and back-to-the-basket moves.
Plumlee's post game is probably the most underdeveloped area of his offense, as he's very lacking in instincts while having a limited repertoire of moves. Despite this, he still shows immense potential in this area, as his counter-moves are incredibly rangy, he already is showing flashes of ambidexterity finishing, and he has a decent turnaround jumper off both shoulders. Developing his hook shot and becoming more comfortable with all his moves in general should be among his priorities here.
While Plumlee could develop into a good back-to-the-basket player in the NBA should he put in the work, he's probably best suited as a stretch four, as he's lacking in upper body mass right now and probably isn't capable of putting on substantially more weight without sacrificing some of his athleticism. Operating out of the face-up position either from the high post or wing, Plumlee looks much more comfortable and that's probably where his potential is highest.
Possessing a great first step, incredibly rangy strides, and already a decent handle with both his left and right hands, Plumlee is very dangerous when he gets straight line opening to the basket, something that should open up far more in the NBA's better spaced, more isolation-oriented game. While Plumlee will occasionally flash an impressive spin move in the lane, he struggles with other changes of direction on drives and his game certainly lacks a degree of polish in this area. Regardless, his physical tools and groundwork of skills alone make this an effective staple of his game, though it still has room to improve substantially.
The area of Plumlee's game that was utilized the least as a freshman was his perimeter jump shot, as he took just 16 jumpers on the entire season according to Synergy Sports Technology, though half of them came from behind the three-point arc. Plumlee has good form with a high and quick release, though he seems to lack confidence in his shot, or possibly is tentative to use it because of all the other perimeter shooting options on the Blue Devils. His 54% free-throw shooting is also quite poor, though it was on a small sample size of just 46 attempts.
One of the most encouraging aspects of Plumlee's offensive game from a future development standpoint is his excellent set of intangibles, as he possesses a high motor, good basketball IQ, and clearly buys into a team concept given the role he accepted. Plumlee moves well off the ball, attacks the offensive glass, sets excellent screens, and shows very good court vision on passes out of the high post, finding lots of little ways to contribute even though he doesn't get many touches.
Defensively, Plumlee likewise shows a very high motor and excellent fundamental base, being attentive and composed both in the post and on the perimeter. While he lacks a certain degree of physical toughness in the post and is prone to giving up position down low before the ball gets to his man, Plumlee does a pretty good job using leverage once his man has the ball, uses his hands and forearms well, and does a great job using his average
length to contest shots. On the perimeter, Plumlee's versatility is very impressive, as he has an excellent stance, is very active moving his feet, and shows a great level of mobility both in man-to-man and pick-and-roll situations. He hedges very aggressively on screens while also being comfortable switching onto smaller guards when the situation calls for it. The one thing Plumlee could improve on defensively is his defensive rebounding, as he pulled them in at a lackluster rate last season.
Looking forward, Plumlee is obviously still very early in his development, and Duke's very deep roster certainly hasn't helped jumpstart his growth, but things should open up a bit for him this season with Brian Zoubek
and Lance Thomas
both graduated. Despite his small numbers, there is a reason Plumlee is our #1 ranked returning prospect in the ACC, as he's capable of improving immensely in a variety of offensive areas, something he should have plenty of chances to do this year. His game is also likely much better suited for the NBA game, where the increased spacing and more isolation/pick-and-roll opportunities very much play to his strengths. A likely lottery pick whenever he decides to declare as long as he continues developing, Plumlee's ceiling is very high and he should have the intangibles to give him every chance to reach it.