Duke Basketball: Breaking Down Mason Plumlee's NBA Potential, Draft Stock

David AldridgeFeatured ColumnistJanuary 7, 2013

DURHAM, NC - DECEMBER 20: Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils goes up for a dunk against the Elon Phoenix at Cameron Indoor Stadium on December 20, 2012 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
Lance King/Getty Images

When Mason Plumlee arrived at Duke University as a freshman, he was a highly-recruited, athletic, 6'10" forward who some thought might be a Blue Devil for a year before departing to the NBA.

Even Plumlee himself says, "I only thought I'd be in school for a year."

Instead, after an up-and-down career, Plumlee is in the midst of his fourth and final season at Duke and hoping to lead the Blue Devils to another National Championship, which would be his second during his college career.

Following this season, what's next for Mason Plumlee? Will he be taken with one of the first picks of the 2013 NBA Draft?

Will it be the beginning of a long, successful NBA career for the big man from Warsaw, Ind.?

Where and when Plumlee goes on draft night could still be determined by how he plays for the remainder of this season. Currently, Mason is projected as the 11th pick in the draft by NBADraft.net, which would have him going to the Boston Celtics.

However, if he can have a strong ACC season and lead Duke to a national championship, there is a good chance Mason could play himself into the Top 10, or possibly even the Top Five, of the draft. On the other hand, if Plumlee begins to struggle with defenses that are focusing more attention on him and his free-throw percentage continues to decline, he could find himself tumbling out of being a lottery pick.

In many ways, NBA teams know what they will be getting if they draft Mason Plumlee. He will bring the experience and work ethic that comes from playing for Mike Krzyzewski, one of the most respected coaches in sports. He also brings a tremendous amount of athletic ability that has been on display at Duke for four years.

Plumlee is a 6'11", 240-pound big man who excels at running the floor and finishing plays in transition. Plumlee has also been measured as having close to a 40-inch vertical, giving him a unique combination of speed and leaping ability, which NBA teams covet.

NBA coaches and executives will also like the mental makeup of Plumlee, who has become much more assertive and aggressive over the course of his career at Duke. Plumlee has gone from a player who was timid and careless with the ball to a player who is physical and decisive.

Unfortunately for Plumlee, NBA scouts and coaches have also had the opportunity to study the weaknesses in his game for four years. Plumlee's offensive game has improved a great deal during his four years at Duke, but he still has yet to develop a wide array of interior moves he can use in a half-court offense.

He has shown flashes of having a jump-hook with either hand but has yet to use it with any consistency.

He also continues to be a liability from the free-throw line, something that appeared to be corrected through the season's first seven games but is now regressing back to his career average of around 55 percent.

Plumlee has also failed to develop any sort of shooting range during his time at Duke, which will make him more of an offensive liability for any team that drafts him. In order to be successful at the next level, Mason will need to improve his jump shot or become much more skilled with his post moves.

Regardless of which team decides to draft Mason Plumlee in the 2013 NBA Draft, he will have a great deal of work ahead of him if he wants to have a successful career in the league.

He will likely earn minutes off the bench because of his athleticism and work ethic, but he will have to use that work ethic to refine his game to become a regular part of a team's rotation.

But when you consider the work he has put in to improve during his four years as a Blue Devil, it'd be foolish to count him out in the NBA.