Duke Basketball: Breaking Down Mason Plumlee's NBA Potential

Dantzler SmithContributor IIIApril 14, 2013

DURHAM, NC - MARCH 05:  Mason Plumlee #5 of the Duke Blue Devils during their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on March 5, 2013 in Durham, North Carolina.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Now that Mason Plumlee’s college career is over, Duke fans will wish him well as he heads on to the NBA. But what sort of NBA player does Mason Plumlee project to be?

At 6’11” and 240 lbs, Plumlee certain has something that’s highly valued in the pros. A worst-case scenario for him is that he’s valued as a serviceable post player in a league that constantly recycles big bodies to fill the lane. So, no matter what, he’ll be in demand.

Obviously, both Plumlee and Duke fans would like to see him become more than just a tall jersey filler. Based on his skill set, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Plumlee proved to be an adept shot-blocker. His size and strength should be enough to allow him to compete in the paint with most NBA post players. He is also a good defensive rebounder. As a senior, he averaged 10 rebounds per game, and throughout his time at Duke, he consistently did a good job on the defensive glass.

Offensively, Plumlee is a capable scorer around the basket. He averaged 11.1 points as a junior and 17.1 as a senior. There’s no arguing that he can put up points from inside (via ESPN).

The concern, however, is that Plumlee’s post moves aren’t the greatest, and he never developed an outside shot.

Frequently, it was frustrating to see Plumlee fail to use a simple drop-step effectively. More often than not, he preferred to face up his post defender in order to use his quickness. While attempting to play to one’s strength illustrates a good basketball IQ, it also highlights a particular shortcoming in Plumlee’s game.

He did add a running jump hook to his forte, but that shot didn’t go down with a huge amount of consistency and it requires a great deal of space in the paint to pull it off.

The lack of a jump shot also gives NBA evaluators pause. The NBA is in love with offenses that run high screens over and over again. Because Plumlee hasn’t proven an ability to make a medium-range shot from the elbow, his effectiveness at setting screens on the perimeter is put into question.

Plumlee also didn’t defend particularly well on the perimeter. Often, on screen and rolls, he would hedge out too far and a quicker guard would jet past him. Again, the high ball screen is a staple in the NBA, and Plumlee’s weakness in that area on both defense and offense hurts his NBA upside.

All that being said, Plumlee is a good athlete, and on the right team, he could be a highly valuable asset. His ability to run the court and score in transition should ensure that he has something to offer the right type of team. In a good situation, Plumlee could be a reliable rotation player. His size, defense and inside scoring should translate into solid production even at the NBA level.