The NBA Draft Blog Road to the 2012 Draft starts today with the beginning of this season’s Scouting Reports. First up is a player who has shown flashes of great potential, but he never seems to be able to put all his talent together at one time – Duke’s Mason Plumlee. The middle of Duke’s 3 Plumlee brothers, Mason is athletic for his size, plays hard, and is a good defender and rebounder, but his offensive game can be painful to watch at times. Is this year he finally takes the next step and becomes a legitimate offensive threat? Will it be enough for him to leave Durham after his junior season as a potential first round draft pick? Let’s take a look at Mason Plumlee:
Mason Plumlee, Duke – Junior
Forward- 6’10, 240
(2010-11 Stats) 7.2 ppg, 8.4 rpg, 1.7 bpg, 59.3% FG, 44.1% FT
Post Skills- Plumlee has the size and the body to be an effective player in the post, but some major issues are holding him back from fulfilling his potential. First, while he does a good job getting position in the post, he does not have a grasp on how to turn that positioning into a good look at the basket. As he makes his move, he, more often than not, ends up further away from the basket than where he started. Next, he tends to over-dribble on his post moves, leaving him open to easy double teams and strips from help defenders. While he does a good job creating space to get decent shots, they are certainly not the best looks he can get, and he will need to do a better job using his body to get closer to the rim. He has ok touch around the rim, but his shot never seems consistent – he can hit a nice baseline turnaround jumper one possession and airball the identical shot the next time down the court. If he can establish himself with one or two go-to moves, he can force the defense to help or double, creating more space on the perimeter for the shooters. He also needs to do a better job with his passes out of the post, not forcing the ball out and seeing the whole court.
Footwork- For all the issues Plumlee has with his post moves, his footwork is surprisingly smooth. He has shown the ability to execute a nice drop-step in the post, while also being able to face-up and take the ball to the rim. Footwork isn’t his biggest issue, it’s finishing his moves effectively. While he shows good footwork when on the left block, he is not as strong on the right, and he will need to work on that for the next level.
Ballhandling/Hands/Penetration- Ballhandling is not one of Plumlee’s strong points, but I wouldn’t go as far to say that it is a hopeless cause. His problem isn’t in handling the ball itself, he is actually good for his size, it is a tendency to overdribble – not knowing when his path is blocked. He is susceptible to double teams and he needs to do a better job anticipating it and knowing where the open man will be. He has good hands, and handles passes well, and is very good for his size catching the ball on the move. He has gotten better at being able to take the ball to the rim when isolated on the perimeter, but he needs to improve both his left hand and how he finishes. He has to be aggressive, not shying from contact and finishing strong.
Perimeter Shooting- Plumlee does not have a good mid-range game at all, but there is hope. He does a great job getting good looks at the basket, it’s his actual shot that needs work. His form is good, but the one thing he is lacking is a good arc on his shot – it is a very flat, line-drive kind of shot – so even when he is off a bit, there is really no chance of it going in. If he can improve on this, he has the potential of being a decent offensive threat. He is a very good on the pick and roll – his screens are solid and he opens up well to the ball after releasing. If he can knock down the mid-range jumper on a consistent basis, he will force defenders to overplay, leaving him an open lane to the rim off of the screen.
Rebounding/Passing- Plumlee is a very good offensive rebounder, extremely active around the rim, with the ability to jump straight up and keep balls alive without fouling. While increased strength would make him more effective in putting back misses, he has shown to be very adept at tip-ins and putting the ball back before the defense can adjust. Passing is one area where Johnson could use a lot more work. While it’s not that he makes a lot of bad passes, it’s that his decision-making and reaction time in the post to double teams needs to get better. That being said, he does see the court well, but he needs to get better at anticipating what the defense is going to do.
Free Throw Shooting – A major weakness for Plumlee. Not only does he not get to the line enough for a big man, but when he does, he doesn’t take advantage of it. As I discussed with is perimeter shooting, it’s a fixable problem, he just needs to do a better job getting arc on his shot to give it a chance to get in the basket. Getting to the line is a different problem. Plumlee needs to become more aggressive – go towards the basket, look for the contact and finish strong.
Post Defense- As seems to be a pattern here, Plumlee does some very good things as a post defender, but the few weaknesses tend to overshadow them. He does a very good job positioning himself well, knowing his man’s strengths and playing to them appropriately. However, once his man gets the ball, Plumlee does not use his body as well as he should – backing off and giving his man room instead of trying to force him away from the basket. Just this small amount of space gives his man an advantage, allowing him to either get a better look for his shot, or forcing Plumlee into too many adjustments where he gets caught with bad fouls. He has the body and build to be good post defender, he just needs to be more aggressive. He does move his feet well though, and does a good job staying with quicker post players. Also, he has improved a lot as a pick and roll defender, though he has to watch that he doesn’t hedge too much on the screen, giving himself space to recover.
Perimeter Defense- Plumlee has really improved as a perimeter defender, and is very good for his size. He positions himself well, stays low and moves his feet very well. He needs to become more aware of who he is guarding off of switches, and he needs to learn not to play all players the same – tighter on shooters, give some room to players who primarily look to drive. He handles screens well and does a good job switching or getting through it, and he moves well enough to recover when he is beat on the perimeter. He needs to become a bit quicker closing on perimeter shooters, but even a bit slow, he can alter perimeter jumpers.
Rebounding/Blocking- Fundamentally, Plumlee is a very good rebounder – boxing out well and going strong after the ball and securing it before he makes an outlet pass. Again, it’s his lack of aggressiveness which prevents him from becoming an elite rebounder, though he has very good instincts for missed shots and can get to spots quickly to grab the miss. He is also good at keeping balls alive which he can’t get to, and he doesn’t give up often on rebounds. He needs to do a better job not trying to force outlet passes, instead making sure his teammate is clear before getting him the ball. Plumlee is a decent shot blocker, but he still needs to work on being able to avoid contact as he goes for the shot.
Summary & Intangibles
Athleticism – Good
BB IQ – Good
Plumlee does a lot of things well which would make him a good NBA player – he is athletic for his size, he rebounds well, and he has the potential to be a good defender at the NBA level. However, he really needs to make strides this year with his offensive game if he wants to maximize his potential and his draft stock. He doesn’t need to put up big offensive numbers to be effective, he just needs to be consistent enough on the offensive end that opposing teams will need to defend him well. Of course, to go along with this, he really needs to add a few go-to post moves, as well as working harder at his mid-range game. Going into the upcoming season, he has late-first round (20-30) value based on his potential, but at some point he is going to need to finally take the next step in his development. We will check back in on his progress during the season.
We are just getting started on the Road to the 2012 Draft, make sure to check back often for more scouting reports, interviews and features. Remember, leave any comments below, follow me on Twitter – @NBADraftBlog, or feel free to email me at the link up top. Also, make sure to check out more of my articles over at SwooshNation.com