Mason Plumlee‘s stock is on the rise and rightfully so. The Duke product followed up an impressive rookie season with the Brooklyn Nets with an even more impressive summer.
Plumlee dominated NBA Summer League play, averaging 18 points, five rebounds, two steals and one block per game. His time in Orlando began with a 23-point, seven-rebound, three-steal performance against the Indiana Pacers. Following Summer League, Plumlee was then selected to become a part of the USA Select team. It didn’t take long for the 7’1″ forward/center to impress his former college coach Mike Krzyzewski. After his first practice, Plumlee was called up to Team USA.
Nearly one month later, the move became permanent. On Aug. 23, Plumlee was officially named to the final roster of 12 players that will play in this year’s FIBA World Cup in Spain.
There has been some speculation and criticism as to how the forward, who only averaged seven points and four rebounds in 18 minutes as rookie, would make the team. Part of that criticism also stems from Krzyzewski being head coach. Nonetheless, his statistics shouldn’t be discredited. Brooklyn was 16-6 with him installed as the starter last season.
“We are very excited that Mason will represent Brooklyn on Team USA in the World Cup. There is no greater honor than to represent your country, and Mason has worked very hard the last two months to earn his place on the team,” said Nets General Manager Billy King in a statement.
Familiarity with the coach couldn’t hurt Plumlee. This chance is a golden opportunity for the 24-year-old to improve upon last year ago and test himself against the premier big men of the NBA.
“You know you have to be a great screener to play for [Coach K]. You have to be on the boards all the time,” told Nets Daily in late July. “In our half-court sets, you’re going to be a playmaker-passer from the elbow.”
Plumlee enters this season with the starting power forward position all but locked up. Unless the team decides to go small, with Mirza Teletovic at the four, then Brooklyn would enjoy a towering front court with Plumlee and Brook Lopez. If Lopez, who has been cleared to workout by training staff, struggles early on then Plumlee may be called upon to shoulder some of the offensive load.
He is a capable defender, who is adept at providing help defense (just ask LeBron James). However, if the seven-footer is to take a leap forward in his second year, then he will need to improve upon his jump shooting.
As he did at Duke, more often than not, Plumlee was asked to run the floor, set screens and occupy the paint in Brooklyn. If he wants to replicate his senior year in college, where he averaged a double-double, he will need to add a jumpshot to his game. With the Nets, Plumlee shot 76 percent from within three feet of the basket but on shots out to 10 feet only 33 percent.
A shot will also come into play if the two are to share the court with each other for an extended period of time. With the attention Lopez will receive down low, there is no doubt Plumlee will be left open.
“Brook comes back and if I want to get on the floor, I’m going to have to knock down shots,” Plumlee told Newsday in early July. “It’ll make me a better player.”
Plumlee worked on his shot with assistant coach Roy Rogers at summer League. His shot is not the only thing that will need improvement, so will his free throw shooting. Plumlee shot an atrocious 63 percent from the line.
Plumlee’s continued improvement will be crucial in divisional play this season, and the future, as Philadelphia is set to have both Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid together late in the season. The Nets’ rival Toronto also has their rising center, Jonas Valanciunas.
No one could have predicted this type of summer for the Nets big man. Plumlee’s confidence has to be sky high as he looks to help Team USA capture gold in Spain. If his summer league performance is any indication, both Team USA and the Nets have a lot to look forward to.