PHOENIX — “I’m just trying to be myself, the best version of me. You can’t recreate yourself before the end of these workouts.” – Mason Plumlee on his approach going into the draft
One season typically doesn’t make or break a four-year college prospect’s draft stock, but in the case of Duke center Mason Plumlee, the 2012-13 campaign might have solidified his place in the heart of the first round — something few could have predicted at this time a year ago.
During Plumlee’s impressive senior season in Durham — became just the second Blue Devil to record a double-double (17.1 points and 10.0 rebounds per game) for an entire season under Mike Krzyewski — he showed off improved post moves in the paint, an ability to finish above the rim, a relentlessness on the glass (3.0 offensive rebounds per game) and a rare second gear in transition (accounted for seven percent of his total offensive production).
Plumlee is the type of big that doesn’t require set plays to be effective at the offensive end. He’s skilled enough to excel whether it be on a put-back dunk or out of a screen-and-roll situation.
With that skill set and an upbringing in Coach K’s system, Plumlee according to Suns general manager Ryan McDonough is already an NBA-ready prospect heading into the draft on June 27.
“I know Mason right away in the NBA will be able to rebound,” McDonough said. “He’ll be one of the better bigs in the league running the floor. He plays above the rim, rebounds above the rim. There were a number of times in the workout where if he got the loose, the guards threw the ball up to the rim and he caught it and dunked it.”
Although Plumlee has established himself as one of the more athletic big men available in the first round, his shooting touch and range outside of the paint leave something to be desired. Although he finished the 2012-13 season shooting a shade under 60 percent, most of his touches at Duke came off a missed shot attempt or in the post (40 percent of all possessions). He also took just 10 jump shots his senior season.
Over his final two years at Duke, Plumlee appeared to finally be comfortable in his own frame, while also adding necessarily weight for the purpose of strengthening his upper and lower body. But while his physical maturation had an impact on his low-post defense, Plumlee never appeared to be a very good rim protector during his collegiate career.
The 6-foot-11 prospect averaged at least 1.4 blocks per game from 2011-2013, but his unremarkable lateral quickness and help-side awareness were often exposed when playing against quicker guards or teams who liked to run a heavy dose of pick-and-rolls.
The Indiana native has the athleticism to be an effective NBA player without the basketball, even as a rookie. But the question with a lot of post players, especially those that come out of Duke, is how do they play when the ball goes through them?
As noted earlier, Plumlee bulked up as an upperclassman, which allowed him to play with more physicality in the post (7.1 free throw attempts per game in 2012-13). With that said, his tools aren’t exactly unique at the next level.
Sure, his off-the-ball traits will allow him to play right away, but whether he has what it takes to be a focal point of an offense is still up for debate.
How he fits with the Suns
Draft position aside, Plumlee would seemingly be a nice fit for the Suns, because let’s face it, in 2012-13 they lacked big men who could run in transition, attack the glass and play above the rim.
“I know they had a lot of turnover in their front office and with the head coach,” said Plumlee. “I’m anxious to see how they play. Coach [Hornacek] said they want to get out and run, I think that suits my game really well. I’d love to play for the [Suns].”
While Jeff Hornacek might want to play an up-tempo style next season, he’ll likely have to do so without the former Duke standout.
Unless McDonough finds a way to acquire a third pick in the first round, Plumlee’s services will more than likely be unattainable. The All-ACC First Teamer might not have played his way into the lottery this past season, but his stock is definitely higher than the Suns’ second first-round pick at No. 30.
And 1 … a second-rounder to consider
Dewayne Dedmon. Despite former USC head coach Kevin O’Neill’s best attempt to sell the 7-foot center as a lottery pick, Dedmon is far from it. He’s a project in every sense of the word. The former Trojan had a nice junior season (7.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game), but he’s not close to being a finished product.
Dedmon, who only began playing basketball at the 18, brings to the draft a mix of pros and cons. He’s extremely long, has exceptional quickness for his size and can shoot from the perimeter with some surprising consistency. With that said, he’s not exactly your prototypical, polished big men. Defensively, he is very foul prone and lacks upper body strength to go pound-for-pound with players at his position. Offensively, his post game is rather non-existent, and he has a tendency to fade away from contact.
“Dewayne shot the ball well in the workout,” Ryan McDonough said. “You didn’t see a lot of that at USC, that wasn’t his role. But he’s really long, a good shot-blocker, and even though he’s 23, he’s still young basketball-wise. You can see some upside and improvement there.”