Miles Plumlee and 55 minutes to create expectations

PHOENIX – For the sake of parallels, consider Miles Plumlee the former Kendall Marshall of the Indiana Pacers. The first-round pick for Indiana in 2012 wasn’t a popular choice during the draft and certainly didn’t help to change opinions last year.

Unlike Marshall, Plumlee really didn’t have the opportunity to change the perception of him. And unlike the Suns’ 13th overall pick, Plumlee was dealt this offseason.

Scour through all the stats from Plumlee’s rookie season, but know that only a few matter. The most telling one is this: the big man out of Duke played 55 total minutes in 2012-13.

“I learned a lot last year and I think coming here is a great opportunity for myself,” Plumlee said at media day. “I really like the moves they’ve made with the team and think I’ll have the opportunity to play, especially as a young guy.”

Plumlee might be viewed as a throw-in to the trade that sent Luis Scola to Indiana. But be sure that Suns general manager Ryan McDonough didn’t make Plumlee part of the deal mindlessly. At a bouncy 6-foot-11 and 255 pounds, the second-year big man can play either center or power forward. Though Plumlee isn’t skilled, he projects as a rebounder, a very good finisher off pick-and-roll plays and potentially, a fine pick-and-roll defender.

He was one of the most well-chronicled players in the team’s pickup games leading into training camp. That’s about all the evidence there is for what he can bring to Phoenix.

“Plumlee has a motor, he doesn’t stop,” said guard Dionte Christmas. “He’s very, very, super athletic. He’s very good. I think he’s going to have a good year.”

Plumlee could play the role of energetic rebounder at power forward for stints on the second unit. If he develops an ability on defense to hedge hard on pick-and-rolls – he has the athleticism to do so – his value could increase two-fold. Head coach Jeff Hornacek would prefer to have stretch power forwards on the court, and Plumlee’s best asset, his rebounding ability, could make him a viable center alongside a Morris twin or Channing Frye.

Offensively, it’s Plumlee’s hard rolls to the rim that could make him useful in the Suns offense. Marcin Gortat has been more comfortable popping out for 15-foot jumpers and the Morris twins have hardly shown the desire to score in two-man games, and Plumlee’s athleticism gives him a distinct advantage. He’ll also be able to score on offensive putbacks in transition and otherwise.

“For my size and athleticism, I’m a hard working guy, a lot of energy,” Plumlee said. “I feel like I’m going to fit in well with the program. I think we’re going to play really fast, up and down the court. I like to run and jump so I think that will play to my strengths.”

Assistants Kenny Gattison and Mark West, two former bigs themselves, have been working with players – even pointing out little details during pickup games – and Plumlee said he’s already improved since being traded.

“Just improving your offensive package,” he said, “working on all your pivots and moves, making them more natural. I feel like I’m getting a lot better.”

Against the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday, Plumlee played 21 minutes and grabbed four rebounds to go with two blocks. He looked uneasy catching the ball and attacking once outside of 10 to 12 feet, but through two preseason games he has shown an ability to get solid lowpost position, then take one or two dribbles for a sweet jump-hook. It seems his work with the Suns’ coaching staff is paying off.

Pacers fans saw Plumlee’s statline at Duke and likely weren’t impressed. He averaged 6.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game as a senior and only averaged 20.5 minutes per game. Was an offensively-limited rebounder really worth a first-round pick?

Suns fans can relate. Phoenix took Marshall as a gifted passer who couldn’t – and still cannot – do much else.

The hope is that Plumlee has something more to offer, something uncovered in those 55 minutes played during his rookie season. Whether it’s his defense, that little jump hook or simply an outright energy, we simply don’t know yet.

  • Bill-in-Tokyo

    @VOS with the Thunder’s Center’s legal problems, has Sun’s Centers suddenly become more valuable?

  • Scott

    McD might have gone after Miles Plumlee because he was so impressed with younger brother Mason Plumlee in draft workouts.

    It wouldn’t be the first time a Suns GM picked a lesser brother based on how the better brother performed. ;)

    But I’m in Miles’s corner. While he didn’t get as much play time as Mason did at Duke, I think he has a higher IQ than Mason, plus more NBA experience (even if it was just practice and D-League), and he can definitely earn play time with the Suns this season.

  • Scott

    @Bill -

    We won’t know about any OKC trade till it happens. But I gather the legal problems for Perkins started when he could have still been amnestied, so Presti probably intends to keep him.

    FWIW, other teams are having center problems too, but probably nothing that would involve the Suns.

    Charlotte has their backup C (Haywood) out for 3 months, and their starting C (Jefferson) just went out with a bad ankle sprain. So 3 players (Biyombo, Cody Zeller, and McRoberts) will manage at PF/C quite possibly for the rest of this pre-season for the Cats.

    I keep hoping the Suns can trade the Morris twins and Marshall for Zeller.

    Also, elder bro Tyler Zeller is now out indefinitely for the Cavs following a minor hip injury and an appendectomy. That leaves them with Varejao (creaky) and Bynum (creakier).

    Luckily pre-season losses won’t count for them in the “Quest for Wiggins.” ;)



    I don’t think mcd makes decisions based on talent levels of siblings. He has proved to be smarter than that and bases talent on an individual basis. He deserves more credit than that.

  • hawki

    With Gortat, Len, Plumlee & Kravtsov the Suns have 4 White Centers breaking the old mark of 3 set by the Fort Wayne Pistons in 1948.

  • Scott


    Well, there was a little tongue in cheek about it on my part, but the two Plumlee brothers are almost identical players.

    There’s even a younger brother – same height, weight, wingspan, etc. – who might be available in the draft this coming year. His name is Marshall.

  • NOitall

    First, McD has proved nothing yet. The Bledsoe deal was solid, but there has been an equally troubling lack of action since.

    It seems the Suns culture is seeping through his Celtic armor. Once again, the Suns are showing that they fear bold decision-making, preferring to straddle the line. This wait-and-see approach always bites them in the end

    What should have happened this summer was a definitive decision on a number of fronts.

    First, if you are going to make the decision about acquiring Bledsoe, you should have done so with a clear idea of where you are going with him. Taking a “let’s see what he can do” approach is dangerous. The only upside to that is if he fails miserably as a viable starter in this league. If you are hedging that, why would you trade for him? They should have immediately entered into negotiations to extend Bledsoe and taken the leap to build around him. If he plays his way into a viable starter or better, it is going to cost them much more at the end of the year, or risk losing him.

    Next, they should have bit the last bullet in regards to Gortat this Summer and traded him. Now, it is too late and all of you who think we are getting something of value for him are deluding yourselves. Unless we can do a sign and trade [at reasonable salary, say $40-45 over 5 years at most], we are getting no more than a 2nd rd pick.

    Finally, a decision needs to be made on Dragic. If we wait on him, he enters into a contract year where we are in the same boat we put ourselves in with Gortat [although I am more willing to pay a younger Dragic than Gortat]. Make the decision one way or another. Either he is here for the haul or trade him. Don’t fret away his contract and paint ourselves into a corner on losing value. Extend him or trade him.

    As far as Plumlee, he is a “Lou Amundson” type, but he has a way to go defensively to prove himself that valuable. If he can defend the PNR like Lou, he is a steal.