Miles Plumlee‘s invitation to play for the Select Team at USA Basketball camp this week is no doubt an honor. He’ll gain experience by playing in a competitive environment with All-Star-level talent.
His success at USA camp is tied to brother Mason. As most stories of Phoenix Suns blood brothers go, Miles, a year older, has for a long time now been considered the less-talented of the two. Mason slid onto the senior national team this week to fill in for a roster that’s lost big men Kevin Love and Blake Griffin, and now the too-simple question pops up.
Which brother is better?
National team coach Mike Krzyzewski and the brothers’ former Duke coach hasn’t changed his perception of that question, NBA.com’s John Schuhmann writes.
Plumlee’s older brother Miles has good size and is active too. But the feeling is that Mason has a better basketball IQ, is a better pick-and-roll defender and is more skilled. In the eyes of one person who would know, Mason just cares about basketball more.
Coach Mike Krzyzewski had both of them at Duke (and there are even more Dukies on the support staff), so he obviously has a good feel for what both can do.
There’s no doubt Mason is more skilled. He has a much more refined offensive game where he’s able to do this to Anthony Davis, maybe one of the best four players at camp so far.
Mason is also a better passer, a less mechanical version of Miles. Last season, Mason had an assist percentage of 8.1 percent, while Miles’ registered a futile 3.3 percent. All that is why Miles has been working on his post game — both scoring with more natural movements and passing out of the post — since he joined Phoenix in the Luis Scola trade last summer.
This isn’t to argue that Miles should have been considered for that final senior national team slot, but only to say that he’s made solid gains on his little brother since leaving Coach K at Duke. Mason could very well have outplayed Miles in the first few days of camp.
In the pair’s final college season together in 2012-13, Krzyzewski played Mason 28. 4 minutes per game to Miles’ 20.5 because the former was better in almost every area. Remember, Miles was hardly considered a first-round draft pick by averaging 6.6 points and 7.1 rebounds per game as a senior.
But Miles has caught up dramatically this year. In what amounted to a rookie season after he observed the Indiana Pacers from the bench in 2012-13, the Suns center finished the year with a true shooting percentage of 53 percent, which didn’t come close to Mason’s 67 percent.
The Suns, in ugly fashion at times, force-fed Plumlee the ball in the post, hoping that would help open things up for shooters. The skewed difference in the shooting efficiencies between the brothers could have had to do with Miles being game-planned for as a starter. Meanwhile, Mason benefitted from laying low until he began to blossom mid-way through the year.
Miles and Mason have very similar points per possession numbers as pick-and-roll roll players (Miles at 1.11 ppp and Mason at 1.13) and in the post (0.63 for Miles to 0.54 for Mason), according to Synergy Sports. Across the board, they were quite similar but the gap in shooting percentages comes in Miles taking 218 post-up opportunities, which for accounted for 30 percent of his offense. Mason was involved in a total of 26 post-up plays last year, thus the difference in efficiency.
Defensively, Miles also caught up to his brother. He gave up a competent 0.82 points per possession on 39.9 percent shooting to Mason’s 0.92 PPP and 44.5 percent shooting, per Synergy Sports. And that came against more starting-level competition. Miles was also a much better rebounder than his brother, averaging 11.5 per 36 minutes to Mason’s 8.7.
This, again, isn’t saying Miles should have been the one to slide onto the senior team. Only Coach K knows what he wants. But this does show that Miles started with less and has finally taken steps forward developing himself, something that didn’t happen so much in college. Maybe it’s as simple as labeling Miles a late bloomer.
Miles can say he hasn’t reached his ceiling. If watching his brother take a promotion over him makes him a little bit more hungry, the Suns should benefit this coming season.