One thing that is being drastically overlooked by observers throughout the young college basketball season is that the Duke Blue Devils have so brilliantly guided their way through a brutal early season schedule without Marshall Plumlee, a guy who was expected to be one of their most valuable bench players heading into the season.
Marshall, the 7’0, 225 lb younger brother of Duke phenom Mason and Indiana Pacers’ Forward Miles, has yet to return from a foot injury he suffered in mid-October. The redshirt freshman had drawn praise from coach Mike Krzyzewski in the early stages of training camp, as evidenced by this tweet from Stephen Wiseman:
@StevewisemanNC: Coach K said Marshall Plumlee was playing well enough to be team’s 6th man before his injury.
This isn’t much of a shocker. Plumlee, like his two brothers, is an athletically gifted big man who is capable of making an impact on both ends of the court, although his current skill-set makes him much more a force on defense. This isn’t a problem, as Duke’s offense revolves around their guards, adjusting this season only because of the emergence of Marshall Plumlee’s offensive output. Meanwhile, Duke is badly in need of someone who can spell Mason, as the star forward is averaging roughly thirty-four minutes a game. Typically, you only want your best big men playing around thirty minutes per game and Plumlee is already way past that.
Marshall Plumlee can be the guy who can give Mason breaks. His size and improved physicality gives them a force on the boards and his natural shot-blocking abilities would give Coach K a strong presence in the paint, something the team badly lacks outside of Ryan Kelly and Mason.
Offensively, Marshall is still a work in progress. Even in high school, Plumlee only managed 11.5 ppg, so don’t expect him to return from injury and give Duke another double-digit scorer on a nightly basis. That being said, he could still make an impact, as his tremendous size and athleticism gives Duke a boost on the offensive boards, if anything. I don’t really want to start making comparisons for Marshall when he hasn’t even played a game yet, but the best comparison I can make is that he is a more athletic, better shot-blocking Brian Zoubek. Zoubek was never a force on offense, outside of the occasional above-average performance, but he still provided plenty on defense by being such a force in the paint. This is the kind of player I see Marshall Plumlee being for the time being. Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not.
Just look at it this way: a 9-0 Duke squad that has already defeated plenty of the country’s best teams is about to get even deeper. That alone should get you excited for a Marshall Plumlee comeback. When is he coming back?
StevewisemanNC: Coach K said Marshall Plumlee could have played today. The two games after break (Dec 19-20 vs. Elon, Colgate) should be his time.
Yep, he is back. Next Wednesday, he is back. Duke was already scary good. Now, they’re going to be downright terrifying.