ACC's Top-25 Players: No. 19 – Mason Plumlee, Duke


Last year, a broken wrist forced Mason Plumlee to the sidelines. The injury forced him to miss the end of summer practice and the season’s first six games.

Once on the court, Plumlee did show some flashes of the NBA-type skills that make the scouts touch themselves, but he certainly struggled to keep up with the pace of college ball. First though, let’s talk about those NBA skills.

It’s been a long time since Blue Devil nation has seen a player the size of Mason handle the ball as well as he did. He can go left, he can go right, he can even lead the fast break. He should remind everyone of a young Christian Laettner, although he did fail to put up Laettner-type numbers his freshman year.

Laettner averaged 9ppg in 16 minutes, pulling down nearly five rebounds per game, shooting a studly 72% from the floor. Plumlee averaged 4ppg, 3rpg, shooting 46%.

The fact is, Plumlee always seemed a step behind the action his freshman year. He would often get the ball, usually up high and would simply pause, thinking, waiting for something to happen. It’s called game speed and this is what was lost with the broken wrist. When things start to click, he’ll know what to do with the rock before he even gets it.

Having said that, look for Plumlee’s game to take a huge step forward in 2010-2011. For one, he’s starting, so he’s not going to have much choice. His minutes (14.1 per game last year) will double, as I suspect he’ll be playing along side his brother.

The most important factor that will assist Plumlee will be the offensive style change. With Scheyer, Zoubek and Thomas graduated, gone will be the motion offense and in should be the dribble-drive.

Duke’s offense should be more pro-style, which should fit Plumlee better. With the addition of Irving and Curry, two lighting quick guards (as well as Nolan Smith), the Devils should be pushing the ball up the floor. Mason showed last year that he likes to run and there should be plenty of opportunities to do so this year. Also, because Irving can drive to the lane on his own, Mason will not be needed to set screens as much, thus he will be allowed to find spots on the floor he likes to work out of.

Of course, the keys for him to really become one of the better big men in the conference are simple.

First, he must continue to crash the board without getting into foul trouble. Last year, Mason averaged about one foul every five and a half minutes. Not terrible, but the reality was, so many of his fouls last year could be placed in the “stupid” category, by either fouling a big man far away from the basket or reaching in with no shot at the ball right after a missed shot.

Second, free throw shooting will need to improve. 54% is fine for a big man coming off the bench. That percentage needs to jump about 10% points in 2010.

Lastly, it’s clear Plumlee prefers to face the basket. That’s wonderful. He shouldn’t stop that. He can beat any big man off the dribble if he so chooses to, but if you’re 6’11, you have to be a post-player too.

Mason certainly put a lot of effort into creating inside post-moves last year, but he more often than not, stumbled on the finish. Look for an improved inside game this year. Sure he’s not going to turn into Kareem, but if he can simply discover a turn-around or a hook, all while continuing to do his damage facing the basket, then there is no doubt Plumlee could be a second-team All-ACC big man, with a decent of leaving school early for the NBA.