3 areas of improvement I see for Mason Plumlee (Duke)
Note: For the primer post read here
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I watched the 4 Duke games from the Sweet 16 on with the intention of doing a scouting report on Mason Plumlee. Since he will be one of the likely candidates to replace the graduating duo of Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek, I wanted to get a feel for how I thought he would do in that position.
However, based on the fact that he played only 9, 15, 8 and 3 minutes, respectively, from the Sweet 16 to the Championship and shot the ball only 4 times in those games, it was tough to get a full report on Plumlee. What I did find was three distinct areas in which he can improve (and hopefully have worked on in the summer time) to become an impact low post player as Duke attempts to defend their title:
- Strength on the glass
- Help D
- Tendency to be passive on offense
Strength on the glass
This can be improved not only through the weight room but through rebounding drills and learning how to properly secure and protect the basketball. I found several examples in the games that showed Plumlee needs to improve in this area.
This is an example of how weightlifting will help him immensely in the ACC. Shelvin Mack sticks his hand in and rips the ball right out of his hands. Mack is strong, sure, but an ACC caliber forward cannot be getting out muscled like that by a guard.
Here are two more examples that show Plumlee just needs to be more assertive on the glass. In the first clip, Matt Howard just comes in from behind and tips the ball away from Plumlee. With the position Plumlee had there, there is no way he should not have come down without the ball or a foul call.
In the third clip, he is caught out of position for the defensive rebound. However, he should be able to muscle the Purdue player underneath the basket so Plumlee (or one of his teammates) can then be in position for the defensive rebound. However, he is unable to move the Purdue player and gives up the offensive rebound and then commits a foul.
I think this was equal parts poor position and lack of strength. Again, this can be combated through work in the weight room along with some rebounding drills.
From what I saw, Plumlee was strong on defensive both on the ball on the perimeter and defending the post. What I did see was a weakness on help D and helping his teammates. I have two examples of this to share with you.
Take a look at the first clip. When the ball gets dumped into the post, Plumlee is unsure of whether to commit to a double team on Matt Howard or cover his man at the three point line. While he is caught shuffling between the post and his man, Howard goes right through the gap for a layup attempt.
There is a glaring similarity between these two clips that I hope you caught; Plumlee gets caught up in a similar backscreen (once against Purdue, once against WVU).
In the first clip against Purdue, he fights through the backscreen and recovers. However, once action happens on the other side of the court, Plumlee’s man cuts up to the top of the key and Plumlee loses sight of him. This allows Purdue to shoot an open 3 point shot.
In the clip against West Virginia, Plumlee gets caught up in a similar backscreen and is a bit slow to fight through and recover. As the ball is swung around, Plumlee cannot recover and the ball is dumped into Kevin Jones, where Plumlee must commit a foul to prevent a layup.
Plumlee has struggled on help defense. He is strong on the ball but he often gets lost in help defense. This can be improved through practice and repetition. Coach K is a great defensive mind and I believe Plumlee will be improved on this once the season begins.
Passive on offense
It was clear watching these games that Plumlee’s role was a screener on offense. With Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith running the offense, Plumlee did not have much to do on offense. Scheyer graduated but Duke adds Seth Curry and Kyrie Irving to the backcourt (both offensive threats). However, as mentioned above, Zoubek graduated, leaving a hole in the paint. Zoubek was not a great offensive player but defenses had to respect him.
Watch Plumlee post in the following clip. He posts up only for a brief second and even in that time, he does not post up very hard. The defense does not have to respect him and the lane can be clogged to cut off the driving lanes for the guards. I recognize that Plumlee is going to be the 4th or 5th option on offense most times he is on the court. However, he needs to learn that just posting strong is sometimes enough to be a good role player on offense. This makes the defensive player work hard and the other players take notice of you, opening up options for others.
He also needs to look to the basket to shoot. Again, it is understandable why he only shot 4 times in 4 games (2 times against Baylor and 2 times against West Virginia) but there were many times when he would receive the ball at the top of the key and not look toward the basket. This shows the defense he is not a viable threat to score and can play off of him, making it harder for the offense as a whole to run smoothly.
These are just 3 areas I found that Plumlee can improve in this season. He has some strengths and the tools to be a nice role player (and beyond) for Duke. Plumlee will be a key player in Duke’s title run and these areas are ways he can improve and help the team.