The lack of assertiveness from Mason Plumlee in the post
One thing I admire about Duke is how Coach K defines each player’s roles and how they all play within their own role. If you look at Mason Plumlee, two of his main roles are setting screens and controlling the glass. As the 25th best defensive rebounder in the country and playing a crucial role in the 5th ranked offense, I think he has filled this role pretty well.
While he is not called upon to be a major scorer, I think he has the potential to be an inside threat for the Blue Devils. He has nice footwork but needs to improve on several things, as we will see in this play.
The first thing you notice is where he catches the ball. Although he starts his post up with a foot in the paint, by the time he catches the ball he is a few feet off the block. He needs to work on establishing and keeping his position to put himself in a favorable position in the post.
By catching the ball this far from the basket, any move to the basket will require a few dribbles, allowing more room for a turnover, a double team to slow him down or the initial defender to recover on any move Plumlee can use at first.
Now I actually think Plumlee makes a solid move. He turns and faces and drives to the lane but it takes him three dribbles to get to the middle of the lane. Once he gets there, instead of getting into the defender, he fades away for a tough 14 footer. I don’t think he is afraid of contact because he battles on the boards night in and night out but he does not show the same here.
Once he gets into the lane, Plumlee should be looking to finish strong or at the very least, draw a foul. By fading away, he makes it a tough shot and lets the defender off easy by not challenging him.
Does Duke need Plumlee to be an offensive treat to succeed? I think we have seen that the obvious answer to that is no. Duke is the 5th efficient offense with only 6.6 points from 5 shots per game from Plumlee. However, by being strong enough to draw extra attention, that will open up more space for the perimeter shooters.
Finally, if the Duke outside shots are not falling, they will need an inside scorer to get easy baskets. They have someone that can do that in Singler but a second player will provide depth in that area. In Duke’s only loss, they shot 11-35 from 3, with Plumlee taking only three field goals (updated). It’s clear Plumlee is filling his role and not looking for his shot (and taking away shots from better offensive players).
We did see what could happen when Duke struggles from the outside. In those games, they may need some inside production from Plumlee. I think his post moves are strong enough to get him good looks at the basket but it starts with establishing good post position. If he works on that and does not shy away from contact, he could become a inside threat, in a low-usage setting.