Mason Plumlee Has Made His Presence Known As Nets Season Progressed
The Brooklyn Nets made many roster upgrades before this season, most notably acquiring Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett via the Celtics. As the regular season comes to a close this week, Mason Plumlee is surprisingly the player who has made the most significant impact in the interior of the Nets lineup the second half of the season.
Plumlee’s minutes and production have increased steadily as the season has progressed, and his powerful dunks seem to be sprinkled throughout every game. Garnett and Andrei Kirilenko’s injuries were the initial reason for the infusion of Plumlee’s extra minutes, but due to his terrific play, he appears to be a constant presence in the Nets rotation for years to come.
In the past 34 games, the 6’10”first round draft pick out of Duke has averaged 8.7 PPG, 5.7 RPG, and a .669 Field Goal Percentage in only 20.7 MPG. He has taken on a larger role with the team and is logging many minutes with the starters. More importantly, Plumlee has established trust with his coach and teammates.
Deron Williams and Paul Pierce continually look for Plumlee in the paint when defenders converge on their dribble drives, and more often than not he finishes. Oddly enough, all 117 field goals converted by Plumlee this season have come in the paint. He provides the Nets with size, toughness, and rebounding ability they lacked last year. While Brook Lopez is an offensive force when healthy, he struggled to have lateral quickness and rebounding ability on the defensive end, something Plumlee provides nightly.
With the playoffs starting this weekend, Head Coach Jason Kidd will no doubt be relying on the veterans to log thirty plus minutes per game, something he has spared them in preparation for a sustained playoff run. Garnett should get the bulk of the playing time at center, but the recent emergence of Plumlee gives Kidd more options in his rotation now.
For much of the season, and all of last season, Andray Blatche was the primary big man off the bench, and rightfully so. Blatche gives the second unit instant offense and creates matchup problems for opponents. Kidd may give Plumlee many of those previously allotted minutes to Blatche if he’s looking for a certain blend on the floor. Most of the second half of the season, Kidd has gone to smaller lineups using Pierce or Johnson playing the “four.” If he continues this trend, minutes may be limited for both Blatche and Plumlee, especially when you factor in Andrei Kirilenko’s minutes who Kidd will most likely utilize due to his playoff experience.
It will be interesting to see if the trust in Plumlee triggers similar minutes in the playoffs.
Regardless of how the season ends, Plumlee has established himself as a legit big man in this league who can bang with the best of ‘em.
The highlight of his rookie campaign will obviously be the clinching block on the immortal Lebron James in last week’s win against the Heat; an image which monopolized sports highlight shows for a full day.
Simply put, Plumlee just keeps impressing fans, teammates, and more recently the national media. It’s seems he gets more alley-oop opportunities every game and his name is all too prevalent in post-game wrap-up shows following Net wins. The “kid” has arrived and he’s still getting better.
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