Finding a Niche For: Miles Plumlee

Finding a Niche For: Miles Plumlee
May 21, 2012, 12:41 pm
A physically gifted big man with some of the strongest rebounding numbers in the draft, can Miles Plumlee find himself on a NBA roster this fall?

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Kyle Nelson

It took four years for Miles Plumlee to develop into the type of player that Duke fans expected him to be, and even then, he played around 20 minutes per game and scored in double figures just eight times all season. Now, as his career has come to a close, it is time to reevaluate Plumlee on the basis of what he showed throughout his time at Duke to determine whether he can find a niche at the NBA level.

Purely from a physical standpoint, Plumlee looks the part of a NBA big man, measured just a hair under seven feet in shoes with a 7'0 wingspan and an outstanding frame. He bulked up to 247-pounds with allegedly only 5% body fat between his junior and senior seasons. While he's a bit mechanical in his movements, he's a very good athlete for his size--mobile, explosive around the basket, and runs the floor well.

Though he had the reputation of playing facing the basket in high school, Plumlee struggled to develop his offensive game and never turned into a legitimate scoring option at Duke. He averaged a pedestrian 6.6 points per game, a similarly mediocre 12.5 per 40 minutes pace adjusted, while claiming just 8.6% of Duke's offensive possessions. He did, however, shoot a career high 61% from the field, being very efficient in the limited role he played offensively.

Plumlee is still very raw around the basket, at his best catching and finishing. Though his footwork is underdeveloped, he looked comfortable executing a few basic-spin and up-and-under moves with his back to the basket and with his right hand. It's not looking very likely that Plumlee will ever develop into a reliable back-to-the-basket threat, however, especially considering his rawness as a senior and his general lack of development up to this point.

Where Plumlee does thrive and where he can clearly contribute in the NBA is with his tenacity around the basket, particularly grabbing offensive rebounds and finishing. He was the third best offensive rebounder per 40 minutes pace adjusted in our database and on film, he looks to have a nose for the ball while playing a relentless and aggressive style of basketball. While he's primarily a positional rebounder, he has solid hands and the strength and athleticism to bring the ball straight up and to finish in traffic.

Outside of his offensive rebounding prowess, the another interesting wrinkle to Plumlee's game are the brief flashes (just six attempts all season) that he has shown as a spot-up shooter from mid-range, particularly given his comfort operating out of the pick-and-roll. He already sets very good screens and rolls hard to the basket, which is an asset given the predominance of pick-and-roll sets in NBA playbooks. His shooting mechanics need significant work, as his shooting touch isn't great and he spots a slow release with a bit of a hitch, but if he is able to develop in this area, he would have a much better chance of carving out a role in an NBA rotation.

Though his offensive game is still a work in a process, Plumlee improved as a defender during his senior year. His lateral quickness is above average for a player his size, and his increased strength and explosiveness could allow him to play solid post defense in a pinch coming off bench in the NBA. He did a much better job of staying out of foul trouble as a senior, averaging a career low 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes pace adjusted in increased minutes and while posting a career best 1.8 blocks per 40 minutes pace adjusted. It should also be mentioned that Plumlee is a good defensive rebounder, ranking 12th amongst college players in our top-100 rankings.

So, is Plumlee an NBA-caliber center? That's something he'll have to convince teams of between now and June 28th. His outstanding physical profile, efficient style of play, rebounding prowess, and flashes of potential that he shows operating out of the pick-and-roll all represent areas where he could contribute on an NBA roster. The fact that he should be able to hold his own in the post on defense certainly doesn't hurt his stock, either.

On the other hand, Plumlee turns 24 this September, has just an average feel for the game, and developed very slowly throughout his college career, leading many to question his mental toughness. His career has been marked by inconsistency and it took him a long time to get comfortable as a player, let alone a leader.

What is clear is that, despite his unimpressive career numbers, Plumlee is an NBA prospect and could get some looks from teams drafting in the second round. If not, he's easily the type of player who could find himself on a team's roster this fall, as there just aren't that many big men around with his physical attributes and rebounding ability.

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