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FanRag Sports 2017 NBA Offseason Rankings | 98 – Mason Plumlee

Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee, front, reaches out for the ball while becoming entangled with New Orleans Pelicans forward Donatas Motiejunas, of Lithuania, during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, April 7, 2017, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

FanRag Sports Offseason Rankings count down the top 100 NBA players throughout the offseason. Methodology, voters and the full countdown are all detailed in the introductory post

Mason Plumlee presents an interesting dilemma when it comes to rankings. How much attention do you pay to per-minute stats versus accrued stats? How do overall metrics factor in? Most importantly, how much does being a role player count if you thrive in that role, even if you aren’t much help anywhere else? Plumlee has an interesting mix of numbers and eye-test results which left him scattered among our voters.

One voter had him as high as 63; another three left him off their ballots entirely. More evaluation can help explain the differential.

Floor – 150

Part of the problem with Plumlee is that he’s still a free agent. If he stays with the Denver Nuggets, he’ll be the backup center behind Nikola Jokic, and we’ll likely lose minutes to the stable full of power forwards they have. Without much of a guarantee of minutes, there’s a very good chance he will fall short of the top 100 this season, and possibly won’t even sniff it.

The question is: Why aren’t teams signing him if he’s a top-100 player?

The answer to that appears to be that many teams are capped out and/or close to being there, and those who aren’t seem reluctant to give a substantive contract to big man who doesn’t protect the rim or have much shooting range. All of that reinforces the notion that Plumlee’s floor is the likely outcome here.

Ceiling – 95

That shouldn’t suggest that Plumlee is a terrible player. He provides solid contributions. It might surprise you, for example, to know that he finished 56th in Win Shares. Just 41 players placed better than him in both Win Shares (6.0) and Player Efficiency Rating (18.1). He shot 54.7 percent from the field and averaged 14.1 points and 10.1 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per 36 minutes. His time on the court isn’t hollow; he’s productive.

If he can get regular minutes and work on his defensive limitations (those two things are related), he can fulfill his selection as a top-100 player.

Offense

Let’s just say his parents were prescient when they named him Mason. From outside, the man throws up bricks.

According to NBA.com, he made 294 shots last year within eight feet at a rate of 59.2 percent — 267 of those were specifically at the rim. That’s good. From 8-16 feet, he made just 26 at 40.6 percent. Beyond 16 feet he had just 14 buckets at a 25 percent rate.

Away from the basket, Plumlee starts to become a useless player, but he is very useful at the basket, especially when the court is stretched out by his teammates. A good chunk of his points comes from cutting to the basket. He has solid touch when needed–and with both hands. He can throw down the dunk through traffic. He has the athleticism to “oop” the proverbial alley:

 

It’s also worth noting that he’s an underrated passer.

The problem is that his scoring around the rim masks his deficiencies away from it in the advanced metrics, giving him the illusion of an efficient scorer instead of a limited one.

Defense

The real problem with Plumlee is his “defense.”  Sometimes defensive metrics lie. They don’t with him. He was 54th out of 66 centers in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus. He ranked in the 33rd percentile for all defensive players with Synergy. He has the lateral quickness of a turtle in crutches, which makes him pretty easy to beat off the bounce.

No one ever confused Jerami Grant for an elite ball-handler, but look how flat-footed he catches Plumlee here:

 

In today’s games, when bigs are required more than ever to be able to step out to the perimeter and guard the ball-handler, Plumlee is challenged. That’s why his minutes will likely remain limited.

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