Second-year big man Mason Plumlee, currently vying for a spot on Team USA’s World Cup roster, said he would welcome the chance to start for the Brooklyn Nets next season. “Oh yeah,” Plumlee replied. “What player doesn’t wanna start?”
Plumlee started 19 consecutive games as a rookie from March 1 to April 4, averaging 7.4 points and 5.7 rebounds in 21.1 minutes. He shot 64.7 percent from the field over that span.
With Brook Lopez coming off foot/ankle surgery and Kevin Garnett likely returning for his 20th season, it seems Plumlee will certainly have a significant role in 2014-15 -- whether he’s starting or not.
“No,” Plumlee responded, when asked if he’s aware of what his role will be, “but [the coaches] are working on it. They were out [there], they watched every [USA] practice out in [Las] Vegas, the whole staff was out there. They’re on the job, so if I don’t know, I’ll know soon.
“But [Lionel Hollins is] a very positive coach. He gave me something after each practice to look at. And then the same with, I met Paul Westphal, Jay Humphries, [John] Welch was out there. It was cool for me because they were doing the… I don’t know what you’d call it, their little coach’s retreat or whatever. I got to talk with them all week.”
Asked about the biggest improvements he’s made to his game during the offseason, Plumlee responded, “I have been shooting a lot out with [Jay] recently, with [ex-big man coach] Roy [Rogers] before. Like I said, they’re not gonna be looking for Mason to take jump shots, but it’s gonna really open up my game. It’s gonna be a great addition to my game going into this season. It’s gonna be really good.”
Last season, Plumlee went 0-for-9 on shots outside the paint. Coach Jason Kidd was adamant -- even in the media -- that Plumlee was under strict orders not to take any.
But this season, Plumlee definitely wants to break that 0-fer. “And early too,” he added with a grin.
ESPN Insider’s Bradford Doolittle listed Plumlee as one of five players that deserve more minutes in 2014-15.
Plumlee's 19.0 PER was a revelation for the Nets a season ago, as he played 1,275 minutes and started 22 games to help Brooklyn survive the lost season of Brook Lopez. He faltered in the playoffs, but if the development of his brother Miles in Phoenix is any indication, Plumlee is going to be ready for a larger role in his second season. Free agent Andray Blatche is almost certainly not returning to Brooklyn, and Kevin Garnett will be entering his 20th NBA season, and can't be counted on for much more than 20 minutes per night. Lopez will be back, but ongoing concerns about his foot will result in his minutes being carefully regulated.
That all makes Plumlee's development one of the key factors in the upcoming Nets season. Brooklyn thrived playing a lot of smallish, unconventional lineups under Jason Kidd, but that's not the way Lionel Hollins rolled when he was with Memphis. The Nets have a terrific stretch option in Mirza Teletovic, but if Hollins wants to pair two traditional bigs as much as possible, that's going to mean a lot of minutes for Plumlee. He played much more in the middle than at power forward as a rookie, but according to 82games.com, his defensive PER was much better at the 4. Plumlee's numbers at Synergy Sports Technologies suggest he wasn't comfortable stepping out against jump-shooters, but he's got the mobility and athleticism to guard most 4s. Plumlee, of course, rarely scores outside the immediate vicinity of the rim, but being paired with the face-up abilities of Teletovic, Lopez and Garnett means Plumlee offers a nice complementary option.