Draft Projection: No. 20: Chicago Bulls
Notes: Insider Only
Positives: Insider Only
Negatives: Insider Only
Summary: June 26 Update: Plumlee probably deserves a higher ranking than No. 23. His age is the primary thing working against him. He has good size for his position, is an explosive athlete and is coming off a very good senior season. He might never be a starter in the NBA, but his size and leaping ability should keep him in the league for a long time.
Quick fact: Plumlee ranked second in the nation in both points per play (1.58) and field goal percentage (84.4 percent) in transition (min. 40 plays).
June 25 Update: Every mock draft, we alternate between a big and a wing for the Bulls. They need both. Plumlee is an interesting case. Lots of teams like him, few love him. But I think it would be hard for the Bulls to pass on Plumlee's value at No. 20. Tim Hardaway Jr. and Jamaal Franklin are other possibilities.
June 24 Update: Plumlee isn't going to be happy about this No. 24 rankings in our Secret NBA Draft Big Board. He had a terrific senior year and worked out many of the kinks in his game, but scouts still seem skeptical. While his elite athletic ability is his calling card, this ranking may foretell a draft night slide. His range for draft night is 11 to 22.
June 18 Update: The Hawks could use just about everything. Plumlee isn't a particularly sexy prospect, but he runs the floor very well and is one of the most athletic bigs in the draft. If he rebounds and uses his strength and mobility, he could be a valuable rotation player for the Hawks. Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk, San Diego State's Jamaal Franklin and Michigan's Tim Hardaway Jr. also are possibilities.
June 10 Update: Plumlee continues to be one of the harder players in the draft to peg right now. While every team likes him, we have yet to hear of a team in the lottery that has him particularly high on their board. Plumlee already has worked out for the Celtics, Thunder and Sixers, and has workouts with the Blazers, Suns, Wizards and Pistons coming up. The Celtics and Sixers, in particular, desperately need size and athleticism on their front lines and could be great fits.
May 28 Update: Plumlee showed off terrific athletic skills and measured a little taller than expected at the combine. Skipping the workouts might have hurt him a little bit, but the measurements and testing reaffirmed that Plumlee has the size and athletic ability to play in the league for a long, long time.
May 15 Update: As a freshman at Duke, Plumlee quickly found himself in the top 10 of our 2009 Top 100 board. Blessed with size, an NBA body and elite athleticism for a big, he seemed like a surefire bet for the lottery. Plumlee, however, didn't quite live up to expectations, and as a sophomore and junior he saw his stock slide to the mid-to-late first-round range.
This season, as a senior, he finally lived up to his lofty expectations. As one of the two or three best players in the ACC, Plumlee not only showed off his athletic prowess but also became a big-time rebounder and scorer for Duke.
His reward? Skepticism -- and heaps of it -- from NBA scouts and GMs.
Plumlee is 23, and for NBA teams, that's akin to having an infectious disease. Despite his improvements on the court, scouts have been reluctant to put him back into the top 10. I understand the hesitation because of his age. Virtually every advanced metric says age is a strong predictor of NBA success or failure. But with Plumlee, I'm not so sure.
Watching him fly up and down the court in games during this workout, seeing his eye-popping finishes above the rim and watching his handle and passing abilities, I wonder if this is a case of a player who just blossomed a little later than everyone expected.
Athletically, Plumlee is among the top two or three big men in the draft. Nerlens Noel is the only player who clearly looks bouncier. However, there are things Plumlee can do that no other big in this draft can. He has great hands, can catch and finish on the run and plays with power in the post.
He had a number of spectacular finishes in the workout, and all of them were in the flow of an up-and-down game. He can catch the ball in midair and finish.
His lack of length and shot blocking in college, as well as a work-in-progress jump shot, are legitimate fears. But Plumlee looked the part of a legitimate NBA big man for a full two hours Tuesday. If his brother Miles, who didn't produce nearly what Mason has at Duke, can get drafted in the 20s, where should Mason go?
Plumlee's agent, Mark Bartelstein, is fairly certain Plumlee is a top-10 pick, maybe even top-5. Bartelstein is so certain that he's pulling Plumlee out of the drills portion of the draft combine Thursday.
I'm not sure I see him going that high. I know most of the scouts I talk to don't. However, Bartelstein has a point. If a team wants an athletic big, how can they really pass on him?
May 15 Update: Plumlee continues to be a hard player for me to peg. I watched him work out in drills and 4-on-4 play in Chicago on Tuesday. He runs the floor as well as any big man and can explode off the floor. Athletically, there really isn't another big in the draft who can do what he does. His skills, however, are a mixed bag right now, which might explain why he's skipping the drills portion of the combine. Strong measurements would also help his case. If he can crack 7 feet or a 9-foot standing reach, he'll draw even more interest. Some teams have Plumlee firmly in the top 10, others somewhere in the 20s.
May 8 Update (Projected No. 20 pick, Chicago Bulls): Plumlee had a terrific season at Duke, but he's struggling to convince NBA teams that he could put up similar numbers in the pros. He's big, athletic, a solid rebounder and runs the floor well. I'm not sure he falls this far, but if he does, the Bulls certainly will snatch him up. They could use another athletic body in their frontcourt. Sergey Karasev, a sharpshooter from Russia, also is a real possibility here.
May 2 Update: After a stellar senior season, Plumlee is suffering from the annual malaise that scouts start feeling about seniors. Everyone around the NBA is looking for a newer, sexier prospect, and Plumlee continues to generate an overall lack of excitement despite how well he played this past season. While he could receive interest from teams like the Sixers or Mavs, the chances that he'll end up in the lottery are waning.
Apr 2 Update: Plumlee continued to play well this weekend, scoring 14 points and grabbing seven rebounds against Michigan State and following it up with 17 points and 12 boards in a loss to Louisville. However, he had five turnovers in the Louisville game and had problems, at times, with Louisville big man Gorgui Dieng. Scouts don't really project Plumlee to be a star at the next level, but his size, athletic ability and production this season should get him drafted somewhere in the Nos. 10 to 20 range on draft night.
Mar 26 Update: Plumlee is here primarily by default. He's big, athletic, put up strong numbers his senior season at Duke and is a safe pick for someone looking for an athletic big-man backup. He continues to play well, netting 19 points against Len and Maryland in the ACC tournament and going off for 23 and nine against Albany. His numbers were more modest against a feisty Creighton team, but overall Plumlee seems to be holding steady at the end of the lottery.
Mar 13 Update: Plumlee is coming off one of his best games of the season, a 23-point, 13-rebound game against North Carolina on Saturday. That's the good news. The bad news? He just celebrated his 23rd birthday last week. For players 22 and older, the history of draft prospects isn't very encouraging.
Feb 27 Update: Plumlee's stock took a bit of a hit after Alex Len dominated him on both ends of the floor. While Len had 19 and nine, Plumlee ended up with 4 points, 3 rebounds and 5 turnovers in the Duke loss to Maryland. He has since rebounded with a strong 19-point, 15-rebound performance against Boston College, but Plumlee needs more big games against NBA-caliber big men. Scouts will be closely watching his matchup against Miami's Kenny Kadiji on Saturday.
Jan 30 Update: Plumlee has come down to earth as the Blue Devils have hit conference play. A 3-for-9 performance against Clemson, a 7-for-20 night against Georgia Tech and a 5-for-15 game against Miami have dinged his shooting percentages. But his last game, a terrific 19-point (on 9-for-12 shooting) effort against Maryland and Len, Plumlee again proved his terrific athletic ability for his size will find him a spot in an NBA rotation someday. However, scouts have tempered their expectations that Plumlee will be much more than an athletic big man who runs the floor, rebounds and adds size in the paint. In this draft, that's enough to get you drafted in the lottery.
Nov 23 Update: Plumlee has been considered a potential lottery pick since his freshman season at Duke. Blessed with size and excellent athleticism, scouts considered it just a matter of time before he blossomed into an elite big man.
Three years into his college career, scouts were ready to give up. Plumlee flirted with declaring for the 2012 draft, but couldn't secure a promise in the first round.
Teams worried about his inconsistency, his toughness and his lack of progress on the offensive end. He looked the part, but he rarely played it.
This season, everything is different. Plumlee has been dominating on both ends of the ball. He's averaging 21 points and 11 rebound per game, and he's doing it against some tough teams such as Kentucky and Minnesota. Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski is, for the first time, running the offense through Plumlee and has encouraged him to become a leader on the team.
No one in the NBA is under any illusions that Plumlee is going to be a superstar at the next level. However, teams are always looking for big athletes who can rebound the ball and score around the rim. If Plumlee continues his strong start, he should hear his name called in the lottery.
Oct 9 Update: As a freshman, Plumlee was considered a potential lottery pick. But as his playing time increased and his production flatlined, scouts starting jumping off the bandwagon. Yes, he is big and athletic. But he always leaves you wanting more.
But when his brother Miles -- who wasn't nearly as productive as Mason -- snuck into the first round in a much deeper draft last June, it was time to reassess everything. Mason Plumlee has a better offensive game than his brother. The 2013 draft is weaker. It's even weaker on bigs. That may put him, by default, into the mid-first round. If he can show any sort of scoring ability and toughness in the paint this year, he's got a good shot at the lottery.
Apr 10 Update: Mason Plumlee must think NBA scouts are neurotic. Every year he becomes a better basketball player and every year his NBA Draft stock drops. This year Plumlee had, by far, his most productive season but scouts expected more, especially offensively, from the bouncy big man. Had he stayed in the draft he'd be a likely late first round pick. If he can add some offense to his game, he's got a shot at going in the mid to late first round next year.
Mar 12 Update: The Good: He's big. He's very athletic. He can be a dominant defensive player.
The Bad: He's inconsistent. While he has shown a number of signs of life offensively, they aren't consistent.
The Upside: Scouts have wanted to love Plumlee since his freshman year. He has all the tools to be a very good NBA backup center -- a sort of Jeff Foster-type player -- if he plays with consistent toughness. If scouts just settle on that, I think they'll be happy with him in the second half of the first round.
Nov 25 Update: Plumlee had a bit of a coming-out party in Maui. After two years of tantalizing us with his size and athletic ability, he's finally showing a consistent impact on the floor. Coach K said Plumlee should have won the MVP of the tournament and he was probably right. The defense he played on Thomas Robinson at the end of Wednesday's game versus Kansas won the game for the Blue Devils. Plumlee is still a major work in progress at the offensive end. But if he continues to play defense and rebound like he did in Maui, he's going to be a top-20 pick. Think of him as the second coming of Jeff Foster.
Nov 15 Update: We've been waiting for two years for Plumlee (Top 100 Rank: 20) to start living up to the hype. After two games, he looks like he's slowly starting to get there. Through Duke's first two games he's averaging 13 ppg on 67 percent shooting, 11 rpg and 4.0 apg. He's still a bit awkward on the offensive end, but if he will just commit himself to being active and rebounding like that all season, he'll be in the lottery.
Mar 20 Update: A few other players to keep an eye on include Duke's Kyrie Irving and Mason Plumlee. Sources say that both players are seriously considering making a leap for the NBA. Two sources said that Irving was "gone," and those same sources said Plumlee is leaning toward declaring -- in part so that his two brothers, Miles and incoming freshman Marshall, can have a chance to play.
Mar 15 Update: The Good: Plumlee is a terrific athlete. He runs the floor well and can jump out of the gym. He's a very good rebounder and shot-blocker.
The Bad: He's still really raw offensively. He doesn't have much of a low-post game yet.
The Upside: Plumlee was supposed to have a breakout season for Duke this year, but it hasn't really happened. He's not featured in their offense and has really relied on putbacks for his offense this season. Still, scouts are undeterred in their belief that he's a potential lottery pick. You just don't find many players with his size and athleticism.
Dec 1 Update, By David Thorpe: Plumlee is ranked as a top-tier athlete, but is he a good enough basketball player to be a lottery pick? Can he stand out in a game of men? Though the Spartans lack elite talent inside, their rough play will prove to be a good testing point for Plumlee. If he can be a key difference maker, like he was against Marquette, then his stock goes up. It's already clear he has the athleticism and energy to be a nice role player in the NBA, but teams don't covet those kinds of guys in the lottery, especially in a class that looks like it's going to be very deep in talent. I'm looking to see what Plumlee does really well -- block shots, finish in traffic, the transition game, etc. If scouts can start zeroing in on one special gift, it will help Plumlee's attempt to creep into the top 10.
Nov 12 Update, By David Thorpe: Plumlee is in a similar spot to John Henson, though he was better than his Carolina rival last season. Going from role player to starter, scouts will expect to see him do more for Duke more often. A good five-minute rotation will not be enough -- can he carry his team for stretches? He also would greatly benefit from being able to do one thing well on offense. Paint scoring would be great, even against strong competition. Good outside shooting would work almost as well, helping him project as a floor-spacer and a good pick-and-pop guy. Teams aren't yet sure what he'll be able to do in the NBA, outside of being an energy guy. But NBA executives don't like drafting energy guys in the lottery.
Oct 21 Update: A preseason injury got Plumlee off to a slow start last year, but by the end of the season there was little doubt that he would be one of the top NBA prospects in 2011.
Plumlee combines great size with elite athleticism and a terrific motor. He's an explosive leaper, who can play way above the rim, and uses energy to impact the game on both ends of the floor. He played a smaller supporting role last year for Duke, but after a summer of working out (including a stint in Chicago with trainer Tim Grover) NBA scouts are anxiously awaiting to see how he's improved.
Given his size and athletic abilities, if he gets big minutes at Duke this year, he's got a shot to move way up in the rankings. We have him at No. 12 at the moment, but big men that produce typically go higher.
Feb 16 Update:How good is this year's freshman class? We currently have 10 freshmen in our top 30. We are close to adding an 11th. A number of NBA scouts have been intrigued with Duke big man Mason Plumlee. He isn't playing a major role for Duke this season, but when Plumlee gets in the game, he's terrific.
Plumlee's recent seven-point, nine-rebound performance against North Carolina may not wow you, but it's rare to see a player with his size, motor and athleticism generating so little buzz. I think that's changing, and Plumlee could end up charging up the board, à la Ed Davis last year, in the final month of the season.
Although virtually everyone believes Plumlee will stay for another season at Duke (and he really could use the extra playing time), he's got a real shot at the lottery -- if not this year, then next year for sure.
Jan 12 Update: Teams are also keeping a close eye on Duke freshman big man Mason Plumlee. Plumlee missed the start of the season with a broken wrist. Since he's been back, he's been brought along slowly but has shown some signs of living up to his promise as one of the top prospects from the high school class of 2009. He had an 18-point, 7-rebound performance against Penn and was very impressive -- more impressive than Derrick Favors -- in Duke's loss against Georgia Tech. Plumlee ended the game with 10 points, 6 boards, 3 assists and 2 steals. His athleticism and versatility are pretty interesting. Most likely he stays another year at Duke, but he has the potential to be a high pick down the road.