The Hawks are set to begin training camp on Sept. 26. I'm previewing one player each day leading up to camp (in alphabetical order).
Height/Weight: 6-11, 249
Age: 29 (9/1/88)
2017-18 salary: $12.5 million
CARMELO projected value: minus $0.7 million
How acquired: 2017 trade (Hornets)
Plumlee is a traditional NBA center. He’s a low-usage, high-efficiency scorer who takes nearly all his shots near the basket and, until last season’s injury-plagued campaign, Plumlee had converted those chances at a very good rate.
Plumlee is very efficient as the roll man in pick-and-roll actions. His 1.44 points per possession on that play type in 2015-16 ranked fourth-best among centers with at least 60 possessions, according to NBA.com tracking stats.
Plumlee’s size and athleticism allow him to score when guarded closely. According to NBA.com tracking stats, Plumlee shot 58.6 percent on 70 shots against “very tight” defense (defender within 3 feet) in 2015-16. That ranks fourth-best in the league among players with at least 70 attempts. He ranked 60th among that group in 2014-15 (48.8 FG%) and 63rd in 2013-14 (45.1 FG%).
For his career, Plumlee has earned free throw attempts at an above-average rate of .243, including .424 in 484 minutes last season. He's been good on the offensive glass, too, but he’s also turnover-prone while providing few assists.
FiveThirtyEight.com’s CARMELO projections, which are based on player comparisons, categorize Plumlee as a “defensive specialist” because of his production in blocks and rebounds and his positive plus-minus.
For players who played 3,000 minutes or more from 2013-14 through 2015-16, Plumlee ranked 25th in block percentage (3.9), 32nd in blocks per 36 minutes (1.7), 64th in defensive rebounding percentage (20.6) and 68th in defensive rebounds per 36 minutes. Plumle’’s Defensive Box Plus-Minus of 1.3 ranked 66th over that time.
But, like with Plumlee’s offensive production, his defensive metrics looked a lot better before last season. In 2016-17 he posted career lows in block percentage, defensive rebounding percentage and blocks and rebounds per 36 minutes. Still, Plumlee had a positive rating in FiveThirtyEight.com’s defensive metric, which is a combination of Defensive Box Plus-Minus and Defensive Real Plus-Minus.
The inclusion of Plumlee in the Dwight Howard trade was perceived as GM Travis Schlenk paying the price to shed the contract that Mike Budenholzer and Tony Ressler gave Howard the previous summer. Plumlee is owed $37.5 million over the next three seasons compared to the $47 million-plus Howard will make in the next two years.
If Plumlee’s struggles last season were an indication of his decline then his contract may end up being burdensome. But Plumlee still is only 29-years old with 4,567 minutes player, and it's not unreasonablee to believe he can regain his previous form and be a useful player for the Hawks.
Presumably, new addition Dewayne Dedmon and holdover Mike Muscala will log most of the minutes at center. If they perform as expected and finish out the season then Plumlee may have a significant role. But Plumlee could serve as a competent rotation if either Dedmon or Muscula falters or is moved via trade (both can opt out and become free agents next summer).
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