Miles Plumlee first in line for NBA

ATLANTA — Miles Plumlee gets the first shot.

He’s the

first of the trio of Plumlee Brothers—the skilled yet oft-maligned Duke

big men—to vie for an NBA roster slot. He’s one of the first true big

men to privately workout for the Atlanta Hawks, which are expected to be

in the market for frontcourt help in next week’s draft.

And he’s the first to tell you that he’s ready for this opportunity.

“I’m

very confident. I know I have the attributes that are hard to come by

and I’ve been playing my whole life, I’ve got a lot of skill to offer,”

Plumlee said after his workout on the practice court inside the Hawks’

Phillips Arena.

Things never looked so carefree or assertive on

collegiate basketball courts for Plumlee. The offensive numbers never

matched the high school hype (the 6.6 points per game scoring average

his senior season was a career high). His defense never scared the top

post players around the country. Even as the elder statesman of the Blue

Devil familial frontcourt, he came off the bench last season behind his

younger brother, Mason.

And yet, here he is, working out for and, by some accounts, impressing NBA coaches and general managers.

“He’s

got the feet of a soccer player — just very, very light on his feet. He

can run, he can jump, he can catch,” Dave Pendergraft, the Hawks

assistant general manager and director of player personnel, said.

“Offensively, he’s a little better than what you anticipate. I think

he’s worked on his jump-hook. He can pivot off either foot and get to

the rim a little.”

“At this point in my career, I’m really

comfortable with my back to the basket,” Plumlee added. “I’ve put on a

lot of weight and strength so I can back down guys my height or

smaller.”

Plumlee is looking to be a part of a Duke renaissance

in the NBA, a league in which former Blue Devil bigs have recently

struggled to become standout pro players.

It’s been a decade

since Carlos Boozer was drafted by the Cleveland Cavaliers. It’s been 13

years since Elton Brand was the top pick in the 1999 draft. Since then,

guys like Josh McRoberts, Shavlik Randolph and Shelden Williams have

made precious few contributions to NBA rosters.

Plumlee will

continue to bank on the lessons learned under legendary coach Mike

Krzyzewski. And with a bit of good fortune, perhaps they will lead to

the tangible success that eluded those who have come before him.

“I

was taught how hard you have to work at that level and I’m sure it

translates to this level,” he said. “Just the intensity; you’ve got to

play with a lot of intensity every play. That’s huge for this level.”

If

Plumlee’s skill set, which is intriguing for his size, can translate to

pro success, it will help to lift the contemporary stigma surrounding

Duke post players and alleviate the path his younger brothers are sure

to follow.

Yes, as always, the topic always wanders back to family for Miles Plumlee.

“I don’t know how one family produces three 7-footers that can run and jump like that,” Pendergraft said.

General

managers will be asking themselves that question for the next few

years. A couple of them might even jump on the opportunity to draft

Mason or Marshall.

But, regardless of future outcomes, Miles Plumlee comes first.