Miles Plumlee first in line for NBA opportunity
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, who 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,” Plumlee said after his workout on the practice court inside the Hawks’ Phillips Arena. “I’ve got a lot of skill to offer.”
Performances never looked so carefree or assertive on collegiate basketball courts for Plumlee. The offensive numbers never matched the high school hype, and 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 Devils’ 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,” said Dave Pendergraft, assistant general manager and director of player personnel for the Hawks. “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 stigma surrounding Duke post players and pave a 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.