Year: Graduate student
Last year’s statline: 2.2 PPG, 2.4 RPG, 0.3 APG
Game Breakdown: Last season, Marshall Plumlee appeared off the bench in all of the 39 games the Blue Devils played to win their fifth national title. That will change this year as the youngest brother of the Plumlee family is slated to replace Jahlil Okafor as the Blue Devil starting center. The big man is not much of a scoring threat as his 2.2 points per contest last season demonstrated, but his physical presence makes him an excellent rim protector. Despite only registering 9.6 minutes per contest, the 7-footer totaled 22 blocks and 92 rebounds—the team’s fourth and sixth best marks respectively.
The Warsaw, Ind., native showed great improvement in one of his weak areas last year—converting from the charity stripe. Plumlee moved from averaging 56-percent as a sophomore to 76 percent last season. The graduate student will look to keep continue shooting well from the foul line as he gets more minutes on the floor.
Role on the Team: Comparisons are unfortunate but inevitable—how will Plumlee carry the torch left behind by ACC Player of the Year and now-Philadelphia 76ers center Jahlil Okafor? The answer is by doing something completely different.
In his first and lone year wearing the Duke uniform, Okafor dominated both ends of the court, leading the defending champion’s numbers in scoring and rebounding with 17.3 points and 8.5 rebounds per game. Plumlee—who will join the U.S. Army after graduation—has performed well on the offensive side of his game in the Blue Devils’ two exhibition games, averaging 12.5 points in 21.0 minutes per contest. But if the graduate student wants to make a real impact this season, it will be his veteran advice that can help the highly talented but inexperienced freshmen adapt to the college game quickly. With Duke possessing a lot of talent on the perimeter, solid play from Plumlee in the post could help the Blue Devils round into a complete team once again this season.
NBA Comparison: Plumlee’s game can be compared to that of Cleveland Cavaliers center Timofey Mozgov. After putting up decent numbers as a rookie with the New York Knicks in the 2010-11 season, Mozgov finally broke through in his fourth year in the league with the Denver Nuggets and averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per contest. Last season, the Russian center’s scoring numbers were in double figures and he finished with 1.2 blocks per game. Similarly, Plumlee will mainly focus on defending first and then, if possible, he will try to contribute with points in the paint. His summer experience with the Army has made him a more self-confident player and the Blue Devils will rely on his voice in the locker room.
Projected stats: 4.6 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 0.5 APG
Published on Duke’s The Chronicle