Rookie head coach Jason Kidd has often criticized rookie center Mason Plumlee, but the young center continued his maturation Tuesday night. Lately, Kidd has had nothing but praise for the burgeoning big man, and he proved why.
Plumlee met LeBron James at the rim for a game-sealing block, enabling the Nets to escape Miami, 88-87. The Nets swept the season series with the defending champions, the first such time in the Big Three era.
While the Nets will certainly bask in the glory of the win, Kidd’s job actually becomes tougher as the playoffs near. The Nets played without centers Kevin Garnett and Andray Blatche Tuesday night, leaving Kidd with no choice but to play Plumlee.
When Plumlee’s teammates are healthy, the decision is not so easy. Plumlee has grown more than anyone could have possibly expected. From the D-League to the penthouse, as it were.
Plumlee finished the game with eight points, eight rebounds, and three blocks, with none more impressive than the last one. He was also the second best distributor in the game. Deron Williams racked up six assists, and Plumlee came in second with two assists.
Plumlee has made his case for All-Rookie first team, and although he will not receive any votes for Rookie of the Year, he probably should. The young big man runs the floor better than arguably any big man in the league. With the game-deciding play notwithstanding, Plumlee gets as high above the rim as players like LeBron and Gerald Green. His presence coming off the pick-and-roll, with the threat of an alley-oop, has made defenses honest. That is a tough presence to take away come playoff time.
Garnett and Blatche would both rather play on the perimeter. Plumlee, on the other hand, will not shoot unless his feet are planted in the paint.
They all bring pros and cons to the table, and Kidd’s decision will likely be scrutinized. Garnett is the superior defender, Blatche has the most offensive moves in his arsenal, and Plumlee is the most athletic.
As the playoffs unfold, coaches typically shorten their rotations. For the Nets, that might mean no minutes for Alan Anderson and a center. Plumlee has played too well to get stuck on the end of the bench. There is also something to be said for taking and converting high-percentage jumpers.
Plumlee is making 64 percent of his shots this season, which means the offense does not have to deal with off-shooting nights from him. He will not shoot the Nets out of a game. In Round 1, will he have the chance? He has definitely earned it.