Mason Plumlee has hit a wall, it seems Some players hit it in their rookie season, others hit it in year number two. There is nothing wrong with struggling as a young player. It usually means they are developing and trying to get comfortable with the game.
"The Rookie Wall" is a common phrase amongst basketball followers, but the "Sophomore Slump" is real too. Plumlee burst onto the scene last year with Brooklyn, starting 22 games and being the energizer bunny off the bench that an aging team needed. He played above the rim, didn't leave the rim, and protected the paint. The Nets were 16-6 with him as a starter.
Now, with a new coach and another revamped roster, Plumlee is trying to expand his game. He worked on his outside jumper (he only took nine shots outside of the paint during his rookie campaign) this offseason, and is developing a back to the basket game. But, like any new facet of the game, it takes time to refine.
At times, it looks good.
There is no denying that Plumlee has the ability to get a good look with his back to the basket. The fundamentals are there, which is a great sign, but he still needs to develop a feel for that part of his game. Watch this great move to get a good look on Kendrick Perkins, but failing to convert.
Plumlee shot a shade under 66% in the league last year, which would have put him fourth in the league for players who played at least 50 games. This season? He's shooting 45%. I don't think this is a major issue, rather a good problem to have. No one expected Plumlee to come on like he did last season, so it is alright to see him take a bit of a step back ... as he takes some risks. He has added new weapons to his arsenal that will make him that much more dangerous. He just might not be a threat with his back to the basket this early in the year.
What is more troubling is his foul rate. Plumlee has struggled to stay on the floor early on this season because he picks up fouls in bunches. He is playing three minutes less than last season and that can be attributed to foul trouble. He's averaging nearly five fouls per 36 minutes this season, per Basketball Reference.
Alan Anderson took a horrific PUJIT (not surprising) but besides the point. Plumlee runs down the floor only to foul Andrew Bogut from behind. The second year pro is smarter than that and can't make those silly fouls. Plumlee does tend to leave his feet too often and be a little to confident in his shot blocking abilities.
When he's the one drawing fouls, the Nets aren't reaping the benefits they should. Plumlee is trying to work on his foul shot, but still has a slight hitch when he reaches the top of his foul shot. See here:
Overall, Plumlee is shooting even worse from the free throw than he was last season, 57%! For a player who can end up going to the line a lot, he needs to be able to finish. The No. 22 pick in the 2013 draft is working on his jumper, as stated above, so the hope is that it translates to his free throw shooting as well. He needs to have a fluent release and get more legs into his shot. He leaves a majority of them short. That being said, Plumlee did go 7-of-8 Thursday night against the Warriors, so maybe he turned a corner.
Don't panic. Plumlee is still Plumlee. He's a violent shot blocker and a great rim protector off the bench.
His basketball IQ is off the charts and he is still a positive contributor when on the floor, even though his individual play may have regressed just a bit. The Nets are +24 when Plumlee is on the floor and even though the Nets great offense takes a step back when he is playing, they play at a slightly faster pace and their defense improves greatly.
Every player is bound to go through slumps during their career, and this isn't really a slump for Plumlee, rather a learning period for him to work on some things he put in over the offseason and continue to develop into the All Star center he is on track to become.