Our more in-depth look at the Clippers’ new acquisitions continues with an examination of Mason Plumlee and his fit on the Clippers.
Weight: 255 pounds
Age: 32 (Turns 33 March 5)
Years in NBA: 10
2023 Stats: 12.2 points, 9.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 0.6 blocks in 28.5 minutes per game shooting 66.9% from the field and 60.5% from the line (4.6 attempts)
Rebounding: Mason Plumlee is not exactly a dominant rebounder, but he is a very good one, and that’s something the Clippers have lacked outside of Ivica Zubac (not counting Moses Brown). Plumlee is 19th in the NBA (among 193 players with at least 1000 minutes played) in total rebounding percentage (Zu is 12th), and is 12th on offensive rebound percentage (Zu is 9th). In short, the Clippers will always have a very good rebounder on the floor at once outside of what I imagine would be rare-ish occasions when they go small. The offensive rebounding is particularly important, as it usually results in easy baskets – and that’s been tough to come by for the Clippers this year.
Passing: The most unique trait Plumlee brings as an NBA player is his passing for a big man. Averaging 3.7 assists per game, Plumlee is more than capable of making plays for others out of the post, out of the elbow, at the top of the key, or running dribble hands-offs. He’s not a Jokic-level passer, but he’s probably about as good as Isaiah Hartenstein, and we all saw how valuable Hart’s passing was last year. The Clippers’ second unit has frequently struggled this season in creating open looks on offense and getting their offense out of ISO ball (so have their starters, to be fair), and Mason Plumlee will help with that. Honestly, if Eric Gordon and Norm Powell are the two main ball handlers on the second unit, it would not be surprising if the Clippers’ ran their offense through Plumlee for stretches, as he’s a better passer than either of those guards.
Finishing: Mason is a fairly limited offensive player. He gets assisted on 62.3% of his two point makes (Zubac is at 68.1%), and takes almost all of his shots around the rim. However, in his wheelhouse, he is quite effective. His overall field goal percentage of 66.9% is fantastic, and he’s much better than that right at the basket – 76.4% (Zu is at 70% exactly). Plumlee isn’t as athletic as he was 5 or 10 years ago but is still a powerful finisher due to his height, size, and hands, and absolutely has the athleticism to finish lobs or put-backs. Having another big body around the rim who can flush down easy looks will go a long way towards helping the Clippers’ second unit offense.
Perimeter Footspeed: Mason Plumlee was never the fleetest of foot, and approaching age 33 and with lots of miles on him, his lateral movement has dropped off some. The Clippers will face some of the same difficulties in playing defense that they do with Zubac, or other traditional big men – they can’t switch as much, and need to play tight in drop coverage so the bigs don’t get torched in space. Against teams that can really expose big men (the Mavs, Warriors, and Suns come to mind), Plumlee might have limited utility, opening the door for smaller second units that can switch more readily.
Shooting: Or lack thereof. Mason Plumlee takes 95% of his shots in the 0-3 and 3-10 foot range, per basketball reference, with the occasional midrange jumper thrown in for fun. He’s a very traditional center in that way, and while the Clippers don’t need everyone on the roster to be a three-point shooter, having extra room in the paint for Norm Powell and Eric Gordon to drive would be nice. Still, Plumlee’s screens should help free up those guys and get them downhill to hopefully make up for the more crowded painted area.
Mason Plumlee is an extremely snug fit as the Clippers’ backup center. His passing should help juice up a playmaking-deficient guard rotation, his size and defense will help anchor the previously too-small reserve units, and he will gobble up rebounds. If Ivica Zubac ever gets injured (knock on wood) or is in foul trouble, Plumlee is an ideal replacement as someone who does many of the same things Zu does (though he’s worse defensively).
A veteran who has been in the NBA for a decade and appeared in 60 playoff games, Plumlee is someone who the Clippers can trust in fairly high-leverage situations. Against the best big men in the NBA (who happen to be the best players in the NBA, period), you need multiple defenders, and if the Clippers run up against Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, or Giannis Antetokounmpo, they will have need of Plumlee’s services.
Mason Plumlee is not a star, and won’t bring a ton of pizzaz to the Clippers outside of some passing chops. He is, however, a steady reliable presence who should help make the Clippers more competent on both ends. For a guy who was acquired for a bench guard and a second round pick, that’s a pretty good deal.