(Don’t be fooled, these are two different players)
The last thing I want to do in my writing career is reinforce stereotypes, especially ones that have to do with race. With that being said, it’s commonly known that there are two types of white Duke basketball players: the ones who struggle in the NBA and the ones who don’t play in the NBA. If you’re strongest arguments against that point are Mike Dunleavy, Jr. and J.J. Redick then you’re already running in place.
I’ll admit that, as someone who grew up a University of North Carolina fan, I have a little bit of bias against former Blue Devils. They have to work just a little bit harder in the NBA to earn any props from me. I’m proud to say that over the years I have developed moderate respect for Shane Battier, Elton Brand and Carlos Boozer. I like Kyrie Irving, and I agree with most that a 2002 motorcycle accident robbed us of what could have been a great career for Jay Williams.
Whenever a huge portion of a fan base becomes angry with a draft pick, I tend to start to feel sorry for the kid and get on the “C’mon, let’s give this him a chance” bandwagon. And part of me does feel bad about the backlash towards the Pacers’ 26th draft pick, Miles Plumlee. But I won’t go so far as to say that I agree with the pick.
One of my biggest concerns is the fact that for three years the Pacers had a very similar player and it did not exactly turn out that well. During the 2008 draft, the Pacers made a five-player trade with the Portland Trailblazers. One of the recipients of that trade was former Blue Devil big man Josh McRoberts.
It may not be fair to compare McRoberts and Plumlee simply because they are both white. (Although look at those pictures: which one is which?) But they have other similarities and they did play similar roles at Duke. They are both 6’10”. McRoberts weighs 230 pounds and Plumlee weighs 245. They both played power forward/center combo in college, and they are both originally from the state of Indiana. See, it’s not just the white thing.
McRoberts only played at Duke through his sophomore season, but by then he was averaging 13 points per game, 8 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 blocks all while shooting 50% from the field.
Plumlee, on the other hand, was a freshman the year after McRoberts left and one could say replaced McRoberts at Duke. He stayed all four years, and in his most productive season (his senior year) he averaged 6.6 points per game, 7.1 rebounds, 0.5 assists and 0.9 blocks while shooting an impressive 61% from the field.
It’s hard to argue against the fact that while both played nearly an identical role in Coach K’s system, McRoberts was a more productive college player than Plumlee. That would be all well and good if McRoberts were having an impressive NBA career. In five seasons he has averaged just over 15 minutes per game and only played more than 50 games in a season once. His most productive season was with the Pacers in 2010-11 when he averaged 7.4 points and 5.3 rebounds.
McRoberts is, at best, an energy bench player. The disconcerting thing is that one could certainly argue that McRoberts came into the NBA with much more potential than Plumlee is coming into the league with. I certainly do not think many people would have criticized the Pacers for drafting Perry Jones III at 26, injury possibility or not. Plumlee is considered a great hustle player. He’ll have to hustle his butt off to make up for the potential of Jones III.
In addition, coach Vogel used phrases like, “blue collar,” “dirty work player,” and “hustle oriented” to describe Plumlee. Do any one of those terms not apply to Tyler Hansbrough? Do you need more than one of those type of players? What might this mean for Psycho T?
Perhaps Plumlee will prove me and a number of doubters wrong by making an immediate impact. But to me he is looking quite familiar, and not just in appearance. I didn’t think “familiar” is something the Pacers were going for.