Didn't the Pacers Just Have This Guy?

(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.

  • Special K

    Totally agree. It’s nice to have “hustle” guys or guys with a “motor,” but talent and athleticism still win in this league and every league. If you’re the Pacers and are looking to cross from playoff also-rans into legitimate contenders, you need players that can make an impact. Plumlee is not that guy and likely never will be. Gamble on the guy that could be a superstar every time, if not PJ3, then Quincy Miller or Marquis Teague or someone that will do more than come off the bench and play back up center for 15 minutes a game for the rest of his career.
    Between the Hill and Hibbert deals, the Pacers aren’t going to have the money to make big splashes in free agency – they aren’t getting their missing pieces there. So that will either have to happen via trade or the draft. And there’s no superstars begging to be traded to Indy. Obviously it’s unlikely that any of the guys mentioned above will ever be superstars, you at least have to err on the side of talent.

  • Dwight Meredith

    Athleticism? Plumlee is bigger than Jones by a quarter inch. He is 18 pounds heavier. He jumps higher both w/ and w/o a step. He bench presses 185lbs 15 times vs 11 for Jones. He is faster in lane agility and only slightly slower in the 3/4 court run.

    Stats from http://www.draftexpress.com/profile/Miles-Plumlee-5261/.

  • William

    I don’t care if a player is green or purple, so long as they can play at a high level. I have stated before that passing on UK’s Marquis Teague will be seen in the future as a huge mistake, but time will tell when the Pacers play the Bulls next year and Teague runs by Plumlee to get a lay up. Some of the talk was they wanted a Jeff Foster replacement, well this guy will not be it, but I’m patient and time will prove me and others right.

  • Dwight Meredith

    I do not want my previous comment to leave the wrong impression. I would not have selected Plumlee, I would have taken Jones instead. I also don’t think Plumlee will be a very good player (his upside is an offensively challenged bagger with high energy and good athleticism). I just think it is important to understand what they got.

    He is sorta like Tyler H in effort and intensity. He is the exact opposite in other ways. Hansborough is small for a 4, a poor athlete (at NBA levels) with a high motor and a good offensive skill set. Plumlee is good sized for a banger 6’10.5′ in bare feet, a good athlete but has absolute no offensive skill or instincts (cant handle or shoot, and cant see well enough to pass well, although quite willing). The same was true of Josh McRoberts. Small and slow but could see and pass and (sorta) handle.

    If you merged Hansborough’s motor and skill set with Plumlee’s size and athleticism, you would have a very good starting NBA 4.

    I would have taken Jones because even the low probability that he becomes really, really good outweighs the low risk of a few million dollars and a substantial amount of player development resources. You just aint going to get much that late in the draft anyway. See http://www.hardwoodparoxysm.com/2012/06/25/nba-draft-analysis-picks-21-30


  • kiel k.
  • Jonathan Auping

    I agree that it would be unfair to say that athleticism is a weakness for Plumlee. He is actually quite athletic (I hope it was understood that mentioning his race was simply a tongue-in-cheek joke). However, a player like Jones III does have a much wider skill set and a much higher ceiling. I also considered Teague to be a good fit with the Pacers before the draft.

    @kiel k. I am not quite sure what statistics in the article are different than the stats listed by draft express. Some list Plumlee at 245 pounds while some list him just over 250 pounds.

  • Chris D.

    It’s unlikely Plumlee will be as good as Dunleavy, McRob, or Redick–all three of whom are better than Psycho-T. Dunleavy has been a solid pro his entire career and is well above the rest of this list. Sure, he was overpriced at $10M, but he would have shot better than Danny (who at $13M makes 80% as much as LBJ) in most of our playoff games. And, I’d bet Josh would have been better off the bench than Tyler was.

  • NoLookPass

    Did I just see someone say Josh is better than Tyler?

    PER Rating Career:
    15.4 for Tyler
    14.4 for Josh

    PER Rating 2011-2012
    14.7 for Tyler
    10.9 for Josh

    So the year everyone talks about Tyler was so terrible he was still better than Josh’s career!

  • Jason S.

    Tyler is 6′ 9″ and Plumlee is 6′ 11″. 2 inches is a big difference in the NBA; the difference between a PF and center. It is like comparing Josh Smith to Kevin Garnett (except both of those players are WAY better than Plumlee and Tyler).

    I don’t know about Plumlee working out (and I still can’t figure out why McRoberts is not better), but I am sure that Perry Jones will not be a starter in the NBA. He is too small, not strong enough and apparently does not care as much about being great.

  • Joe B

    This was a very good column that takes a level approach to Plumlee’s weaknesses without just saying, “He’s garbage” and walking away. My only concern is PJ3′s upside is less impressive to me than Plumlee’s real size, and the McBob comparison is off (more later). The Pacers needed a back-up center, so they drafted one. PJIII would have provided depth at the wing, but do the Pacers need another wing player, especially when their only legitimate free agency signing will be a veteran wing player?

    Where was the greatest deficiency? The 4 and 5 bench positions, but we know Tyler is capable of being effective when he hits his jumper…it just didn’t happen so much this season. Plumlee will be asked to rebound and defend, but unlike Lou, he will have the size to do it.

    McBob had the hops but lacked the muscle to really bang with NBA bodies…he was more of a finesse player who made the highlight reel for random oops…as in oops I actually scored, because I try really hard not to.

  • Jordan

    Dumb pick, plain & simple. Goodbye, Larry!