Should Pacers Trade 11th pick for Mason Plumlee?

Feb 23, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee (1) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 23, 2015; Denver, CO, USA; Brooklyn Nets center Mason Plumlee (1) during the game against the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports /

The NBA draft is almost a week away. Larry Bird and Co. have plenty of options with the 11th overall pick, but a newer option may have presented itself. With intent to move up in the draft, the Brooklyn Nets appear to be shopping center Mason Plumlee.

It is hard to imagine a Pacers fan who hasn’t watched much Nets basketball saying yes to this trade. That fan probably doesn’t know anything about Plumlee. And whomever Indiana drafted would be a young, fresh face who could be a potential starter in the future.

So for a team that doesn’t see lottery picks too often, giving them up may be hard to swallow. But if the Nets are willing to trade Plumlee, Bird and Pacer fans should give it a listen.

Before you ask, no, this is not Miles, Mason’s brother whom Indiana drafted back in 2012. If that Plumlee had you apprehensive, don’t fret. This one is better.

Don’t feel bad if you don’t know much about Plumlee, because frankly, the Nets didn’t give you much of a chance to get to know him. While looking at the month-by-month numbers, something that really stands out is the minutes. In November, Plumlee averaged 13 minutes per game. December and January, 28 minutes per game. February, 23; March, 19; April, 14.

In those two months averaging 28 minutes is where to look for the best grasp on who Mason Plumlee can be. In the 31 games between December and January, Plumlee averaged 13.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game on 65% shooting.

After just his rookie season, Plumlee was a part of Team USA for last summer’s FIBA World Cup. With all the NBA competition, that is no easy team to make.

A popular option for Indiana in the draft is that stretch-four position, which would effectively replace David West after next season. There are good options — Frank Kaminsky, Trey Lyles, Bobby Portis — that the Pacers could nab at 11. But with Plumlee, Bird would have less pressure to move Roy Hibbert for value and could just dump him and move on.

While that stretch-four position is important in a pace-and-space offense, an athletic big who can run the floor, rebound, score efficiently at the rim and play the pick-and-roll on both sides of the court is just as significant. Athleticism in the front court is key for Bird and Vogel’s desired uptempo system to work.

Plumlee has the talent to match–if not beat out–any big man options the Pacers would have in the draft. His one downside, however, is his age. At 25, he isn’t old and fits accordingly with Indiana’s core, but younger is always better.

Coming into just his third season, Plumlee still has two years remaining on his rookie deal. To make his contract even more attractive, years three and four are both team options, although it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t be worth the $1.4 and $2.3 million.

To fill the backup point guard void, Indiana could agree to take on Jarrett Jack. Brooklyn is looking to shed salary and Jack is set to make $6.3 million in each of the next two seasons. That would be a little less money on the Nets’ payroll, all the while the Pacers get a good backup guard at an affordable cost.

Indiana might not have a lottery pick for some time, making this deal a tough call. However, when you see Plumlee’s talent, his fit within the pace-and-space system and the option to move on from Hibbert, it may be too good to turn down.

While a younger prospect offers more hope and has, in theory, unlimited potential, the reality is that most #11 picks don’t turn out to be as good as Mason Plumlee already is. That alone doesn’t make this deal a no-brainer — that pick could be traded in other ways, for example. But given Plumlee’s proven track record and Indiana’s desire to make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals — and further — soon, than it would be an offer the team would have to consider if the Nets come calling.