One of the great pleasures of college basketball is getting to watch players develop throughout their careers. I love the talent of the one-and-done guys. I love the microcosm of a career taking place over a single November to March stretch. But gimme the four-year guys. Those are the most interesting.
Had Mason Plumlee jumped to the NBA after his juinor season (or before) we'd always remember him as a talented cog on a talented team. His peak production came as a junior where he averaged 11.1 points and 9.2 rebounds. Solid, but not exactly All-American stuff (he was 3rd team All ACC).
This season began with a quiet double-double (how do you have a quiet double-double? You do it against Georgia State on a night when there are 123 games across the country) which featured the same issue he'd been dealing with his entire career - he was 4-7 from the free throw line. But things elevated quickly when he scored 18 points on 7-8 shooting in Duke's win over Kentucky. Since then he's had two more double-doubles, including a 20 point, 17 rebound performance against Minnesota. But the most remarkable part has been his free throw shooting. Since opening night he's made 33-38 (87%).
Yes, it's early, so it's too soon to start handing him any postseason awards or declare that the career 54% free throw shooter has suddenly found his way. But Duke has played a stacked schedule, they've won them all, and his numbers are promising.
Here's his offensive rating, eFG%, and free throw rate charted over his career.
Since he really only shoots 2s, FG% would have worked fine here as well, but the bottom line is that his most important offensive metrics are all trending up. His improvement to his stats (averaging 19.7 points per game) isn't simply a matter of increased minutes. He's better. He's a senior.
What about his other numbers? Here are his offensive and defensive rebound %, plus his block rate.
These number are not trending up. But that's fine. Because Mason Plumlee was already an elite rebounder and excellent shot blocker. What he needed was an offensive game, and that seems to be what he's found.