DENVER — General manager Tim Connelly reaffirmed Thursday that the Nuggets still plan to re-sign restricted free agent Mason Plumlee this summer, despite an inconsistent second half of the season in Denver.
“He’s a restricted free agent. We hold all the cards,” Connelly said. “And we’re looking to forward to getting something done with him this summer.”
Plumlee, 27, was acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers for Jusuf Nurkic and the No. 19 pick in this summer’s draft on Feb. 12 and appeared in 27 games for the Nuggets over the last three months of the regular season. The 29-year-old averaged 9.1 points and 6.4 rebounds in 23.4 minutes per game for Denver.
“I think Mason did a very good job,” Connelly said. “Tough situation going from a starter to being a third big, fourth big at times. And it’s always difficult when you’re traded midseason.”
Plumlee was brought to Denver to provide some consistency and continuity from the Nuggets’ starting unit, to their bench. While Denver runs their first unit offense through Jokic, Plumlee gives Denver a center with a similar skill-set to pass and cut off of with their bench.
However, for the Nuggets to play that way and incorporate Plumlee as a Jokic-lite option off the bench, the Duke product had to earn his teammates’ trust, something that was difficult to do over just 27 games.
But credit Plumlee, who started all 54 games he appeared in with Portland prior to the trade for taking a decreased role off the bench in stride.
“I think his selflessness, his approach to the game, his verticality at the rim are well needed,” Connelly said. “And he really added to that locker room.”
Denver’s defense was a mess this season and it’s hard to put stock their defensive numbers, especially from their bench unit with how inconsistent their rotations were throughout the year. The Nuggets allowed 3.6 points per 100 possessions more with Plumlee on the floor than without him, but the four-year veteran had some moments where he looked like a capable backup center on the defensive end of the floor.
Plumlee also logged a healthy amount of minutes alongside Jokic. Denver was a +11 plus-minus in the 175 minutes they played together and the pair actually held opponents to 108.1 points per 100 possessions when they shared the frontcourt. Compare that number to their cumulative Defensive Rating of 110.5 on the year and you can see why Michael Malone likes the idea of Jokic and Plumlee playing together.
Yet, that’s a tough sell with Kenneth Faried as your only other option at the backup five and with how well Jokic has played as the lone big in Nuggets’ lineups this season.
Plumlee could garner some significant free agent offers this summer as a smart, high IQ big with good instincts, but the Nuggets will certainly have the money to retain Plumlee, if they want, with his status as a restricted free agent.
Expect Denver to act fast on the big man once the free agent moratorium lifts during the first week of July.