DENVER — Mason Plumlee is finally finding his footing with the Nuggets after a rocky start to his time in Denver.
Before Plumlee was even aware he was traded to the Nuggets in a deal that netted the Trail Blazers the disgruntled Jusuf Nurkic as well as a first-round pick, he was dealing with another issue. His car had been broken into and his wallet had been stolen, among other personal items. Plumlee arrived at the Trail Blazers facility early to begin canceling his credit cards and that is when he got summoned to speak with Neil Olshey, Portland’s general manager, who informed him that he had been traded to Denver.
From that moment on, Plumlee never felt stable.
He went from finding out that his privacy had been invaded and his car broken into to suddenly living out of a hotel in Denver with no knowledge of the city and playing for a team in which he did not really know many of his teammates. But as Plumlee slowly but surely gained more comfortability and understanding within his role it has shown in his play on the court and is grabbing the attention of his teammates and the Nuggets’ coaching staff.
“Mason has been a stud. If you really want to nitpick you can say his free-throw shooting hasn’t been great but I think that Mason brings a physicality, he brings an athleticism, and he is a skilled big man,” Michael Malone said. “Let’s go back to when we made the trade with Portland. We liked the fact that we were getting a big man that was averaging close to four assists per game.”
The Nuggets had already identified Plumlee as a player they coveted based on his potential fit with the current roster so to be able to acquire him made the front office and coaching staff almost giddy with excitement. Plumlee is getting settled, he has had a summer to get used to a new city and a training camp to learn his teammates as individuals. His productivity is rising with each game he plays.
“Anytime you’re traded at the trade deadline with 26 games to go it is kind of learning things on the fly,” Malone explained. “I think that having an offseason, and more importantly September and into training camp, has allowed him to get acclimated and really get comfortable.”
Malone understood that it was going to be a process to get Plumlee up to speed with the Nuggets and now that Plumlee has a foundation to build off, it has led to a much more efficient and productive version of himself on both ends of the floor.
His play has improved dramatically and has resulted in Plumlee being one of the best players on the Nuggets roster throughout the preseason so far. Plumlee is averaging 10.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game in 21.5 minutes a night in the Nuggets first four preseason games. During that stretch, Plumlee is shooting 68 percent from the field.
“I feel like he is just more comfortable,” Barton told BSN Denver about Plumlee. “Another year and he has his contract now. I feel like he is in a good place right now. He’s comfortable. He’s comfortable. He is being real active. I feel like he is setting good screens and rolling real hard and because of that he is receiving layups or dunks or at least getting us shakeup threes from that.”
Of course, Plumlee is one of the most selfless teammates in the league, so he refused to take credit for his inspired play as of late. Plumlee instead chose to give praise to his teammates and the Nuggets’ offensive philosophy as reasoning for why his production has spiked.
“This team moves very well without the ball. Also, it is not just one guy that is a facilitator or one guy who can make the easy pass,” Plumlee explained to BSN Denver. “We have a lot of guys willing to make the easy pass and we do not have guys looking to hunt assists or anything like that so the flow of the offense has been fun to play in.”
“What is great about Mason is that he can play with Nikola or he can play with Paul. I think his skill set allows him to play off of both of those guys,” Malone said. “I think it is really important. Both Nikola and Paul are highly skilled and high IQ guys. Mason is as well but Mason also adds a physicality, a size, and an athleticism that maybe the other two don’t necessarily have.”
On the defensive end, Plumlee has enjoyed a level of productivity that he has not had in his career thus far. The new aggressive style of defensive basketball that the Nuggets have been incorporating all summer seems to fit how Plumlee enjoys playing in and it has shown during the preseason.
“I love Mason’s defensive presence at the rim and even on the perimeter with pick and rolls and his rebounding. I think Mason in all areas has been a big positive impact on our team,” Malone explained. “Mason has done a good job with the second unit being the anchor of the defense, talking and communicating, and protecting the basket.”
The Nuggets are very pleased with what they have gotten from Plumlee throughout his tenure in Denver.
“I am so glad that we were able to bring Mason back, sign him up, get that out of the way,” exclaimed Malone. “You can see since he has been playing these past few preseason games; I think his impact on both ends of the floor has been evident.”