CHICAGO — Duke center Mason Plumlee said it repeatedly at the NBA Draft Combine: The next 30 days might be more important to his career than the last four years.
It sounds counterintuitive: If a big man stays all four years at a high-profile program like Duke, then what could NBA scouts not know about him that is pertinent? But Plumlee knows what a player can do to help or harm himself this late in the process.
A year ago his older brother Miles, also a Duke player, surprised at the combine with an impressive 40-inch vertical leap. That created some momentum going into individual-team workouts, and Miles Plumlee ultimately was drafted in the first round, 26th overall by the Indiana Pacers.
Mason Plumlee had a slightly less impressive 36-inch vertical. He did the physical testing and measurements, but passed on basketball drills. The reason? His agent, Mark Bartelstein, feels Plumlee’s draft position is secure enough there was more downside than upside to full participation at the combine.
Does Plumlee think, as Bartelstein has suggested, that he’ll be a top-10 pick?
“I feel like athletically and how I played this year, I’ve proven that I am,’’ Plumlee said in a combine media session. “But that’s what’s great about the workouts; you get another platform to prove it again.”
It’s unclear which teams will get Plumlee in their towns for pre-draft workouts, but 13 teams interviewed him over the three days of the Combine. The Charlotte Bobcats were among those teams on his schedule. So were several teams well outside the top 10, so Plumlee has covered all angles.
The 2013 draft is considered weak, which should work in Plumlee’s favor; the rule of thumb in the NBA is when in doubt, draft big. He measured 7-foot in shoes. The only downside to his measurements was a wingspan of 6-11. Typically NBA players have a wingspan several inches longer than their height, which helps them rebound.
Plumlee improved dramatically between his junior and senior seasons, raising his scoring average from 11.1 points to 17.1. As a senior he averaged 9.9 rebounds, 1.4 blocks and shot 60 percent from the field.
As he said, he can still do himself plenty of good in individual workouts. And that translates to six-figure differences in what he makes under the NBA’s draft-based rookie pay scale.
“There’s a lot of difference in money when you just get down to it. Money’s important,” Plumlee said.
“At the same time, finding the right situation is actually more important. You want to be in a position to succeed. That sets you up for the second contract.”