The offseason addition of Mason Plumlee provided the Charlotte Hornets with an experienced veteran center who could facilitate, crash the boards and as he did so often, serve as a lob threat for young point guard LaMelo Ball.
Over the course of 73 starts, Plumlee averaged 6.5 points on 64.1% shooting – the second-best of his career and 11th best in the NBA amongst players with at least 300 field-goal attempts this season – a team-leading 7.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists. The rebounding mark was notably the highest by a Charlotte player since the 2017-18 campaign and his nightly assists ranked eighth amongst all NBA centers this year.
“Personally, I really enjoyed being here,” said Plumlee, who joined the organization following a draft-night trade with Detroit last July. “I appreciate the opportunity that [was given] to me. I don’t really have great perspective on the previous seasons [here], but it seems like it was another step of growth and step in the right direction. Not necessarily relative to the rest of the Eastern Conference teams – just in terms of winning more games and playing at a higher level.”
One of the more peculiar storylines of the season was Plumlee’s sudden switch to shooting free throws left-handed, which first began down in New Orleans on March 11. For whatever reason, he was shooting well below his career average up to this point – just 36.0% - but then converted 53% of his lefty attempts over the final 15 games. At the time, Plumlee stated a minor finger injury plus the need to try something different were the main factors behind the shift.
“I’m going to stick with the left,” he said during exit interviews. “It feels good. I don’t know what the numbers are. I haven’t looked at them. I know the practice shooting is really good. It was an in-the-moment thing, but I’m happy with it. It is weird, I guess you would say. I don’t feel the need to explain it, but I just trust it and plan to stick with it.”
An overall common theme during exit interviews, Plumlee also touched on the team’s defense needing to making significant strides from the get-go heading into next season, although he seemed encouraged by the overall progress made in this area.
“There were some things found later in the season that if we hit the ground running with them, next year could be really good,” he said. “Being more aggressive in pick-and-roll coverage, I thought, was helpful. Simplifying things on the defensive end as the season went on was helpful. It’s no secret that defense is going to demand the most growth from us as a group. We have the people to figure it out and I truly believe that. We have to commit to it, come back better individually and be quicker getting on the same page collectively going into next year.”
With now nine NBA seasons under his belt, Plumlee was one of the elder statesmen in the Hornets’ locker room this year. And having been to the playoffs with three of the previous four teams he’s suited up for – Brooklyn, Portland and Denver – he recognizes the possibilities that are out there for what is still a very young Charlotte roster.
“The potential is there,” he said. “There’s some really talented, special players here and it is exciting. It’s time to realize all that. I think there’s a great quote from Kobe Bryant going into our locker room that says, ‘One of the mistakes we make is thinking we have time.’ I feel like that’s something we can embrace, not thinking that there’s five or six years ahead of us. Like the time is now. Let’s do something special.”
Flying under the radar a bit, Plumlee’s skillset and veteran smarts complemented the Hornets’ rotation extremely well this season. He’ll be under contract through the end of the 2022-23 campaign and is eager to see where he and the team can go from here.
“I’m super encouraged,” he added. “I love the opportunity I had. There’s nothing like a good offseason to grow. It’s no secret that as much as the NBA moves today with free agency, trades and everything, I think that the teams that benefit are the ones who can keep a group together and go forward. I look forward to having a good offseason and coming back better next year.”