On the All-Glue Guy team, 2 Detroit Pistons are prominent members: Mason Plumlee & Delon Wright
Isaac Baldizon (NBAE/Getty)
In the pantheon of exemplary glue guys, Mason Plumlee and Delon Wright rub elbows with Elmer’s and Gorilla.
If you were to play a game of word association and ask 100 respondents the first things that come to mind when the prompt is “today’s Detroit Pistons,” it probably would start with Blake Griffin and Jerami Grant and end with a list of all the young guys – Killian Hayes, Isaiah Stewart, Saddiq Bey, Saben Lee, Josh Jackson, Dennis Smith Jr., Svi Mykhailiuk, Sekou Doumbouya – so critical to a future the organization has made its priority.
But that future – glimpsed in Tuesday’s win over Brooklyn with Bey and Lee on the floor and extending a lead to start the fourth quarter, Bey scoring 15 points on perfect shooting – is being molded, to a significant extent, by the veterans who go largely unnoticed.
By players who wouldn’t elicit many responses among those 100 surveyed.
Plumlee, Wright and Wayne Ellington have 26 seasons and 17 franchises on their collective resume and good luck finding folks in any of those stops with a bad word to say about one of them.
So even on a night when Plumlee’s impact was corroborated by the stat sheet – 14 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks, two steals – the attention went to Grant and his 32 points, Bey and his dazzling fourth quarter, Jackson and Lee for their defense on James Harden and Kyrie Irving.
“He’s a quarterback at the center position,” Dwane Casey said of Plumlee. “He’s smart. He’s just a valuable piece. He’s a glue guy. He’s a guy you always want on your team. I get so many texts from coaches around the league saying, ‘Hey, you got a good one in Mase. He’s a Piston. He’s what the Pistons are all about. Big-time character guy.”
Mason Plumlee, Delon Wright Highlights vs. Brooklyn Nets
Before going any farther, let’s define glue guy. He’s a player who can safely plan a vacation around All-Star weekend, yet one who doesn’t really fret about being out of the league next season. He’s a player valued for contributions not generally reflected by box scores. He’s often a guy hated when he’s on the other team and loved when he’s on yours.
And here’s the way a glue guy answers a question when asked about the season he’s having, even when he’s established career bests in per-game averages for minutes, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals: “My evaluation coincides with how our team does,” Plumlee said after the win over Brooklyn. “I feel like we’re getting better. Coach has said it to us a couple of times. It hasn’t shown in wins, but we are a better team today than we were a month ago and that’s the most important thing right now.”
Plumlee and Wright are textbook examples of the modern-day NBA glue guy. Ellington, though every bit as treasured by his employers for his professionalism and the shining example he sets for young players wherever he’s been, falls outside the “glue guy” description because his value is so much more tangibly defined.
Where Plumlee and Wright’s contributions are often harder to quantify, Ellington has one elite tool and it’s become the most coveted one in today’s NBA: the 3-point shot. Once upon a time, it was the dunkers – Julius Erving, Darryl Dawkins, Dominique Wilkins – who were the NBA’s most glamorous players. Now the world is a 3-point shooter’s oyster.
Wright, much like Plumlee, doesn’t have one shining attribute. He’s not a volume 3-point shooter and he’s not an elite pick-and-roll operator in the Derrick Rose mold. But if you have a hole, Wright can plug it. That doesn’t make him the most valuable player, but it makes him a most invaluable one.
“He’s playing well right now,” Casey said after Wright contributed a somehow-quiet 22 points and nine assists to the win over Brooklyn. “Delon’s a basketball player. He’s one of those other glue guys. You can throw him the ball, he can run pick and roll, you can spot him up and shoot the three, he can defend. He’s one of those guys who’s a Swiss Army knife.”
Casey coached Wright for his first three NBA seasons after the Raptors made him the 20th pick of the 2015 draft after a full four-year college career. He grew into a core member of a bench that gave Toronto a clear advantage most nights, Casey often exploiting Wright’s versatility to use him in lineups that included Toronto’s two top point guards, Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet.
So Casey knew how Wright would mean to a Pistons roster in transition, especially after they used the No. 7 pick to take a 19-year-old point guard, Hayes. For his ability to play either backcourt spot equally well, for his defense, for his easygoing nature, Casey was thrilled to be reunited with Wright to help guide the Pistons through the choppy waters of a rebuilding.
When Troy Weaver talked about adding Plumlee in free agency, he used a word not often used by NBA general managers. He said Plumlee was “beloved” in every locker room he’d been part of since coming to the NBA eight years ago – Brooklyn, Portland and Denver before choosing the Pistons in free agency. That’s a glue guy, through and through – the kind of player Weaver and Casey knew would be essential to get a team, and a franchise, through the pains of rebuilding.
In Mason Plumlee and Delon Wright, the Pistons have two all-NBA glue guys.