Milwaukee Bucks: Miles Plumlee an Underrated Contributor

Mar 2, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) during the game against the Indiana Pacers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Indiana won 104-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) during the game against the Indiana Pacers at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Indiana won 104-99. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

While the Milwaukee Bucks big three has gotten most of the love and attention from fans and media alike, Miles Plumlee has been quietly contributing to the team’s recent success.

Miles Plumlee’s Milwaukee Bucks tenure has been a roller coaster ride to say the least!

From being one of the key pieces involved in the Brandon Knight trade over a year ago, to allegedly being on the block at the trade deadline, Plumlee has found his fit difficult for most of his time on this Milwaukee team.

In the two games before the All-Star break, however, Plumlee’s role on the team changed in a big way. After spending much of the year as a minor bench contributor or DNP, Plumlee was made a starter, slotting in with the Bucks big three and OJ Mayo.

Since his move to the starting line-up, Plumlee has been an underrated contributor to the Bucks success, particularly with the big three of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, and Jabari Parker.

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Unlike Greg Monroe, who commands the ball often to be successful, Plumlee has found ways to contribute off the ball.

First, Plumlee is solid in pick-and-roll situations. He sets firmer screens than Monroe does, and this helps take the on-ball defender out of the play. By setting stronger screens, he allows guys like Antetokounmpo and Parker, who’ve begun to take on much more ball handling responsibilities, to draw more mismatches and get to the rim more effectively.

Even if the screen doesn’t create a basket for the ball-handler, Plumlee is relatively effective in rolling off the screen and getting to the rim. Thus, if teams decide to double the ball-handler, Plumlee is able to get to the rim for an uncontested dunk.

Plumlee is also effective at setting screens in non pick-and-roll situations. This helps Khris Middleton and O.J. Mayo/Jerryd Bayless, the most effective jump shooters on the team, to get open looks more often.

Plumlee, however, is not a one-trick pony on the offensive end. Another area where he thrives is in his general positioning and understanding of the offense.

When Greg Monroe plays, he consistently occupies the area within eight feet of the basket, looking to get the ball in the low post and go to work, either looking to put a move on to score, or looking to pass to the cutting player. However, this positioning is not ideal for the Bucks offense, especially when Antetokounmpo and Parker are on the floor.

Neither Antetokounmpo and Parker can hit their jumpers on a consistent basis, even though they have shown some improvement in recent games. As a result, defenses are willing to sit back on them, giving them a good amount of space to shoot. However, neither is comfortable with taking that shot, and instead they need to rely on their strength and athleticism to get them near the basket.

Greg Monroe is also limited in this way. His top of the key jumper has not fallen with any consistency this season. As a result, Monroe needs the ball close to the basket in order to score. Since Antetokounmpo and Parker are limited in range, they need the space that Monroe occupies on the court in order to be their most effective. Thus, fielding these players at the same time means neither Parker or Antetokounmpo can be as effective as they can be.

Monroe also needs the ball in hands in order to score, relying on his great strength and footwork to get him shots around the basket. However, by needing the ball in his hands, Monroe takes touches away from Antetokounmpo and Parker, both of which thrive with the ball in their hands.

Plumlee, on the other hand, is a much better fit with Antetokounmpo and Parker. Unlike Monroe, Plumlee relies on intelligence in positioning in order to get baskets, predominantly scoring on cuts when the ball-handler draws a double team, and rolling off of screens when the lane clears out. Since he possesses solid athletic ability for a big man, he’s able to get to the basket faster than Monroe, allowing him to dunk and take advantage of small windows which Monroe cannot.

This was on full display in the game against the LA Lakers on February 23rd. The bulk of Plumlee’s baskets came on dunks, though he also flashed a respectable hook shot around the rim:

As the highlights show, Plumlee can contribute on the score sheet without needing the ball. His low usage allows Antetokounmpo, Middleton, and Parker to do more, something that’s made the Bucks offense better.

He’s also very efficient with his chances, shooting 75 percent from the field over his past 10 games. Thus, his lower usage and high efficiency make him a more natural fit with the big three than Monroe is.

Another underrated aspect of Plumlee’s play is his defensive contributions. Though he’s far from elite, Plumlee provides the Bucks defense with a great deal of stability.

Like his contributions on the offensive end, Plumlee relies primarily on his high basketball IQ and above average athleticism to guide him on defense.

He’s solid in man-to-man situations, using good footwork and his long reach to make things difficult in the low post. He’s also more effective than Monroe in pick-and-roll situations where he may be required to pick up the ball handler. Since he’s a good deal quicker than Monroe, Plumlee is better able to guard in these situations, and this allows the Bucks to better execute their aggressive defensive scheme than they can with Monroe on the floor.

He’s also a respectable rebounder and shot blocker, averaging over a block and five boards in just 19.2 minutes per game in his past 10 games.

Plumlee may not be great at any particular aspect of the game. However, as his contributions suggest, he’s a solid all-around player who can contribute in an effective way on a nightly basis.

Next: Milwaukee Bucks: Giannis Antetokounmpo Is Rebounding Like A Star

Ultimately, the Bucks were right to keep Plumlee at the deadline. As his recent contributions show, Plumlee more than deserves a spot in the NBA.  He can be a long term contributor on this team and is more than capable of holding his own as a rotation big in the future.