The Improbable Journey Of Miles Plumlee To The Milwaukee Bucks Starting Five

Mar 26, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) and Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson (25) reach for the loose ball during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Milwaukee Bucks center Miles Plumlee (18) and Charlotte Hornets center Al Jefferson (25) reach for the loose ball during the first quarter at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

Miles Plumlee was a late first round draft pick who has scored above five points per game in just half of his combined eight NCAA and NBA seasons. Now he’s going to start games for the Milwaukee Bucks.

Miles Plumlee probably isn’t supposed to be an opening night starter in the NBA. He certainly isn’t supposed to be beating out Greg Monroe and John Henson for those starter’s minutes.

There were 11 big men selected in the 2012 NBA Draft before Plumlee’s name was called by the Indiana Pacers, who held the 26th overall pick. Henson was one of them. Others include Anthony DavisAndre Drummond, Jared Sullinger and Tyler Zeller.

It’s no surprise that nearly a dozen bigs went in that draft before Plumlee was picked. It’s actually more surprising that he got drafted at all. Plumlee spent four years at Duke, making him a 24-year-old rookie.

More from Bucks News

When players are accomplished and dominant at the collegiate level, it’s generally more acceptable for them to be older. Guys like Buddy Hield and Denzel Valentine were seniors in this past draft, but they both had remarkable seasons that got them drafted.

Miles Plumlee did not do that. He averaged 1.8 points per game his freshman year, 5.2 points per game as a sophomore, 4.8 points per game the year after than and ended his Duke career by averaging 6.6 points per game.

Hield scored more points per game last season than Plumlee did if you add all four of his point per game averages from his college days together. He proved to be an effective rebounder, but didn’t shine much during college.

In fact, Plumlee was more on the other end of things. He wasn’t shiny, he was dirty. And then-Pacers head coach Frank Vogel loved that about him, according to a Pacers draft article from 2012. Vogel called the pick a “home-run” and had the following to say about Plumlee:

"“He’s clearly the best dirty-work player in the draft.” Vogel continued. “A blue-collar guy. He falls right in to this team’s identity.”"

That much hasn’t changed about Plumlee, and it’s part of the reason he’s earned the starting role with the Bucks. Plumlee chases every rebound, gets up and tries to block every shot, and he definitely finishes every lob with all the power he can muster.

Despite Indiana’s supposed love for him, Plumlee lasted just one year with the Pacers. He spent most of his time with that organization in the D-League, playing just 14 games with Indiana before being sent to Phoenix as a part of the Luis Scola trade.

The Suns were not expected to be good in Plumlee’s first season there, but lo and behold they found a way to win 48 games and still miss the playoffs. Plumlee saw his minutes dramatically increase in Phoenix–he was an everyday starter with the Suns who missed just two games all year.

Plumlee logged just 8.1 points and 7.8 rebounds per game that year, but he continued to do his dirty work and do it well. The results speak for themselves–even with low statistical contributions, Plumlee was a starter on a 48-win team.

The following summer the Suns mistook themselves for a contender and made a bunch of weird trades to go along with that misconception. They were bad in the 2014-15 NBA season, and eventually sent Plumlee to the Milwaukee Bucks as a part of the Brandon Knight trade.

Plumlee’s minutes had dropped off somewhat in his second season with the Suns, but that was nothing compared to the pit they’d fall into once he arrived in Milwaukee. Plumlee played 19 games with the Bucks in his first partial season with Milwaukee, and averaged less than ten minutes per game.

More from Behind the Buck Pass

The start of the next season saw even less playing time for Plumlee. He appeared in 15 of Milwaukee’s first 25 games, and saw just 6.3 minutes per game in those contests.

As Bucks fans likely can recall, the Monroe drama and the franchise’s general avoidance of starting Henson led to Plumlee seeing a much bigger role from mid-December onwards.

Plumlee meshed well with Milwaukee’s young Bucks and impressed most of the Bucks community. He was retained by the Bucks this summer for around $50 million, and now looks to start games to start the season.

It’s not just that he works hard, though. Plumlee also works smart. According to this piece by Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Plumlee has a cerebral way of looking at the offense plus a strong connection with Giannis.

"“Giannis and I have some natural chemistry and I think we built on that in the off-season,” Plumlee said. “Going through training camp, guys will start seeing what they can throw and seeing what I can catch.“It’s me knowing how they like to come off screens. All those little things will play a big role down the road.”"

Miles Plumlee knows the NBA grind all too well. He had to work tirelessly to get this far–that passion and drive might be the biggest reason he’s made it back to a starting five.

It’s hard not to be happy for Plumlee, considering the humble beginnings he rose from in basketball terms. Aside from that lone season in Phoenix, Plumlee hadn’t ever gotten the chance to prove much on either the collegiate or professional levels.

Next: Hear From The Milwaukee Bucks On Media Day

He’s still never averaged double-digit points or rebounds in an NBA season. But he does the dirty work, and he puts the team first. That should be enough on this Milwaukee Bucks team that also features young potential stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari Parker.