Mason Plumlee is 23 years old.
He's a four-year college player.
He lacks post moves, has a funky shooting motion and has trouble containing the ball.
So why would the Thunder even consider taking a chance on the Duke center with the 12th overall pick?
Maybe because Oklahoma City concentrates more on what players do well rather than dwelling on what they don't.
Maybe because Plumlee's four years of college experience will be viewed as a positive instead of a negative.
Maybe because underneath all his perceived warts, Plumlee has a skill set that just might fit perfectly with the Thunder.
More than any other prospect in this year's draft, Plumlee has two things going for him that could be enticing to the Thunder.
He has size and athleticism. And he has a wealth of experience.
The former, of course, is the Thunder's most pressing need. The latter, meanwhile, offers maturity that could be beneficial to a championship-caliber team if the goal is to add a ready-made player who can contribute in Year 1.
“I feel like I'm ready to help a team win right away,” Plumlee said at the draft combine.
Plumlee credits coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke's illustrious program for that.
“The longer you spend in the program I think teams can kind of know what to expect,” Plumlee said. “Like little things. Like, you're going to show up on time. You're going to practice hard … Some guys get to the NBA and they still show up late to things. I think the character of (a Duke) player is kind of known if they make it four years through Duke and Coach, because Coach isn't going to put up with that kind of stuff.”
In Plumlee's case, the Thunder seemingly would have to choose intangibles over potential.
It's been four years since a four-year college player was drafted in the top 15. The last senior selected in that range was Terrence Williams, who was taken 11th overall out of Louisville by a team that no longer exists, the New Jersey Nets.
Since the first round expanded to 30 picks in 2004, only 53 of a possible 270 players selected were seniors — roughly six per season.
This year, the website draftexpress.com projects only two seniors to be selected in the first round, Plumlee and Lehigh guard C.J. McCollum.
Will the Thunder thumb its nose at that trend?
If you focus on Plumlee's strengths, it doesn't seem out of the question.
Plumlee is a 7-footer with a 36-inch vertical. He runs the floor extremely well and finishes with power and consistency, often with impressive dunks. His mix of size and finishing ability make him a threat in the pick and roll, and he has no issues catching and finishing.
As a rebounder, Plumlee attacks the glass at both ends, getting putbacks offensively while closing out possessions defensively.
“I know Mason right away in the NBA will be able to rebound,” said Phoenix general manager Ryan McDonough following Plumlee's recent workout with the Suns. “He'll be one of the better bigs in the league running the floor. He plays above the rim, rebounds above the rim. There were a number of times in the workout where if he got loose the guards threw the ball up to the rim and he caught it and dunked it.”
Where Plumlee struggles is in the post. He's not a prototypical back-to-the-basket center who possesses an array of moves that lead to buckets. And he doesn't do much of anything outside the paint. He attempted only 10 jump shots this season, which, coupled with his free-throw attempts, were still plenty to expose a problematic hitch in his shooting motion.
But if Plumlee steps into a situation where a coaching staff and front office asks him only to rebound, run the floor and score off putbacks and the occasional pick and roll, he could have success. Plumlee also developed a jump hook later in his Duke career that helped him be more effective on post touches.
“I'm not 260, 270. I can't just back people all the way under the rim, so I have to have something I can go to and use touch and shoot over people,” Plumlee explained. “And that's a shot that's lent itself, I think, to my body type. It's hard to guard because you can get to a spot. You don't have to get all the way to the rim and shoot a layup. You get to a spot, you raise up and let it go.”
The best thing about Plumlee might be that he knows what he is and what he isn't.
His success as a pro could now be determined by whether NBA decision-makers share that same recognition.
“I think your role, it really depends on which team you go to,” Plumlee said. “What's their need and what is the coach going to ask of you? Because my role was different at Duke than it was in high school. That just depends on where you go and what your situation is.”
Editor's note: As part of the James Harden trade with Houston last October, the Thunder obtained the No. 12 overall selection in the June 27 NBA Draft via Toronto. We look at 12 potential candidates the Thunder might consider taking with that No. 12 pick. Today: Duke center Mason Plumlee.
Birth date: March 5, 1990
Hometown: Arden, N.C.
2012-13 stats: 17.1 ppg, 9.9 rpg, 1.9 apg, 1.4 bpg, .599 FG, .681 FT
Strengths: Terrific athlete. Runs the floor extremely well. Finishes strong and consistently on the break. Uses his height and athleticism to rebound with regularity at both ends. Has good hands, a soft touch and a nice jump hook. Smart defender who guards his man without fouling.
Weaknesses: Struggles to score outside of the painted area. Doesn't have post moves or counter moves. Inconsistent free-throw shooter. Poor shooting mechanics. Shies away from physical play. Poor on-ball and pick-and-roll defender. Doesn't contain the ball well and frequently gets beat off the dribble in isolations on the perimeter.
How he could help the Thunder: He potentially could step in and contribute right away. He's a big target with good hands and can catch and finish, which would make him a threat in the pick and roll. He could keep possessions alive with his offensive rebounding and thanks to his athleticism could be another stronger finisher on the fast break.
Projections: No. 12 (hoopsworld.com); No. 17 (SI.com); No. 18 (draftexpress.com, nbadraft.net, hoopshype.com); No. 20 (espn.com).
Quotable: “Mason has just developed. He's worked really hard since last spring to develop a better offensive game inside, and he's got good touch. And one of the key things he does out of there is pass. He can really pass the ball.” — Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski.