Detroit Pistons: What can the Pistons do with Mason Plumlee?

Mason Plumlee #24 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Mason Plumlee #24 of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Mason Plumlee was signed in the offseason to some criticism, but he performed exactly the role that the Detroit Pistons wanted from him, but what is his future with the team?

When Mason Plumlee signed a three-year, $25 million contract with the Detroit Pistons this past summer it was widely dished as being a foolish and comical signing. Those criticisms were inevitable, Plumlee remains an exceptionally easy player to make fun of, but he performed exactly the role that the Pistons signed him for.

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Simply put, even though Plumlee does remain slightly overpaid, his contract is the sort of overpay that makes sense for a rebuilding team like the Pistons. A veteran who is well-regarded as a great professional who brings excellent attitude to the locker room, but is also good in the sort of ways that make life easier for your young players.

It didn’t work out exactly as planned, the main player who Plumlee was supposed to help was Killian Hayes but due to Hayes’ injury the pair only played in 11 games together, but Plumlee’s defensive communication, solid rebounding, passing, and screen-setting were all valuable assets to keep the  Detroit Pistons often short-handed lineups from falling completely into the void on either end.

Detroit Pistons: Isaiah Stewart is ready for a bigger role

That said, one thing happened that the Pistons most likely did not expect. Isaiah Stewart was very ready for action as a 19-year-old and is probably already better than Plumlee. Stewart put up almost identical offensive numbers (per 36 minutes) outside of the assist column, but Stewart’s defense was noticeably a step above Plumlee.

It is most likely that the Pistons expected Stewart, as a slightly undersized 19-year-old center who didn’t have many discernable NBA skills other than a high motor, to need at least a year or two to get ready for significant NBA minutes, one more reason Plumlee made sense, but if Stewart is set to own the starting job, and minutes allotment, from the start of next season, Plumlee is in limbo.

The obvious answer is obviously that the Pistons will simply keep Plumlee, play him around 20 minutes per night and use him as motivation to keep Stewart working hard, and not worry about it.

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This is also the most likely answer, there has been some talk in Pistons fandom that the Pistons may be able to trade Plumlee. This is highly unlikely, the only reason to give any hope that someone would trade for Plumlee is that occasionally NBA teams do stupid things. The Pistons got Tobias Harris from the Magic for Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova who were both on expiring contracts once upon a time after-all.

That said, the main issue is that it is difficult to find a trade for Plumlee that makes sense for the Detroit Pistons. In theory the Pistons could give Plumlee, a useful player who is paid a bit too much, to a team trying to win now who has a worse player making more money. Brooklyn may prefer to swap DeAndre Jordan’s corpse for Mason Plumlee, Plumlee may not be much better but he certainly isn’t much worse (at this point) and Plumlee makes less money than Jordan. The Pistons could possibly rope in a second-round pick for the trouble.

The problem is that Jordan doesn’t fit the mold of “useful veteran to have on a rebuilding team” nearly as nicely as Plumlee, on top of that the Pistons are not going to exactly be flush with cap-space. Assuming they retain Hamidou Diallo they may have almost no space at all. As such, it may not be sensical for them to take on extra salary even if they can get some sort of draft compensation for the trouble.

We also know that they are not going to attach a young asset of their own in order to trade him. The most likely way to trade Plumlee that would make sense is if he is included with someone else, for instance, if the Pistons pull the trigger on a Jerami Grant trade this summer then Plumlee could perhaps be included in the move as an add-on or to help match salaries.

In the end, do not hope for the Pistons to get anything back for Plumlee, he had a perfectly fine season and did the job the Pistons hopped that he would do for them. But he is still a negative asset individually.

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