Mason Plumlee was a controversial free-agent signing for the Detroit Pistons, not entirely unlike former Denver Nuggets teammate Jerami Grant.
As free agency began, it was assumed that keeping Christian Wood was going to be the top priority for new general manager Troy Weaver. When the Pistons signed Plumlee to a three-year, $25 million contract in the opening moments of free agency, however, panic set in for fans as it became clear there was some other plan in place.
Mason Plumlee joined the Detroit Pistons in the offseason to help build a culture of hard work and accountability. How did he do?
Not only did they swiftly sign Mason Plumlee, but they moved to acquire Jahlil Okafor almost immediately thereafter, and they joined the 16th overall pick in the NBA draft, Isaiah Stewart. The center position seemed comically overstocked. Did Weaver not know you could acquire players from other positions? Was “center” accidentally toggled as the only checked box in their free agency filters?
Well, as it happens, there certainly was a plan in place after all. When the dust cleared, the Detroit Pistons had an entirely normal number of centers left. Mason Plumlee was the starter, with Isaiah Stewart the man chomping at his heels with the intention of taking away his job down the line.
For this Pistons squad, making their promising rookies earn their reps was a priority, and Plumlee served as an ideal candidate in this case. He’s not so exceptional that Stewart could never usurp him, but he’s absolutely no pushover either.
Plumlee provided effort, communication and a play-making element that this team needed. Especially when Blake Griffin proved inadequate for the task and ultimately ended up getting benched and bought out, and Killian Hayes went down with a hip injury, the Pistons were delighted that their center could find open teammates for shots.
In fact, he had two triple-doubles this season, ironically enough a feat that former Piston All-Star center Andre Drummond could never quite achieve in spite of plenty of opportunities.
Of course, we are talking about Mason Plumlee, so even though he was often delightfully surprising, things weren’t exactly perfect. In perhaps my favorite streak of the entire season, Plumlee fouled out of four straight games in January against the Miami Heat, the Atlanta Hawks, the Houston Rockets and the Philadelphia 76ers.
The Pistons lost all four games by a total of 19 points, and in a season where tallying up as many losses as possible in order to build lottery equity was vital, Plumlee did his job admirably.
What about Mason Plumlee’s contract with the Detroit Pistons?
There’s no doubt that Plumlee’s contract was an overpay, with no non-guaranteed money and no team options. Plumlee even has a trade kicker included in the deal, so it certainly appears that both he and the team anticipate him being in the mix with the Pistons for the majority of his contract.
It brought back nightmarish flashbacks to a time when Stan Van Gundy proclaimed the existence of a “Detroit Premium” and then went out of his way to throw that premium at every free agent that would answer his calls. Plumlee’s deal was excessive, but not to the degree that Van Gundy’s largesse often was. And Plumlee provided a whole lot more than SVG beneficiaries like Boban Marjanovic, Jon Leuer and even fan-favorite Aron Baynes.
If we judge this overpay, it must be on its own merits, not because it reminds us of past sins by a previous administration. And this overpay can indeed be justified by what Plumlee provided this past season and may be able to bring to the table next season as well. One of the biggest benefits that supposedly came with him was that he could be a pick-and-roll partner with Killian Hayes.
When Hayes went down, that utility dropped off the map. He returned before the end of the season, but we didn’t get to see the fullness of what could be provided. So we’ll hold the jury on that aspect of the arrangement for the time being.