Marshall Plumlee is the tallest of the Plumlee brothers, but has yet to show the skill that any of his brothers have. Coming into his redshirt sophomore season, this would be a great year to breakout. If he plays poorly, he will be stuck behind Amile Jefferson and Josh Hairston, even though neither are true centers. Duke will be most successful this season if they can get Marshall Plumlee playing well because he has the most potential of any big man Duke has. The problem for Duke, is Marshall has not shown he is ready to live up to his potential. He redshirt his first season at Duke and played limited minutes due to a foot injury last season. Duke needs for Marshall to become a solid big man, like his brothers, in order to fulfill their potential this season.
Marshall is already behind Mason in terms of development at Duke. As a freshman, Mason Plumlee contributed 3.7 points and 3.1 rebounds per game off the bench for a National Championship winning team. He improved to 7.2 points and 8.5 rebound in a much larger role his sophomore year. Marshall is not on that path. Coach K hoped Marshall could contribute similar minutes to Mason's freshman year, but injuries prevented that from happening. Especially after offseason foot surgery, it is tough to see Marshall ever getting on the path that Mason did, which led Mason to be an All-American. Mason was a special player for Duke and it does not seem likely that Marshall will ever get there.
Although Duke can not expect Marshall to become a player similar to Mason, Miles Plumlee may give a more realistic goal for Marshall's improvement. Like Marshall, Miles played minimal minutes for Duke as a freshman. As a sophomore, Miles averaged 5.2 points and 4.9 rebounds off the bench for Dukes National Championship team. Does that sound like a perfect season for Marshall or what? With Marshall's athleticism, he will likely be able to become the great rebounder, defender and dunker that Miles was for Duke. He may not have the finesse post games that Mason has, but Duke does not need that. Duke is desperate for post defense and rebounding, something Marshall Plumlee can contribute if he can continue to develop his game similar to Miles.
Similar to Miles, expectations are low for Marshall's sophomore season. Both played off the bench and were never expected to play starters minutes. With the continued development of Amile Jefferson, Marshall will likely serve as a back up to Jefferson. Marshall may not even be needed against all teams. Smaller teams, Duke will likely use their speed and length on the wing to fast break against them and will likely play Jabari Parker or Alex Murphy at "center" at times. Against teams like Michigan (Mitch McGary), Kentucky (Willie Cauley-Stein), etc., Marshall will be needed for his post defense. Amile Jefferson is a good defender but he can not do it alone. Josh Hairston is talented, but he will struggle to cover elite centers being only 6'7". Marshall will be needed to play post defense and rebound against those teams. Expectations are low for Marshall, but he is definitely a crucial piece for Duke this season.
This season is the perfect season for Marshall Plumlee to start playing well. Duke is thin at center and will have plenty of minutes if Plumlee plays well. If Plumlee is unable to perform, he may never have the chance. Duke is in the mix for top 2014 center recruits Jahlil Okafor and Myles Turner, and is considered the favorite for Okafor. This could cause Marshall to fall farther down the depth chart, and may cause him to lose his shot at ever seeing significant minutes for Duke. If Marshall does succeed this season, he could form a talented and tall starting front court with Turner or Okafor or even back them up. Okafor would start from day one at Duke, but Marshall could provide significant bench minutes. Myles Turner is less of a lock to start and Marshall could push him for starters minutes. Either way, a breakout year is needed for Marshall to stay a significant part of Duke's future plans.
With so much riding on this season for Marshall Plumlee, I see him shattering the low expectations most Duke fans have for him this season. I do not see him becoming Mason Plumlee, but I see him making a similar impact to Miles Plumlee. As great as it was to see a Duke big dominate in the post, Duke does not need that this season with all their perimeter scoring. If Marshall can provide Duke with solid post defense, rebounding, and screens on offense, Duke will be even better then people think they are. Even more importantly for Marshall, he will prove himself as a player worth significant minutes moving forward in his career at Duke. I see a great season in store for Marshall Plumlee and it is up to him to deliver a great year.