SALT LAKE CITY – The growing question among the Trail Blazers is not whether center Mason Plumlee will record a triple-double this season, but how many.
“Oh, I can see him getting a lot of them,’’ Damian Lillard said Wednesday after Plumlee had eight points, 10 rebounds and seven assists in 24 minutes in the Blazers’ 88-84 exhibition win at Utah.
Two developments have led teammates to predict the esteemed accomplishment of recording double-figures in three categories.
First, Plumlee has developed a mid-range jump shot, which this preseason has graduated from offseason experiment to a legitimate part of his arsenal.
“It’s for real,’’ coach Terry Stotts said matter-of-factly Wednesday after Plumlee hit two mid-range jumpers against the Jazz.
Second, the Blazers have added new offensive sets this season that will more often feature him in play-making positions. The new role builds off his effective playoffs, when he helped pick apart the Clippers with his athleticism, decision-making and passing.
Lillard says he sees Plumlee’s evolution in the Blazers’ offense having the potential to produce results like Draymond Green recorded last season with Golden State, when he led the league with 13 triple-doubles.
“A lot of our new sets that we’ve put in, where we are moving the ball around, a lot of times we are putting the ball in his hands to make a play,’’ Lillard said. “It’s kind of what Golden State does with Draymond Green. He gets a lot of assists getting the ball in the middle of the defense and making that decision. Mase is really good at it, so I could see him getting a bunch of them this year.’’
Last season, Plumlee rarely flirted with a triple double, in part because he scored in double figures in only 37 of the 82 games. The closest he came was in January at Washington, when he had 10 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists. The seven assists was a career high at the time, later eclipsed by a 10-assist game against the Clippers in the playoffs.
But now, with the added jump shot, and his growing role in the Blazers’ attack, Plumlee admits a triple-double is something of a goal.
“I would love to have triple doubles because that just means you are playing a complete game, getting everyone involved,’’ Plumlee said Wednesday. “A lot of it is guys hitting shots, four of the five assists in first half were guys hitting threes … so it means guys are shooting the ball well.’’
The last Blazers player to record a triple double is Nicolas Batum, who had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 14 assists against Orlando in January of 2014, a drought that players believe Plumlee will end this season.
“He will definitely get some triple doubles this year, for sure,’’ CJ McCollum said. “He is good at everything – pass, rebound, obviously scoring -- you can see the jump shot coming along. He has really good basketball IQ, and as the season comes along we are going to put him in positions to where he is going to be utilized heavily and take great advantage of it.’’