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Film Study: The resurgence of Miles Plumlee for the Suns

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Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

While the past couple of weeks have not gone that well for the Phoenix Suns, there has been a bright spot. Particularly in the past two games, MIles Plumlee has found some of his form from last season and then some.

I don't have a logical or reasonable way to analyze Plumlee's ginormous bump in effectiveness, but it's abundantly clear to see. He's playing smarter, he's playing with more urgency, and he's playing fundamental big man defense

I'm going to give everyone a day off here and not touch on Plumlee's offense. I'm pretty sure this is something where the coaches are encouraging Plumlee to be aggressive on offense, but it's just a nightmare whenever he tries to post up. He excels as a strong dunker around the rim and that's about it. That's not a bad thing though because the last thing the Suns need is another guy who wants the ball to score.

We won't go over any clips, but Plumlee showed much more of a desire to pass the ball as soon as he got it if he wasn't right next to the rim. This is exactly what he needs to keep doing and is another promising sign.

The most promising sign however has been Plumlee's defense. I outlined what this team needs out of their center and what Plumlee was doing wrong in my last film study and he has thrown that right back in my face this week. We will get to that in a minute, but it's important first to be aware of what Plumlee does well.

Rim Protection

That's right folks, we finally have video! Anyway, the two things that Miles has going for him is that he knows how to use verticality and he's a great athlete. This combination makes him an excellent rim protector, but Plumlee has only really been able to be that when he sees the play coming from far away.

Example 1

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/L15b18OmYfE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

On this block, Harden comes screaming down the lane and expects a foul whenever he steps into the key. Plumlee does a simple job of going straight up and extending his hands to the ball when it's necessary. Well done.

Help Defense

Now we will get to the thing the Suns are so desperately missing and something that Plumlee brought to the table this week in help defense. This team's rotations in general really struggle, but when they are all working hard and zoned in they can play some above average to great defense. Everyone is getting better and Miles is a great example of that.

In general though, one of the main problems for this defense is that one mistake leads to a breakdown that they can't recover from.

Example 1

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Q-zoM5ifDCU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Mook doesn't get down the floor in time and now Goran Dragic has to deal with Jason Thompson. Plumlee has got to be concerned about Cousins at all times here, but his teammate needs help and this is where he needs to step up like I said a few weeks ago. Plumlee does a fantastic job of getting right at the rim and going straight up. Thompson takes a bad angle at the rim and winds up barreling into Plumlee, resulting in an easy block.

Example 2

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/dBGb3NHPNME" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

P.J. Tucker is the best version of a heat check defender. He has so much freaking heart that it kills him sometimes and James Harden has made that happen a lot lately. He works his ass off to get around screens here, but gambles on the steal attempt. Now Keef has to stop the ball, leaving the rim run and the corner three open. Bledsoe does the right thing in trying to stop the corner three while staying on the rim run, but now there's an open layup. Plumlee has been paying attention though and he swings over SO fast to be able to still go straight up for the block. Tremendous.

Individual Defense

Plumlee's skill set as a defender has him as an excellent matchup for DeMarcus Cousins. He can keep up with him on the perimeter if he tries to dribble by and he has the strength and vertical to check him at the rim. With all that being said, he still needs to play the correct defense and put in the work. He did this a lot on Sunday and was arguably the Suns best player that night.

Example 1

This is a really simple thing, but Miles kept himself attached to Cousins as soon as possible to prevent him from getting any great position inside. This is fantastic because once Cousins gets the ball on the block it's pretty much over. Here he is on the elbow keeping the position.

Boogie eventually takes the ball on the bounce and Miles keeps himself low ready to take the bumps and not give up a ton of position to the rim.

He's done all he can do and now he has to reward his hard work by staying straight up. Boogie picks up his dribble and tries a flailing floater.

Cousins misses badly. A terrific job by Plumlee on his own against one of the best big men in the NBA.

Example 2

Same exact thing here. This is where Cousins receives the ball and Plumlee has to make him pay for that. He wants him to settle for the jumper and Miles is keeping his feet active in case he does or takes him off of the dribble.

Look at Plumlee's chest and where he's sliding over to. He's denying Cousins a clear path to the basket and he's going to at least make it very difficult for Cousins to get to the rim and score.

Once again, the job is done and now he just needs to stay straight up. Cousins blocks Miles out of the screen, but you can see his hands above Cousins. He forces Cousins into a weird eurostep layup to the side of the rim and it misses badly again.

Example 3

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/toVxFdqNpU0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Simple stuff here. A great seal by Boogie allows him to get the baseline and great footwork allows him to have the layup. If Boogie goes up very strong he's going to dunk on Miles. However, Miles makes the recovery and just jumps straight up to swat the ball when Cousins releases it far below the rim.

Example 4

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/cuyo-HsyrXo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This is tremendous all-around. Miles fights through the screen coming from Thompson and stays attached to Cousins. He keeps his hands active, stays low, gets away with a sneaky hold, stays with him, does NOT jump right away, and rewards himself by blocking the shot from the off-balance Cousins.

Example 5

<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/7XjU1XrryvE" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

This is probably the best individual defensive possession from any Suns player this season. Miles has an excellent closeout by keeping his hands and feet extremely active, recovers from a viable steal attempt, stays low and with him for the bump, and rises up for the block. Wow.

Conclusion

I'm not sure if this is the last time we saw Miles Plumlee in a Suns jersey, but he was excellent on defense the past two games. Whether this is a showcase for other teams or showing his worth for this team, the praise is warranted. I'm still not ready to give him minutes over Wright, but it's really hard to keep turning him down if he maintains this level of play. It's only been two games, but as long as Plumlee keeps with this defense I have no doubt he will find minutes for the Suns or land on his feet elsewhere.