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Atlanta Hawks 2018-2019 player preview: Miles Plumlee

The controversial big man has a lot to do to live up to his contract.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Miami Heat Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

In advance of the 2018-2019 NBA season, the Peachtree Hoops crew will preview each player on the current roster. The third installment breaks down veteran center Miles Plumlee.

Miles Plumlee is an absolute athletic freak.

What many fans fail to realize is that NBA players are all world-class athletes, regardless of playing time.

Last season, Plumlee appeared in 55 games, averaging 4.1 rebounds and 4.3 points while shooting 58.3 percent from the field in 16.7 minutes of play a night. Many fans have called Plumlee out for the four-year, $52 million contract the Milwaukee Bucks gave him in 2016, the year of the bad big man contract, but he’s still a serviceable player (albeit a backup) in the NBA.

With the news of incumbent starting center Dewayne Dedmon going down with an ankle injury in a recent workout becoming public, Atlanta may have to call on its elder big man, along with new signing Alex Len, to step up for the youthful corps. While Dedmon’s injury may prove to be a minor hiccup, the Hawks have only five big men under guaranteed contracts (with Thomas Robinson and Cole Aldrich as training camp invites), leaving the possibility that Plumlee will be thrust into duty along the way.

Plumlee’s ability to excite the crowd with his blocks and dunks can also be intriguing for the team’s confidence and momentum at the start of games this season, especially if he is forced into regular playing time. The 30-year-old still has some bounce like he showed in one of last season’s biggest highlights.

One of the reasons why Plumlee hasn’t played much since his 2013-14 breakout season is because his athleticism and jumping ability appear to be the only full-blown strengths he has in today’s NBA. He can be a powerful post player, but Plumlee exists in an era where elite big men can post up and face the basket.

With the Hawks bringing in more shooters this season, including rookie big man Omari Spellman, Plumlee doesn’t need to be a guy who stretches the floor for the team but it surely doesn’t help his case to move up in a rotation with Dedmon, Spellman, and the bigger Len ahead of him.

One of the main reasons Plumlee was traded to the Hawks was that his contract helped level out a deal that would get Dwight Howard off of a franchise that was pressing the reset button. It is now up to him to forget all of the career shortcomings that he had in Indiana, Milwaukee and Charlotte to prove he’s a player worth keeping (even for $25 million over two seasons) in the next era of Hawks basketball.

At last season’s exit interview, Plumlee said he was looking forward to this summer because he was finally healthy again. He had knee surgery in the summer of 2017 and most of the first month of the regular season to a quad injury. Perhaps a full summer of workouts and scrimmaging can keep Plumlee’s awareness and attentiveness sharp after averaging the second most turnovers of his career last season.

Head coach Lloyd Pierce mentioned that he wants to have guys who want to compete on his roster during his summer media tour. While it is unseen on if Plumlee is one of those ideal players on Pierce’s dream roster, it is known that Plumlee knows his role, he does his job and he stays out of the way in order for the younger players on the team to develop. That can be useful, even if the value proposition of a player on his contract doesn’t align with his on-court contributions.