Having successful post play in basketball is a commodity that many teams do not benefit from. Many post players develop their game at later stages in their basketball careers. Coaches that can find ways to receive production from their post players will benefit from getting higher percentage shots, shoot more foul shots, and get perimeter players open.
Post players such as Anderson Varejao and Marcin Gortat began their careers as role players, through continual development and understanding of their jobs they have blossomed into highly productive post players. The following ideas can be applied to post players at any level, and are the building blocks that can help a post player increase their production regardless of skill set.
This can be a daunting task for a post player, especially one that garners a lot of attention from opposing defenses. There are several ways a post player can get open during the course of a game. As a post player you want to get your work done before you catch the ball and these are all ways to work the post.
Running the floor is the easiest way for a post player to get open. We have a general rule that post players must get two lay-ups a game from running the floor. This is generally the best way that a skinny/athletic post player can help a team if they are unable to be a force in the low post. A post player that runs hard, and consistently, will get easy looks as the defense fatigues and will also help other players get scoring opportunities in transition.
Suggested Drills: Run the Pipe Finishing Drill
Making contact in the post is generally the most common way a post player gets open. Sealing the defense allows post players to take up space and create angles to make scoring opportunities easy. We teach our post players to run rim-to-rim and seal the first man down. Too often do post players run outside the lane or block-to-block. Getting your work done before the catch means that you are working for deep post position.
Obtaining a two-footed paint catch allows you to score without a dribble, and without a double-team. A one-footed paint catch forces you to use a dribble, and can draw a double team. An outside of the paint catch forces you to use multiple dribbles and does not allow for effective offensive floor spacing.
Being a screener is a necessary role for many under-developed post players to fill. On a team with talented guards a post player who cannot create a shot needs to play off of the screens they set for the guards. Post players that can get other’s open provide a role for their team, granted they can defend & rebound.
Suggested Drills: Game Situation Pick & Pop Shooting Drill
Receiving a screen helps post players create angles that they might not be able to create through sealing in the post. Back screens and cross screens are the two most common screens that a post player will receive to obtain good posting position. The most important thing that a post player can learn when receiving a screen is that they must come off the screen and immediately seal for position. Too often do post players come off screens and continue their cut outside of the paint rather than coming off the screen and finding a defender to start sealing.
Suggested Drills: Game Situation Post Flash Shooting Drill
Rebounding is the one skill that takes place on the offensive & defensive side of the floor and can allow a post player to play even if they do not possess any other skills. A post players’ mentality should be that every shot taken is a pass into the post. On offense a post player must read the angle of the shot, roll to the weak-side of the rebound, and get to an open gap in order to increase their chances of obtaining the offensive rebounder.
An under-athletic post player can be a great rebounder if they follow these steps and actively pursue every shot that is taken. We discuss the NBA’s 30-60-80 rule with our team to emphasize rebounding. In the NBA the first shot of a possession has a 30% chance of going in, if a team gets an offensive rebound the percentage jumps to 60%, if a team gets a second offensive rebound the shot will go in 80% of the time.
Once you have gotten open in the post it is your job to stay open. As a post player you have to understand that there are multiple times throughout the course of the game that the ball might not see you. Guards might not look into the post or there might be a great deal of pressure on the ball that an entry pass cannot be made safely to the post. Continual sealing throughout the course of a possession is necessary to stay open and create better scoring angles in the post. A post players only movement should be to get more of the defense, therefore if the ball reverses then the post player should continue to seal the defense and not follow the ball block-to-block. Post players should know which side/block is their favorite to work from. A general rule is that post players should spend 80% of their time on their favorite block. As Coach Rick Majerus used to eloquently put it, “if a post player doesn't know what their favorite side is, they stink on both sides.”
A crucial part of being a good offensive post player in the ability to catch entry passes from guards. If guards are not confident that the post will be able to catch the pass they will not attempt to feed. Catching the ball with two hands, chinning the ball, and checking the middle is the progression a post player should go through in order to prevent turnovers from occurring. A post player should show their “numbers” to the ball (the numbers on front of their jersey being seen by the ball allows for a safe passing lane) and always remember that possession is more important than position. Despite a great two-footed paint seal, if an entry pass is outside of the post player’s area they must release the seal and safely acquire possession.
An effective post player has the ability to score the ball in a simple manner. Post players that need to use multiple dribbles and a multitude of moves will draw double-teams and prove to be less effective over the course of a game/season. Simplicity also means that a post player shoots 60% from the floor and 70% from the foul line. When a post player shoots a poor percentage from the floor they are not getting good post positioning, trying to score through double teams (not getting their work done before their catch), or shooting bad shots. Bad shots are either post moves that the post player does not work on enough or shots from their least favorite side of the floor. The four basic shots that a post player needs to be successful are:
Power Shot. A basic two-footed lay-up that can be made with either hand, on either side of the basket is sometimes the only post move that is needed to be successful. A post player should seldom use one-footed lay-ups since these shots are unsuccessful in traffic and will not result in many 3-point play opportunities. Post players seldom appreciate the importance of this shot and it is neglected in individual work. Continually working on power shots is important as a post player. Making these shots ‘clean’, off the glass with no rim, is a requirement in our individual & team workouts. Players that try to dunk every shot in practice don’t understand that they need to be able to refine a shot that is going to be taken in traffic with a likelihood of being fouled.
Go-To Move. We define a go-to move as the move that everyone in the gym knows you are going to make and yet you can still get to it. This is through countless hours of repetition of the move at a game speed. Kareem had the sky-hook, Duncan has the face-up, Shaq had the dunk; every post player’s go-to move is going to be unique. We teach and work on the jump-hook with all of our post players. This is a move that can deliver a great deal of success once mastered.
Counter Move. A counter move is the move that you use when your go-to is taken away. Defenses will eventually sit on a post player’s favorite shoulder and take away their ability to get to a specific move. Developing a counter move allows you to play the new angles that the defense has given you in their efforts to take your go-to away. We prefer the double-drop since it results in a high percentage lay-up if executed properly. A turn-around jump shot, up & under, and fade-away are other counter moves that post players can use, but these shots do not result in the high percentage lay-up that a effective double drop results in.
Free-throw. A post player that cannot successfully shoot foul shots demoralizes your offense since they will be fouled frequently, equating in empty possessions, be unable to complete 3-point plays, and be a liability in late game situations. Shooting 70% from the foul line should be the minimum goal of a post player. Incorporating free-throws in practice during periods of fatigue and with pressure can help a post player get quality free-throw repetitions.
Post play continues to change in the current landscape of basketball. While post players continue to expand their skill set, it is imperative to develop the fundamental skills necessary to be successful in the low post. Field goal percentage continues to be the biggest factor in determining wins or losses. Being able to put post players in a role where they can be successful will ultimately improve the entire make-up of any team.