Breathing New Life into the Post Game

Rumors of the demise of the NBA post player have been greatly exaggerated. The game has drifted away from the post and has become more perimeter focused rendering the post-game dead, so we thought. This season a few teams have started to focus on the post again, players like Anthony Davis, LaMarcus Aldridge, Karl Anthony Towns and Joel Embiid.

Each of these teams has increased the number of post-ups from last season to this one, with the largest jump coming from the Philadelphia 76ers which has to do with the health of Embiid who is averaging 10.2 post-ups per game for an average 1.00 points per possession. (PPP) Aldridge’s post-ups have increased since Kawhi Leonard has been out most of the season and he has responded. Davis has entered the MVP conversation since DeMarcus Cousins season-ending injury with a PPP of 0.99. Even though Towns’ post up attempts are down he leads all big men with a 1.05 PPP (minimum 3 possessions). With Butler sidelined for the next 4-6 weeks expect Towns’ post-up opportunities to climb.

 

2016-17

2017-18

Post Up Attempts

PPP

   Post Up Attempts

PPP

Karl-Anthony Towns

5.8 1.03 3.8 1.05
Anthony Davis

4.1

0.90

4.7

0.99

LaMarcus Aldridge

5.8

0.87

9.2

0.99

Joel Embiid 6.8 0.88 10.2

1.00

These guys are able to dominate games if teams choose to defend them one-on-one in the post. They are too strong, agile, and quick, making them too strong for most defenders. Davis can take his time in the post setting up a jump hook or go quickly and spin off his defender for the dunk. Aldridge uses his fadeaway jumper to torture defenders or his lower body strength to back down defenders. Towns pushed his defender up the lane line and quickly got into his hook shot. Then he faces up on his defender and gets into a jump hook. Embiid’s agility has allowed him to master the step through and constantly keeps defenders guessing with his array of post moves.

Teams are constantly looking for ways to create mismatches and using the post to create them is a strong way to get defenses in rotation. Most teams are not able to defend these guys one on one so they are forced to double team. This opens up the chance for these guys to find their teammates either cutting the basket, camping out at the three-point line or making the pass that triggers team ball movement that leads to open shots or lanes.

The game has changed but the thought that post players have gone extinct is a bit premature post players have just evolved. They’ve become more versatile, extending their range out to the three-point line while keeping true to what makes them special, their post game. At the same time, this versatility has only made them more dangerous and given teams more options on the court.

Ever since the Golden State Warriors proved a jump shooting team could win a championship several teams have followed their lead. The Pelicans, Spurs, Wolves, and Sixers are all zagging while everyone else is zigging with a focus on post play. They have elite post players that are capable of scoring in one-on-one situations or can command double teams to create opportunities for others. Davis, Aldridge, Towns, and Embiid are bringing the post-game back from the dead.

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