Posting Up LeBron James might be the Cavs best option

The Golden State Warriors are incredibly tough to beat but slowing them down and keeping them out of transition is critical. For the Cleveland Cavaliers to do that, they should explore posting up LeBron James early and often on the offensive end. It is more than just coming down the court and lazily throwing the ball into the post in an isolation situation or him doing the good ole’ Mark Jackson back down his defender from the three-point line. They need to get to this within the flow of their offense.

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One of the bigger values that would come from the Cavs posting up the ball more, is the notion that it can slow down the Warriors offensive attack because there is no way they can score without the ball in their possession. The Warriors in the playoffs are averaging 16.6 fast break points nearly double the Cavs 8.8 points. To hammer the point home, the Warriors have averaged 99.88 possessions versus the Cavs 93.85 a playoff game, the Warriors want to get out and run, the Cavs offense could be their best defense.

Posting James is more than just slowing down the Warriors offense, the Cavs get very good production out of James in the post. In the regular season on 196 post up attempts LeBron is averaging 1.04 points per possession on 56.3% field goal percentage highest of any Cav. The numbers have stayed consistent in the playoffs but they should increase the frequency in which they run it.

Against the Boston Celtics, a common action the Cavs used was the 1-3 Pick-and-Roll to get the smaller Terry Rozier switched onto to LeBron so he could go to work on him in the post. Expect to see a steady stream of this action with Steph Curry as their primary target.

The Cavs need more than just this action to get James the ball in the post; they have several ways in their playbook. Coach Tyronn Lue pulled this one from his triangle offense days, a set commonly called “Corner Opposite” (not sure if that is the Cavs’ play call). James sets up on the weak side wing waiting for a Kevin Love screen that he’ll use to come to the strong side block for the post up. Once the ball goes to James, the other Cavs need to remain active in their movement, here they set up a post-split action for Kyle Korver, George Hill slips the screen in this instance.

They can run cross screen actions for him with Hill who most likely will have Curry on him. This will open the possibility of Curry having to guard James in the post. The Cavs ran this against the New Orleans Pelicans but need to run this play with more pace, and Love needs to let the cross screen action unfold before he comes to set the screen for the screener. In the end, it doesn’t matter, James just overpowers his defender for the basket.

The Cavs have another post up option for LeBron out of their normal “Elbow” set, watch LeBron in the weakside corner. As soon as Kevin Love gets the ball, James comes in from the weak side and ducks into the post. He does it in a way that he is able to shield the passing lane from his defender and Love places it where only he can get it.

The Cavs ran a nice action against the Charlotte Hornets that ended with James getting the post up. It starts with LeBron bringing the ball up and hits Hill on the wing, as Rodney Hood sets a back screen to try to spring James for a lob. The Hornets switch to take the lob away and now have a smaller defender on him. The Cavs swing the ball immediately to take advantage of the mismatch and James goes to work.

The Cavs have also explored running a tight Pick-and-Roll when James has the ball in the post. They ran it against the Celtics, one of the few times I’ve seen them do it; with JR Smith setting the screen and popping out to three. It is an incredibly effective action the Clippers used to run for Chris Paul with alarming success, just ask Kendrick Perkins.

There are a few caveats to posting James for the Cavs, for starters, his teammates cannot just stand and watch him go to work, they have to continue to cut and screen for one another to occupy the Warriors help defense. The other important factor is that LeBron has to keep his turnovers down; he averaged nearly six turnovers in the Boston series. The Warriors feast off of turnovers with 17.9 points off of turnovers and it triggers their fast break, this is how the Warriors blow games open. It is imperative that LeBron takes care of this ball all series.

The Cavs are overwhelming underdogs in the Finals as well they should be; it will be an uphill battle for them. They have struggled defensively and face one of the best offenses so they need to use their own offense as their defense. Running offensive sets that can create mismatches, get LeBron James in the post, and keep the ball out of the Warriors’ hands could give the Cavs a chance to upset the defending the champs.

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