The Los Angeles Lakers landed a big fish in free agency; actually they landed the BIGGEST fish in the land when they signed LeBron James. Now that the front office has done their job, it is on coach Luke Walton and his staff to figure out the best ways to use him. They have to figure out how to build an offense around James, and the best place to start is in the post. Walton can use a lot of the same sets and actions for James that he used for Julius Randle.
The way the game has changed has been well documented, but that said, there is still real value to putting the ball in the post with the right player. Last season, the Lakers did not have that player. Their points per possession when the ball was thrown in the post was 0.974 (this includes passing out of the post). Randle and Brook Lopez were their main post targets but in James the Lakers hit the upgrade button. Last season James’ PPP in the post – that includes plays created out of the post – was 1.14, which had him in the 92nd percentile in the NBA. He was the most efficient in the league among players who averaged 2 post possessions per game.
The Cavaliers used several different plays to get James post ups, whether through actions out of the triangle offense, cross screens, or post up on the weak side. LeBron’s size and strength makes him very difficult to defend in the post for nearly anyone in the NBA, and that is before he bulked up even more this summer. Walton can craft small lineups with LeBron at center and running the offense through the post.
The Lakers would often use a pick-and-roll action to get Randle good position, like the example below. He didn’t roll to the rim, but towards the block to get deep position while Josh Hart lifted up from the wing to receive the pass from Brandon Ingram. This is very easy action that Walton could use with James setting the screen, and with the number of ball-handlers the Lakers have on the roster, most should be able to enter the ball into the post.
Against the San Antonio Spurs, Walton started the game with two straight post-up plays. It is normal zipper action, which teams often use to get ball to one of their wing players at the top of the key. But this time the Lakers used the play to get Randle a post-up isolation that didn’t result in a basket. Replace Randle with James’ passing ability, and more will surely open up out of this set. Like Lonzo Ball’s cut after making the pass into the post, Walton can add some weak-side pin downs to the play.
This next one Walton has taken a play out the Houston Rockets’ playbook; Kentavious Caldwell-Pope enters the ball to Kyle Kuzma in the post, and cuts toward the hoop, only to reverse course and come off Lopez’s pin down. He misses the shot, but it got the Lakers a good look. With LeBron in this set, he’ll have the vision to see all the angles on this play, like Ball cutting back door and how the defense reacts to it.
Since his time with the Lakers, Walton has not had a player as good as LeBron in the post. With James they can run their entire offense through him on the block. They already have a few sets that they could plug him into immediately. Walton also has a degree in the triangle offense, which is predicated on creating actions after the ball is put into the post. He also comes from the Golden State Warriors who have made post splits legendary.
LeBron James has spent the summer bulking up, possibly getting ready for a season spent banging in the post. Not just to score, but to create for others from that position. It’s the post where James stands the best chance of carrying LA to their first postseason berth since Dwight Howard was in the purple and gold.
Related Article Notes:
- Position-Less Basketball Taking Shape in the NBA
- Posting Up LeBron James might be the Cavs best option
- From Ben and Ryan Nguyen on Cleaning the Glass – The Post Up is Dead, Long Live the Post Up
- All Stats from synergysports.com, NBA.com/stats, and Basketball-reference.com
- Photo Credit: @Lakers
- Editor : Spencer Lund
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