Garza, Gonzaga, Less Post Play, and Offense

Ages: Youth, High School, College/Pro
Audience: Coaches

The NBA has de-emphasized post ups and gone to more open offenses due to analytics.

And many coaches at other levels have followed suit.

Whatever the reason...

If you're a youth, high school, college, or even a professional coach in another league, I think this is a big mistake!

1 - The NBA is a completely different game because of different rules, athleticism, and talent level.

2 - Regardless of the level, you need to evaluate your personnel and figure out what works for you.

While some coaches can recruit for their system, the great coaches still always adapt their offense to their personnel.

For some coaches, this might mean a 5-out pace and space offense. For others, you might go to a 3-out or triple post offense to best fit your strengths.

(Youth and middle school coaches: We highly advise that you teach an offense that is positionless and teaches concepts, not plays. Read more here.)

And almost every experienced high school and college coach knows the tremendous impact a good post player can have on half court offense.

Some of the best offenses in college basketball use post ups in their offensive strategy... and are VERY VERY good at it.

This includes the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Iowa Hawkeyes.

As of 3/3/21, here is the breakdown of Post Ups for the Gonzaga Bulldogs and Iowa Hawkeyes within their half court offenses.

Post Ups Within Half-Court Offense:
Gonzaga - 1.311 PPP, 6.8 possessions per game
Iowa - 1.135 PPP, 8.9 possessions per game

Post Ups With Pass Back Out For Shot:
Gonzaga - 1.351 PPP, 1.5 possessions per game
Iowa - 1.2 PPP, 4.4 possessions per game

*** PPP means points per possession.

Gonzaga has the most efficient offense at 1.09 PPP. So as you can see, post ups are very efficient without analyzing any of the other effects that might not be seen in these numbers directly.

Shooting a high percentage on kick-outs from the post area makes sense. If you think about the way most players practice shooting, a rebounder is typically under the basket passing the ball back out to a shooter.

There are also fewer factors to the higher shooting percentage on kick-out passes. Shooters tend to be already facing the basket and moving at a slower speed when compared to sprinting off screens and cuts.

And the stats above don't even include the other ways that post play affects the game...

Pass-pass situations arise and create more open shots.

Above, we mentioned that passes out of post-ups are highly effective. That's because help defenses have to concentrate on the post player. Post players can pass the ball out or to players cutting to the basket for scoring opportunities.

However, that stat doesn't include pass-pass situations.

If you force help defenders to double team or help on the post player, this creates situations where the initial pass out of the post may not create an open shot. But maybe an additional pass or another dribble penetration will lead to a high percentage shot.

So even though it won't show up on the stat sheet directly, the post touch is what led to the great shot.

The threat of a post up creates open perimeter shots and basket cuts.

Additionally, just the threat of a post entry pass is effective. That's because a help defender will commit too far and open up a basket cut or skip pass for an open shot to another teammate.

By simply using a pass fake into the post can shift the defense enough to open another scoring opportunity.

You are in a better position for offensive rebounding and the defense is not.

When players shoot close to the basket, they are often in a great position for an offensive rebound and second shot attempt.

And if the defense is sending multiple defensive players at the post player, this can open up the weak side for offensive rebounding.

I noticed Iowa was in the top 10% of offensive rebounding teams. And relative to other power conference teams, they aren't overly athletic.

Fouls and Free Throws

You tend to get more fouls and free throws.

And this will absolutely help you in late game situations! You can be more aggressive offensively and the defense can't.

Gonzaga and Iowa are both in the top 5% percentile of teams for free throws attempted.

Shots close to the basket provide OFFENSIVE consistency!

Shots close to the basket also tend to vary less than 3-point shots from game to game.

This will help keep you in games that your perimeter shooting is subpar.

Of course, you can still be effective without a post player as long as you have players that can consistently dribble drive and finish near the rim like this year's Baylor Bears.

The key is to have a threat at the basket.

All great offenses have interior and perimeter threats.

As they say in NBA circles, the RIM is King.

Teaching Post Play for Youth and High School Basketball

At the youth and high school levels, you absolutely should be developing post moves for all of your players. You are there to develop players!

Players grow and develop at different rates!

I've coached players where they didn't develop until their senior year of high school. They have gone from a benchwarmer to earning a college scholarship.

You can take advantage of poor post defenders which is quite common at these levels.

You could also emulate Bo Ryan's great offensive teams at levels in Wisconsin. He taught all of his players how to be a threat in the post.

We've had 5'10 guards who got points in the post because they could take advantage of poor post defenders.

And if you teach the way Don Kelbick teaches post play...

You actually get better at your perimeter scoring moves at the same time. That's because Don shows you the similarities in the footwork that's essential for scoring the post and the perimeter. The only thing that changes is the location of the court.

Let us know what you think.

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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gord de Vries says:
3/5/2021 at 1:15:10 PM

Absolutely! How did we go down this 3 point shot rabbit hole so willingly and so quickly? For youth basketball it is totally nonsense; most kids don't practice shooting, hence most kids cannot shoot. I try to teach all my kids to have 2-3 post moves and counters ( shout out to D.K. ) and to post/ask for ball after cutting. Some of our best post players have been our smallest; they draw a crowd, pass on time/on target to someone, as you say, is 12 - 15' from the basket, square and balanced.
3 point basketball is a pipe dream perpetuated by so many coaches. No one is getting better. Inside out still rules, especially for youth. Here's hoping! thanks.


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