Great players that like to play in the post with their back to the basket is a dying breed…
A good back-to-the-basket post player is hard to find nowadays. If you have one then you need to find ways to get them the ball in a position to score. If you don’t then they will turn into one of the post players that want to be a point guard and shoot 3-point shots on the perimeter. It can be difficult to get a post player the ball, especially if the defense is designed to stop them. Here are five actions that will get your post player open against any defense.
Cross-screening for the post is an action that is commonly used and can be utilized in a variety of ways. In a simple 3-out 2-in offense with two low post players cross-screens are used as part of the continuity of the offense. Every time the ball is on the wing the ball-side post cross screens for the opposite post and the cutter reads the defense. Another version of the post to post cross-screen is to set a rear cross-screen when the ball is thrown to the top. The back-side post will set screen on the opposite post’s defender and the cutter rolls under the screen looking for the ball from the top. In a 4-out 1-in offense cross screens can be given by guards off of cuts or screen the screener actions from guards or post players. A popular set play for a 3-out or 4-out offense is to pass from the top to the wing and UCLA cut either off a rear screen to the rim or make a direct cut to the rim and cross-screen for the post player that is opposite the ball. To be effective with cross-screens you will need to design plays that set screens from different angles and by different players.
Pick and Roll
The most popular way to get a post player open is to utilize a pick and roll action. It forces the defense to decide how they are going to guard the player coming off the ball-screen and communicate how they are going to stop the post player on the roll to the rim. If they choose to switch then the post player has a smaller defender trying to guard them in the post area and if they don’t switch the post should be open on the roll. If they choose to hedge and recover, quick ball reversal should get the post open at the rim with good position. You may want to pick and pop your post player on the perimeter if they are able to shoot or if they are good at attacking the rim off the dribble.
Good post players will attract a lot of attention from defenders. You will face man-to-man or zone defenses that will deny the ball into the post and have help-side defenders deep in the paint to help on lob passes. Instead of trying to fight post defenders for position on the block with the ball on the wing, take advantage of their aggressiveness by sealing the defender out and flashing a cutter to the high post. In a 3-out offense cut the opposite post player to the high post to eliminate the help-side defender and either lob from the wing or pass to the high post and lob down to the post. In a 4-out offense, cut the opposite guard and you have the same options. A high-low situation is the best option against an aggressive defense, especially if you can have a good shooter on the opposite wing to prevent deep help from their defender.
Screen the Screener
A more advanced action for higher level teams is to set a ball-screen with your post player and have another player rear-screen for them. The screen-the-screener option is more effective against a man-man defense and can be used regardless of how defense decides to play ball-screens. The second screener needs to know how the defense guards ball-screens so they know who to screen. If the defense switches ball-screens then the second screener will need to screen the guard’s defender. Switching defenses will allow your post to have a mismatch in the post area after they come off the screen. If the defense hedges and recovers the ball-screen or stays with their man then the rear-screener will screen the post player’s defender. The best option is if you can have a shooter as rear-screener. The defense will do one of three things. They will either switch the rear-screen which will have your post against a smaller defender, help and recover which will leave your shooter open, or stay with the shooter which will leave you post open at the rim.
We need to work harder at developing post players that are effective at playing with their backs to the basket. When you have this as an offensive weapon your team can do so much more. All sorts of options present themselves because the defense is forced to honor the paint and open shots get created for everyone else.