As more and more teams do the math on the game, NBA teams are realizing the math on post-up possessions doesn’t work out.
Therefore, the number of teams utilizing the post-up has steadily declined over the last decade-plus of basketball. According to a study done by The Ringer, the number of teams posting up on at least 10 percent of plays has gone from 22 to just one: the Philadelphia 76ers.
New this year, though, is the number of teams that nearly never post. So far, 18 teams have posted up less than 5 percent of the time, compared with just eight teams in the 2018-19 season. The Utah Jazz are one of those teams. They use post-ups just 1.8% of the time, and typically it’s a half-accident when they do. The rare ones haven’t been particularly fruitful, averaging just 0.82 points per possession.
But Philadelphia coach Brett Brown defended his somewhat anachronistic stylistic choice before the Sixers’ game Monday.
“You start trying to shape the team according to the strengths of the team. And I believe I see the world correctly,” Brown said. “It ends up you get Tobias [Harris] against the three men, you get Al Horford [guarded by] Bogdanovic, you get Joel Embiid, you get Ben Simmons, a 6-10 point guard who has somebody smaller on him.”
Brown has a good point. On post-up plays, including the ones where the posting-up player passes out, the Sixers have scored 0.99 points per possession, pretty good for a half-court trip. It’s also more effective on a per possession basis than their pick-and-roll plays or their isolations. Their size advantage makes it make sense.
But one problem that the Sixers have had is finding players who know how to operate well around the post pivot. Because it’s rare for today’s NBA players to have a lot of experience knowing how to space or cut around post players, it’s something that Brown and his coaching staff have had to teach his guys anew. At this early part in the season, they’re not completely happy with how they’ve performed in those situations.
When asked his biggest concern for his team, it’s how well his team performs in the post.
“It’s everything to do with the post,” Brown said. “That’s where my head is, when you said what’s my biggest pre mortem after 20 games, that that’s where it is.” Brown does have a good model for his players to base their post games off of: He coached Tim Duncan as an assistant with the San Antonio Spurs for 12 years.
Perhaps that link that can keep the post-up alive in the NBA in the decade to come.