Basketball Post Play and Post Moves

By Dr. James Gels, From the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
"Helping coaches coach better..."

Becoming a good post player is much more than just being big physically - although strength, toughness and size are important factors, and you'll need to spend time in the weight room. There are a number of skills that must be learned that involve footwork and finesse. These include crafty low post moves and strategies for getting open. Playing at the high post and short corner are also important, expecially for smaller post players. Nowadays, a great post player can step outside and ball-screen, and shoot the 3-point shot.

First, we'll discuss low post play, near the basket and some basic post moves. For breakdown drills, see Post Player Breakdown Drills and Motion Offense Breakdown Drills.

Get Position

Before you can make a scoring move in the low post, you have to get the ball. You want to receive the ball, along the free throw lane, between the center hash marks, above the low block. If you catch the ball down too low, you will not have a good angle for the baseline drop-step move. If you catch the ball in the paint, you must be aware of the 3-second rule.

You may have to fight hard to get into position to receive a pass. Get strong, feet wide apart, butt out, back straight. Seal the defender off. If the defender is over-playing you from one side, keep that arm and elbow firm to ward him/her off, while extending the opposite arm and hand to make a good target for the passer.

When the pass comes, move toward it to meet it. After receiving the ball, keep it up at forehead level with elbows out, to protect it. Do not actually throw an elbow, just keep them out to ward off the defender.

When receiving the pass, meet the ball with a jump stop. When you jump stop, you have the option of either foot becoming your pivot foot, so you can make a move either way, to the lane or to the baseline. Fake with your upper body, but keep the feet planted until you are ready to make your move. With a one-two foot landing, you have already established your pivot foot and your options are more limited.

get position in the low post

Things to try if you can't get open:

Playing the low post is tough and requires hard work, quickness, strength, footwork, determination and savvy to get open to receive the pass. Be persistent and unrelenting. Here are some tricks for getting open. Master as many as you can, be crafty and vary them in the game.

Vs Man-to-Man Defense

1. Move away off the low post a few steps, then quickly come right back.

2. If the defender plays in front of you, "step-around" or "step-over" to get position to receive the pass. If the defender keeps moving around in front of you, keep moving the defender outside up to the elbow. Then seal the inside, give the passer a hand signal, and quickly cut back-door for the lob pass to the hoop.

3. Face the defender, step into and across the defender's body with your outside foot and quickly reverse pivot, putting your butt back into the defender and seal for position.

4. Screen away for the opposite post player and then seal and roll.

5. Fake a screen-away and V-cut sharply back to re-post.

6. Step away from the lane, catch and face (step-out move - see below).

7. Ball on the wing with the defender full-fronting you in the low post - reverse pivot and seal the defender outside. As the ball is passed to the top, call for the pass inside. See this.

8. Flash cut from the block to the elbow or high post.

9. Move to the short corner.

10. Ball at the top, you at the elbow (or just below) with the defender fronting - seal and signal for the lob pass (see "Topside"). Or reverse pivot and seal the defender outside. When the ball is passed to the corner, you are in perfect position for a pass from the corner and a layup (see "Counter").

Versus Zone Defense

1. Find the open gaps in the zone. Against a 2-3 zone, find the horizontal gap between the top and low defenders, usually about two-thirds of the way up the lane, just below the elbow. Against a 1-2-2 zone, find the vertical seams in the zone.

2. Get below the zone (along the baseline) where the defenders lose sight of you, and then "duck-into" the paint at the right moment.

3. Use the short corner - against the 2-3 zone, it is hard to post-up on the low block because of the three low defenders. Move out to the short corner instead.

4. "Cut early or cut late" as the zone shifts. Don't make your cut as the zone is shifting. Cut just before or just after the defense rotates.

5. Seal the middle defender (2-3 zone) just before the zone shifts and then shape-up to the ball.

Low post moves

1. Drop step to baseline.

After receiving the ball, feel where the defender is. If on the lane side, or high side, give a fake toward the lane. Then extend your inside (baseline) foot backward, pivot on it quickly to the baseline with one hard power dribble to the hoop. Keep your body between the defender and the ball, and extend your arms forward toward the hoop to avoid the shot block.

2. Drop step to lane (jump hook).

If the defender is on your baseline side, fake to the baseline, and drop your lane-side foot backward. Pivot quickly on that foot, use one power dribble and jump hook, shooting with the hand opposite the defender. See Hook Shot.

Drop-step and jump-hook moves from Greg Marshall Skill Development Workout:

3. Turn and face defender and jab step.

After receiving the ball, feel where the defender is. If directly behind you, and not toward either the lane or the baseline, pivot and face the defender, while protecting the ball. Give a quick jab step fake, and see what the defender's reaction is. If he/she drops back, just shoot the high-percentage short jumper, often off the glass.

If the defender does not back off the jab step, quickly drive around him/her. Go right at the defender's shoulder. Don't be afraid of contact, because usually the defender will not be planted after your jab step, and will get called for the foul (and you may make the basket as well).

4. Up and under move.

After pivoting and facing the defender, shot-fake to get the defender to jump. The defender, once straightened up, or in the air, is easier to beat. Quickly duck under the defender on a straight line to the hoop. Again, attack the shoulder, as this is the straightest and quickest path to the hoop.

5. Dribble-drop move.

This is a spin move in the paint. The low post player with the ball fakes to the baseline and then makes a power dribble into the lane and fakes a jump-hook. With the defender in the air, now make a spin move back to the baseline and finish with the lay-up. This move is often effective after the post player has just scored off the jump-hook to the lane. With the defender anticipating that move, the spin to the baseline is a good counter move.

Dribble-drop move from Will Regan - Pro Training Basketball:

6. "Dream Shake" move.

The "dream shake" is a move or series of head-shoulder fakes used by great Houston Rockets player Hakeem Olajuwon. It is an advanced level move that may combine several of the moves described above (spin, up-and-under). Basically, the post player either catches the ball in the low post, or ends his crab-dribble, with his back to the basket and both feet on the floor, so that either foot can now become the pivot foot. He/she makes a head/shoulder fake once or multiple times in one direction to get the defender leaning, and then quickly spins (front pivots) back opposite for a fade-away jump shot, or maybe a step to the hoop and lay-up.

This move, and the fade-away shot, require lots of practice. For most young players, the fade-away is not a high percentage shot and often comes up short. The fade-away also takes you out of rebounding position for a missed shot. So practice, practice, practice - before using it in a game.

Dream shake move from Get Handles Basketball:

7. Step-out move.

This is good when you are under-sized against a taller post player and shot-blocker. Here you create some separation from the defender. Start just above the block as usual, but then as the ball is passed to the wing, quickly step out away from the block (toward the passer) to receive the pass. Quickly reverse pivot (facing the basket) and shoot the short ranged jump-shot. If done correctly, the reverse pivot creates even more separation from the defender.

There won't be much time until the defender closes the gap, so you must catch, reverse pivot and shoot all in one quick motion, without hesitation. When making the reverse pivot, instead of dropping the ball into the usual shooting pocket, keep it chest or shoulder high, ready to shoot.

Step-out move from Tim Springer and WNBA player Danielle Adams.

8. Flash to the elbow or free throw line.

Cut up to the free throw line. Receive the ball, pivot and face the defender. Now either fake a shot, and drive around the defender, or jab step and fake the drive, and shoot the shot from the free throw line area.

This move is especially useful if the player guarding you is much taller, but not as quick. Cut to the high post to get the defender away from the basket. Then use your quickness and drive.

9. Back door lob.

If the defender is in front of you, take him/her up to the free throw line. While the defender is still fronting you, get inside position and seal, and give the guard with the ball a signal. Cut back door to the hoop, receiving the lob pass from your teammate.

10. Learn to read the defense.

See the low post information here: Basic Concepts of Motion Offense.

These moves require a lot of practice, first to perfect the moves and footwork, and then to learn by experience which move to use in which situation. For example, if you beat the defender once or twice with the baseline drop step, he/she will be anticipating that move, and you can get the turn around jab-step baby jumper, because the defender will back off.

Just the opposite if you have already made a couple short jump-shots, you can drop-step either to the baseline or lane, or make an up and under move. The bottom line - perfect these moves by practicing, and vary your moves in the game. Get crafty.

Another bonus is that often these moves will expose the defender to foul trouble. And if already in foul trouble, the defender will be less likely to challenge you, making it easier for you to score. Since you may get fouled a lot, become a good free throw shooter.


Playing the High Post

A coach emailed me about his post player who was pretty good on the low block, but didn't have a clue about what to do at the elbow or free throw line area - the "high post" area.

When the high-post player has the ball, he/she is in excellent position to make a pass to the opposite side (reverse the ball) or to a back-door cutter. Also, at the high post, you can sometimes find a teammate spotted up for a 3-pointer on the wing or in the corner. Also look for your teammate posting up inside (the "hi-lo" option). Being a good passer and finding the open teammate are important here.

The high post player should always look to score. This is an excellent spot to score from as it's a simple free-throw shot, or a chance to drive inside for a lay-up or pull-up jumper. When you receive the pass at the foul line or elbows, pivot and face the hoop, looking to shoot, or to pass to a baseline cutter or an open perimeter shooter.

If the defender is up close, shot-fake and use your quickness to drive around the defender to the hoop. Good post players have the ability to shoot from the free-throw line, or jab-fake and drive, just like a perimeter player. If these options are not open, look to pass to the opposite wing - a great way to reverse the ball and stretch the defense.

A good high post move to learn is the "step-hop move". Sometimes when you attempt to dribble inside, the ball gets swiped away by a collapsing defender. Instead, make the "hop-step" power move, which is a one-bounce power-dribble drop-step move followed by a long two-footed jump stop into the lane. Make a head or shoulder fake the opposite direction and then make the one-bounce power dribble with relatively short drop step into the lane.

After making that short first step and power-dribble, make a long, powerful jump into the paint and land with a two-footed jump stop, and then go right up with the short jump-shot in the lane.

A common error is to make the first step too long. You cannot make a strong jump forward from this position. Keep the first step short and on-balance. With practice, many post players can get almost all the way to the rim with this move.

If you are being denied the pass at the high post - if against man-to-man defense, see item #10 above under "things to try if you can't get open". Against a zone, see items #4 and #5 above (versus zone defense).

The elbow shooting drill is an excellent drill: see 2-Man Shooting Drills. Also the #3 drill on that same page is good too - after passing to the post player, have the defender, rush up and close out tightly. Then shot-fake and power drive to the hoop.

High post play from Tim Springer with Sophia Young (San Antonio Stars):

Some years ago, we had a young lady who was only 5'7" and played the post. She was quick and a smart player. In our Regional game, she was defended by a 6'3" All-State player.

Early in the game, she tried to post up inside and got her shot blocked every time. Being a great competitor, she didn't get discouraged. Instead of posting up on the low block, she adjusted and cut up high to the elbow area.

She made a couple shots from the high post area, and then when the tall defender came out to guard her, she used her quickness to beat her to the hoop for a lay-up. She had the best game of her career, scoring 23 points, and we won by 7. This is a perfect example of how having the versatility of playing from the high post really helps.

Don't forget the short corner

Sometimes it's hard to get open on the low block (e.g. vs a 2-3 zone defense or against a taller defender). Again, "take your defender away from the hoop" where he/she is less comfortable. Most big defenders like to stay near the hoop - their comfort zone. Pop out to the short corner, get the pass there, and shoot that medium range jumper. Then next time, when the defender comes out to defend you, shot fake and drive to the hoop for the lay-up or reverse lay-up (using the basket to help shield against the block from behind).

Hal Wissel has FIVE excellent shooting DVD's that will take players and coaches to the next level. The second of these DVD's "BASKETBALL SHOOTING - Off the Pass, Off the Dribble and In the Post" does an excellent job of teaching the hook shot, and various post moves.

Post moves with Coach Hal Wissel:

Related pages: