Passing into the Post: Perimeter Player in Focus
Passing into the Post is always an interesting area of focus for coaches in developing intermediate technical and tactical skills. Passing into the post is a skill which tends to only shine as an area of importance when you realise your team is not able to do it. If you never have an efficient or effective post target this issue might not be one that rears its ugly head because you are less likely to pass into the post looking for a scoring opportunity. Indeed, this is especially true as a number of offenses have been developed to work around a teams’ lack of offensive potential in this position.
Passing into the post is a very important aspect of tactical strategy. It relies just as much upon the two person game as on-ball screening. But passing into the post is very rarely practiced, drilled and refined leading to underperformance this being one of the skills most commented upon by representative and elite basketball coaches about a player’s formative development.
The starting point as with all good strategy is with the perimeter players. This will typically be your guards and ball handling forwards. But in the back of your mind remember there are sometimes guards who are excellent post players and are often utilised by coaches in playing this position to create mismatches and disrupt the normal structure of defensive rotations.
Before the pass players on the perimeter need to look at what is unfolding in front of them. The perimeter player (unlike the post player) will have vision of the half court and especially the defensive match-up for the post target. The focus here should be on how the defender is guarding the post player. Is the defensive playing under, over, behind or fronting the post.
If the defensive player is playing towards one side of the post player then the passer needs to pass away from this side to the open hand of the post player. This is an important aspect for not only making an interception of the ball more difficult for the defender, but also identifies for the post player which side to start an offensive move towards the basket on. For example a pass to the baseline hand of the post player should be identified by the post player as a green light for a move towards the basket on that side.
When the defender is behind the post the passing target range can be expanded, but will usually be passed directly to the player unless some other “read” is interpreted by the player.
For defenders in front of the post target the lob while an option is a difficult tactical strategy to execute well. This is because it places the passer in a situation where they must estimate the physical abilities of the defender guarding the post as well as the speed and rotations of help defenders. The best tactical outcome from fronting the post is for the post to initiate a seal and the ball reversed into a position that creates a direct passing to the post player.
The type of pass into the post is as an important element in executing the tactic proficiently as any other. A very common issue is the execution of a bounce pass. This is probably the most poorly executed pass into the post. The bounce pass when executed well is very effective, however using this pass has some inherent risks associated with it. The bounce pass takes the longest time between leaving the passer to being received by the post player. This allows for extra time for the defensive player, help players and possible traps to be executed. Additionally it is this time which helps defensive players push the post players off their seal and change the target hand position making receiving of the pass harder by the moving post player.
Direct passes like the push or overhead pass are the quickest and most preferred technique when passing into the post. These quickly executed direct passes into the post allow for the fastest execution of the tactic and give the best possible option for the post player to have more, not less time. As always simple things make a difference, fake to make a pass is always a reliable teaching point. Fake away from where you want to pass the ball to open the desired passing lane.
Looking back on the lob pass there is a situation where it can be of great advantage. In situations where the overly eager fronting post defender is outside the keyway and there is ample room between the post target and the basket, the lob is the best choice of pass. Provided help defence is slow or out of position this can be a very easy scoring opportunity.
Passing into the post by itself as an isolated technical or tactical skill is one of the most undertrained areas in developmental basketball coaching. It does make a significant difference however to the confidence your post player will have in receiving the ball and will lead to an improved execution and faith by the overall team is this scoring option.