Who Belongs In The Post?

Darius Soriano —  August 26, 2011

On the heels of our look at the construction of the Laker roster, we’re going to play a little guessing game. Below are four Lakers with basic stats from this past season. These are stats measuring how effective each player was in the post (all stats via Synergy):

Player A: .90 points per play (67th in NBA), 46.8% shooting on 237 plays
Player B: .99 points per play (30th in NBA), 49.3% shooting on 272 plays
Player C: 1.23 points per play (3rd in NBA), 64.6% shooting on 82 plays
Player D: .90 points per play (67th in NBA), 43.1% shooting on 476 plays

To give this data further context, the Lakers – as a team – were the 3rd best post up team in the league based off points per play, tallying .93 points every time a shot went up from the post. Simply put, this is an obvious strength of the team. (It’s also one of the main reasons many of us pulled our hair out when long jumpers were fired up from the perimeter before the ball even sniffed the post, but I digress.)

That said, I wouldn’t have posed this as a guessing game if the answers to who these players are didn’t lead to further questions. You ready for the big reveal?…

Player A is Andrew Bynum, B is Kobe Bryant, C is Lamar Odom, D is Pau Gasol.

This leads me to ask, who belongs in the post?

The data tells me the most effective players in the post last season were clearly Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant. They shot the highest percentage and produced the highest points per play. Lamar Odom’s sample size is the smallest, but  considering he lapped the field in efficiency, I’m not going to discount his numbers. Right behind LO is Kobe and his nearly 50% shooting from the floor and point per play production. As we’ve seen in recent seasons (and even in pick up games), Kobe’s comfort in the post is only expanding. Taking and making more shots than Bynum from the post this past season is proof positive of that.

But that last sentence is what makes me ask the aformentioned question in the first place.

Mike Brown has spoken about using his big men more, lifting X’s and O’s from his Spurs days to create a twin tower effect to maximize the skill sets of Gasol and Bynum. However, that now seems to sit in at least partial conflict with his statement that he wants to get Kobe Bryant the ball in “his spots”.  Is there room enough in the low post for 3 players that all do very good work from the block?

Kobe could stand to give up some of his possessions to other players (his league high usage rate is exhibit A in this argument) and giving them to Pau and Andrew is the type of easily drawn conclusion we all come to without thinking for more than a few seconds. However, I find it most wise to ask Kobe to cut down on the low efficient shots he hoists each game, not the ones where he’s making nearly half his tosses at the hoop. Hoop Data tells us he’s least efficient in his long jumpers from two and three point range while shooting at least 48% from every angle 15 feet and in. Shouldn’t that latter level of effiency be maximized?

And what of Lamar Odom? It’s fair to say that last year was a career year for LO and that some sort of regression should be expected. But,  his ability to score from the post is a valuable asset that needs to be utilizied in order to get the most out of his versatility. I, for one, don’t want to see Odom relegated to shooting outside jumpers or seeing his offensive chances restricted to shots taken off dive cuts and offensive rebounds. He mustn’t be the forgotten man in the Lakers offensive equation.

Meanwhile, Gasol and Bynum are skilled 7 footers whose height, reach, and skill have them doing their best work 15 feet and in. While many other teams employ stiffs in the pivot, the Lakers have the ability to field giants with moves that would have Pete Newell beam with pride. Shouldn’t they too get their touches down low? Any responsible coach would answer affirmatively here. Don’t get me wrong, I like that Gasol is showing off his range for the Spanish national team by making three pointers. It’s also encouraging that as last season evolved, Bynum showed a developing face up game extending out to 16 feet. That said, I like my big men shooting close to the basket for maximum return on their inherent size advantage.

So back we circle to the question at hand. Who belongs in the post for the Lakers? When looking at the numbers, the answer is probably all of the above. But making that work is just another on a long list of challenges that Mike Brown seems to have going into next season.

Darius Soriano

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42 responses to Who Belongs In The Post?

  1. Very good post, which shows us further in depth of possible overlaps in skill sets.

    It’s surprising to see that Pau’s efficiency is lower in comparison to that of his fellow post players. After thinking about that though, his game is after all, europe-based. Foreign teams seem to have a plethora of shooters who can spread the floor making a more efficient post player. Maybe that’s a reason Gasol’s numbers are lower. Maybe a dead eye shooter can make our post players number one in efficiency… just food for thought.

  2. #1. I think Pau’s numbers from last season are more indicative of him not being as good relative to his previous sesaons with the Lakers. Granted, that bar is pretty high and last year he was still a very effective player. But his play was down from prior seasons and his consistency suffered as well.

  3. This, in my opinion, furthers my belief that the ideal move for the Lakers would be moving Bynum for dead eye shooting PG, an athletic wing and a defensive, low maintainance big (two of the three with the big being a throw in in either instance). This would allow Kobe to have more room to operate in the post since both Odom and Pau can operate outside of the paint to create room for Kobe. Gasol is proficient from the mid-post either shooting or driving. LO can drive and has a good 3-point shot for a power forward.

  4. Bynum has shown that he does indeed have trouble posting up when the other 4 starters are not on the court. Last year, we saw that Drew could not be the go to guy in the post while the other were resting. I love Kobe in the post, but sadly, you can see that the rest of the guys dont like it as much, and feel less involved. Kobe needs to be the on the bench with around 3 minutes left in the 1st and come back early 2nd, so he can control the post while the rest of the starters are on the bench. Pau and Bynum need to do their post work while Kobe is out, and Kobe and LO need to do theirs while the bigs are out.

  5. @4

    I think Bynum’s post up issues with the second unit could also be a personnel issue. None of the second unit guys are threats to knock down an open jumper (let alone a contested one). So defenses can pack the paint and zero in on Bynum when he is out there with the second unit. It’s not like Shannon or Blake will make them pay for it. When the defense has to be more honest Bynum (or the other post players) can get better production down low.

    To the question at hand, call me crazy, but I still prefer Gasol and Bynum posting up over Kobe. At the end of the day they are still seven feet tall. Plus, if Kobe is on the box that means one of the bigs (most likely Lamar) will have no choice but to float around the perimeter. That is a horrible use of Lamar’s skill set.

    I love Kobe’s post game. But his time in the post will surely come at the expense at one of the bigs. That can’t be a net positive for the team.

  6. Odom’s number should be higher. A lot of his post points come from layups after beating whoever is guarding him on the outside. And he misses a lot of them.

    But, because of this, I don’t believe that he should spend more time in the post. How he starts outside is fine with me.

    Kobe needs to be inside more.

  7. #6. Synergy’s system doesn’t work that way. The numbers I cite measure post plays, not dribble drives or plays off of cuts. They have stats to measure those types of plays separately.

    Also, last year he made 70% of his shots at the rim…he didn’t miss many layups last year.

  8. Bynum thrives in the post when he is not doubled. Bynum still must work on how to handle/kick out of a double team. Kobe in the post opens up so much for not only him, but the rest of the squad. While it is by no means easy to devour, I believe the best way to take advantage of everyone’s post up skills is to split the time. Start off with the bigs, rest Kobe early, and post him with LO at the beginning of the second. Everyone will have to take turns, With Bynum and LO being at the bottom. The beauty of LO, is that posting is not a MUST. This goes back to an old piece Darius Wrote on how Odom will be used. If coach Brown decides to keep things somewhat the same (use him as a Swiss army knife) Lamar takes what the D gives him. If that means an Opportunity to post up, he (and the team) make sure to get it to him (at least more often than not). Everyone will get their chances down low, but for now, Bynum and Odom must wait in line, for the better of the team. The problem is not so much the beginning of the game, but the end. It is going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out during winning time in the 4th Q. It was no secret that PJ (GOAT, forever missed) finished games out with LO. If Mr. Brown decides to keep it that way, Mamba will have no problems Posting in the 4th, as LO and Pau will play off KB, (Dives,cuts,J’s) while he operates down low. Now, if Brown decides to go with Bynum (which will happen eventually) It becomes tougher for Kobe to postup, with the two 7 footers clogging the paint. Should be fun…

  9. They need to have consistent outside shooting. As good as he is in the post, I think the team would be better off if Kobe would focus on the 3 point shooting.

  10. la_resistance28 August 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm

    Um, sorry to be off-topic, but have you guys heard the news about our former Critter? He’s accused of murder!

    http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/former-georgia-tech-star-1146197.html

  11. Interestingly, the top 4 post players were the top 4 options. I’m not sure that I see a conflict – these guys have been playing together long enough, that they can work their way in and out of the seams without too much congestion. Also, they’re rarely on the floor together as a 4-man unit. 3 yes, 4 not much at all. As for Kobe, no new system or coach will keep him out of the post, or away from the 3-pont line. He’s going to go where he sees his spots and this seems in line with Brown’s thinking – perhaps allowing Kobe to freelance more off the wing.

    This brings up the guard situation – can the guys we have (or might have) find the confidence to operate effectively outside – either taking and making the occasional open shot, or knowing how to move the ball effectively, in and out of what we kmow can be a fairly packed hub.

  12. Speaking of the guard situation, I guess bring Crit back isn’t an option.

  13. Kobe may be the best postup guard since Jordan but he still isn’t as effective as a true big. Please keep in mind as we are discussing this that Gasol and Bynum take almost all their shots from the post so these numbers reflect both the good and bad.

    Whereas Lamar and Kobe often move to the post more than usual when they see a mismatch or an opportunity for a quick post play.

    So obviously their stats will seem higher because they are usually only making post moves when they have a strong advantage, while Gasol and Bynum use them no matter what the defense is giving them.

    So the solution might not be who plays in the post as a rule or generally, but rather in which situations should Kobe move to the post (mismatches, or when good defenders like Dwight are stopping our bigs), or Lamar (one of our bigs is on the bench, mismatch, etc).

    And also, Kobe’s usage was very high, but his minutes were lowest since the 90′s. So when hes on the court he has the ball, but he was on the bench a lot so other players didn’t miss their touches. This trend could continue (and work).

    Thoughts??

  14. @14, kobe usually always has a mismatch in the post.

  15. I always hear the “experts” say the Lakes should go inside out…they do…they do…and Kobe counts as inside, because he is the best post player in the game.

  16. That should end all of the Javaris Crittenton as the solution discussions.

    http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/news?slug=ap-crittenton-murdercharge

  17. Amazing post by Darius. This is the most
    Meaningful and creative posts we have had in a while. What I learn is that Lamar isn’t used enough. I think that has more to do with him than his coaches and teammates. I will also say this. I wonder what those stats show for just the second half of the season. I’m sure Bynum would be the best Lakers post player if you account for only the second half and post season. Bynum was of course not in game shape to start the year.

  18. Interesting post. The beauty of these players is their versatility. They all have a really good mid range games and can all pass (with Bynum improving in both areas). So the answer can’t be pound for a bunch of plays in a row with bynum, then it’s Pau’s turn, then Kobe, then Lamar. They can’t become stagnant and predictable like they did at times this past season and allow teams just to pack the paint no matter who’s in the post. They have to mix it up and take advantage of their other skills no matter who’s on the floor. In turn I believe that will maximize their efficiency in other areas on the floor. If they are all moving and passing then someone is bound to get a favorable one on one look, a open jumper, a easy lay-up, good position or something. That’s what was lacking and “trust issues” started to haunt them. They have to trust that the person with the ball will make the right play and not get frustrated. They can really make it easier on each other if they play the right way.

  19. I agree with Joel @ 19, in essense.

    In addition to the above mentioned, it would be nice to acquire somebody who can hit the open three. James Jones, anyone?

    I know that’s about all the guy can do, but maybe that makes him affordable, no?

  20. I see we have gotten away from the the original piece

  21. Jonathon – Guess I don’t see it that way. The Lakers are superb post performers. However, they can’t seem to knock down outside shots. Having someone who can do so will further enhance their post effectiveness. So it seems to me anyway that we haven’t strayed so very far “from the original piece.”

    And even if we have, ah well, all it would take is a brave person to return us to the narrow path by an appropriate, and substantial comment. Be my guest!

  22. Your results lack context. You are comparing apples to oranges.

    Kobe’s never going against a good post defender. LO rarely is defended by a starting caliber post defender.

    Pau and Bynum face the best post defenders night in and night out. If LO had to post up Chandler, he’d never score…at least not in a post up situation. Same with Kobe.

    LO is the worst post option listed. He has zero post go-to moves and rarely uses his right hand for anything other than eating candy or scratching his bum.

    No matter what the numbers say, Bynum and Pau are our best post players. Period.

  23. Huuricane Irene belongs in the post. Sitting here in NJ and this is no joke! I agree with GCMD wholeheartedly. Rarely can any 2 guard or most small forwards have a fighting chance against Kobe in the post. But today’s zone defenses mitigate Kobe’s decisive advantage.

  24. #23. Interesting that you’re willing to say that Kobe and Odom have match up advantages in the post against players that could be labeled inferior defenders, yet you’re not willing to say that those same players should get more touches down there. Don’t you want players who can efficiently score against these players, you know, scoring efficiently?

    Also, I’m not saying Bynum nor Gasol shouldn’t be in the post. In fact, in my last paragraph, I say that the answer to the question is that all of these players should spend time down there and that it will be on Mike Brown to make it work.

  25. I agree Darius, both Bynum and Pau seem to lose some of their zest if they aren’t fed down low consistently. I think part of Pau’s second half decline was because he was not establishing and/or finishing down low. He didn’t seem to have the strength to root out his opponent and his baby left hand hook along the baseline suffered. He also seem to get frustrated everytime he got good position only to watch Kobe let one fly over his head.

  26. Pau had as many looks as the other three players combined and shot 43%

    I really wish we would cool it a bit on the FEED PAU IN THE POST rhetoric as I’m pretty sure Pau buys into it

  27. 27,
    You know I agree. I’ve been saying for a while Gasol is better spotting up, facing up, or playing off the ball than with his back to the basket.

  28. It’s hard for me to believe that Pau’s numbers didn’t fall drastically at the end of the season when his chances were few and far between. In the beginning of the year he was a MVP candidate and having a spectacular year. It wasn’t until a couple weeks before the All-Star game that he started his steep decline. I feel like the numbers must be somewhat skewed and non-representative of how he played before he was dinged up (a supposed hamstring injury) and disgusted (by whatever issue was going on in the locker room).

    There was something going on whether it was a team member having slept with his girlfriend, his tiring of jump shots being fired over his head, or jeaslousy over Andrew’s newfound success. Something that we as fans will never know contributed to his second half malaise.

  29. E (#14) had a really interesting take on things. Most of us fans tend to create a separate ‘sandbox’ for our ideas and then explain that ‘sandbox’. When a game is going on the only ‘sandbox’ is the entire court and the flow is 48 minutes long. This is the problem with pulling out a statistic and making an operating decision out of it. This is also why the concept of chemistry comes into a team’s equation.

    Our team last year not only lacked shooters, but they lacked some chemistry. I don’t mean the players disliked each other, but they were in different states of fatigue – 3 straight Finals after being an also-ran franchise will do that to you – and in different states of personal tension – Phil’s announced retirement year is one representation of this factor. The team and the coaches were not completely in sync with each other.

    This is why – IMO – it is not entirely a bad thing that we have a new coach and that the CBA conflicts will allow the team time to rethink their commitment to each other and the team. Note I said ‘not entirely a bad thing’ and I did not say it was a good thing. As always, life is defined in the grey areas, not in black and white. As fans, we prefer black and white.

  30. #27 & #28. One of the main reasons people want the ball to go into Pau in the post more often is because he’s a willing and able passer out of the post as well. Remember, as a triangle team, the offense works best with a direct entry to the post with the built in actions in the offense then working off that post entry. Many times Gasol himself was arguing for more touches, not more shots.

    As for him shooting more from the post than any other player (or even Kobe/Andrew/LO combined) more to do with Bynum’s injury than anything else. Bynum played in 28 less games than Pau and, as noted by others, Pau did a lot of heavy lifting early in the season with Drew out and Kobe still banged up with his knee issues.

  31. Is it just me or has Kobe put on some muscle since the end of the season? He looks a little bigger in the video of the Drew league game.

  32. Post plays are the strength of the Lakers in the previous b2b Championships. They’ve the triple towers, Kobe & D’Fish can take the ball to the post and on the 2nd stringers, Shannon Brown was a reliable post player too. What they lack are the perimeter marksmanship that would’ve spread out the defense. In the last season, if you look closely how they were able to amass 17 wins after All Stars, it is mostly post plays from Drew and/or follow ups from Pau, LO and Artest.

    With this upside on the Lakers, Mike B. will just have to improve the ball movement, defensive transition and those power 3′s copying a page from the Showtime Lakers that usually break the heart of opponents. Don’t let teams like Sacramento, Toronto, Clippers and Cavaliers compete. Finish them in three quarters.

    First and foremost, players and owners must sit down and settle this lockout or else NBA becomes forgettable once the Baseball Conference Championships and World Series starts, NFL & College league play their seasons.

  33. Kobe and Pau are 1-2 in the league in posting up. Lamar and Drew are also great post up players, however tend to feel abit uncomfortable and hesitant when over matched down low. To go back to the original post. Coach Brown should most definitely have sets in which we see Drew (of course) and LO down low. However the bulk of the touches posting up should go to Mamba, and then Pau. My previous posts show my reasoning as to when during the game, and why each guy should get his.

  34. @ all the people asking for outside shooting. Barnes, Blake and Fish are all more then capable of filling the role of knocking down open shots.

  35. I enjoyed this article. Nice work.

  36. This past year, hasn’t it been a bit of a catch-22 with Gasol in the post? While he’s a willing passer, Gasol has also been faulted for hesitating and not working quickly enough when he does have the ball. Plus, there’s no reason why Kobe isn’t a willing passer in the post either. We’ve seen him pick apart the Nuggets in ’10 Championship run by going into the post.

  37. Sorry for the double post, but I meant the Nuggets in ’09.

  38. @E Minor….Willing passer out of the post, and willing passer out of double teams are 2 different things. In the Nuggets series, he was passing out of double teams.

  39. But why should he pass out of the post if he has the advantage against most guard defenders? It’s up to the rest of his teammates to move without the ball and create a bigger mismatch.

  40. Just goes to show how dangerous the Lakers still are. how many teams can brag about having not just one or two, but four excellent post players on their rosters?

  41. First, Bynum needs to stay healthy. A.B’s #’s are lower because he always has to “fit in” to offenses which had more practices w/o him then with him. That said, If Bynum rec’d more touches on a regular basis, he would be more willing to pass the ball back out instead of forcing some shots thus his assist #’s would increase & he would become a more efficient scorer….as would Kobe (hint, hint).