The Last Step In Post Play Development

Darius Soriano —  June 11, 2012

As a Laker fan, there’s not a player I’ve disliked more in my life than Kevin McHale. Whether it was his clothesline on Rambis, how he’d lumber up and down the court, or just his lurch-like look he was the Celtic I despised most during those epic 80′s battles.

I’d be lying, however, if I didn’t admit that one of the main reasons I also couldn’t stand him was because of how good he was and how often he’d take his defender to school – especially whoever on the Lakers was checking him (that is until the Lakers traded for his college teammate Mychal Thompson). McHale was a low post monster, shooting 55% for his career and twice eclipsing the 60% barrier in a season. His mix of long arms, fantastic footwork, and ability to mix primary moves with almost unstoppable counters made him a nightmare on the low post.

So, when McHale talks low post scoring or has opinions on the games of today’s post players, you listen. His insight in this area should be as respected as much (or more) than any other legend, especially since he relied on technical skill more than athletic prowess. At the Adidas Eurocamp, McHale was doing some talking and teaching on playing on the low block and one topic he covered should be of interesest to Lakers’ fans. Brett Pollakoff of Pro Basketball Talk has the story:

The question came up of how important it was for a big man to be able to learn to pass out of a double-team in the post — a skill Lakers center Andrew Bynum has struggled to develop as he’s started to face that extra defender inside. McHale said that’ll come, but smiled when the question was asked, because it’s really the very last step to come in a competent post player’s game.

“First of all, there’s like three prongs in that thing,” he said. “One, you’ve got to get good down in the low post. Two, you’ve got to get good enough to beat your man steady. Three, they double-team you — that’s the third prong, and then you’ve got to pass out, OK?

“You learn pretty quickly, because in the NBA especially, when you start getting double-teamed a lot and when teams have success, they’ll do it every single night. Bynum a year from now will be a very good post passer. He’ll know where to go, he’ll be relaxed, he’ll read it, and pass it out. Then you’ve got murder on your hands because the guy can score down there and he can pass out. And any time two (players) guard one in our league, three have got to guard four. And three cannot guard four in the NBA, the players are too good.”

During this past season, we saw Bynum progress through all three of the prongs McHale discussed. Early in the year Bynum showed that he had the strength and size to establish the deep post. From that position he then showed he could score against single coverage with great efficiency. At that point, defenses started to adjust by double teaming him and that’s where things got tricky for the first time all-star.

Throughout the year Bynum had his ups and downs in dealing with the double team, sometimes making the right read and other times forcing the action a bit too much. Rather than making the easy pass back out to the same side wing, Bynum would try to make the homerun pass to a teammate cross court that wasn’t quite open. Other times he’d try to bully his way through the double team to score rather than pass at all. And other times, he’d (seemingly) resign himself that the double team was eminent and not work for position to make a catch at all. (As an aside, the latter two issues could also be the product of the inconsistencies the Lakers showed in featuring their big men on the block. Too often the ball stuck in the hands of perimeter players – Kobe and his wing running mates are guilty of this – and not looking inside early or often enough.)

Bynum’s inconsistency in dealing with the second defender – no matter the reason – only created further incentive for defenses to continue the tactic. It’s easy to say that Bynum was getting doubled because of his ability to consistently beat single coverage, but as McHale mentioned teams also double team because they have success doing so. That means they force turnovers, bad shots, and frustration of the guy they’re doubling. Anyone that saw the last few games of the Nuggets series clearly saw a frustrated Bynum weary of constantly having to deal with double teams.

However, as McHale also said, Bynum should only continue to grow in this area. Big men must learn to navigate defenses with their back turned to the rim and getting that grasp on where and how a defense wants to attack them takes time. I liken it to how a quarterback must turn his back to the defense when executing a play-action pass in football; big men don’t often see how the defense is shifting behind them and how their teammates move in accordance with those shifts. As bigs get more comfortable with how the D wants to double them, their reads become almost automatic and are executed off muscle memory the way a counter spin move is when the defender takes away middle.

We saw flashes of that with Bynum this year but he’s not yet a finished product. However, in time, I believe he’ll get to where he needs to be. I remember the period in their respective careers when Duncan and Shaq struggled dealing with double teams, firing passes to the other team or committing traveling violations when getting pressured by the second man. Over time they learned how to stare down the pressure of the second defender and make the right read more often than not. One day, and probably soon, Bynum will get there too.

Darius Soriano

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37 responses to The Last Step In Post Play Development

  1. This would have been great at the all star break. But for the second half of the season Bynum was already pretty good at passing out of double teams already… Especially in the playoffs when he was very very good. Was he perfect? Of course not… But he already has become the best Center in the league passin out of double teams (to be fair the only other Center who even occasionally gets doubled is Dwight and he can’t pass very well). But it’s true Bynum will only improve as he gets more and more experience facing double and triple teams. To be more honest… Bynum doesmt have very much experience at much of basketballs insides and outs. He hasn’t played much ball. He hasn’t had many post ups in his already long career. He has much room to grow as he is healthy for the first time in his career for any period of time.

  2. Passing out of the post and double teams is necessary for top post players. Bynum is the biggest guy on the floor every game he sees over every opponent and has shown the awareness to make passing plays. He’s watched Pau and Lamar do it so he has the blueprint. Bynum through his actions shows he’s going to do what he wants not necessarily what’s best for the team. He’s proven he will pass and has forced shots no matter what a defense does. Have to take the good with the bad.

    Sometime early in the season a effective lineup of Blake-Goudelock-Metta-Murphy-Bynum saw consistent minutes for a stretch of games. This was the lineup Bynum passed the best. He had space to operate down low and would kick it out to shooters specifically Goudelock. Those 2 had great chemistry. Then Blake got hurt and Goudelock moved to PG and Mike never went back to Blake/Goudelock. Bynum proved when he was the only star on the floor he would make the pass more often in anticipation of getting the ball back. When he’s on the floor with the other 2 stars he’s more reluctant to pass.

    I think some of Bynum’s problem is Kobe. He’s watched Kobe for 7 years now. He’s seen how aggressive Kobe attacks the opponents and shift through double teams to make a play for himself. Bynum came in 05 a time when Kobe had to take on more of a scoring role. You can see a lot of Kobe in Bynum’s game when it comes to passing. Kobe has always been a shoot first ask questions later player and Bynum has taken on that montra.

    I think Bynum can consistently beat double teams by passing. I don’t see it happening if he’s not the focal point of the offense.

  3. And other times, he’d (seemingly) resign himself that the double team was eminent and not work for position to make a catch at all. (As an aside, the latter two issues could also be the product of the inconsistencies the Lakers showed in featuring their big men on the block. Too often the ball stuck in the hands of perimeter players – Kobe and his wing running mates are guilty of this – and not looking inside early or often enough.)

    That’s the key point in the post. I have serious doubts that Drew will ever fully ‘blossom’ as long as Kobe is still running the show. It worries me that Drew needs to be the primary option in order to get him to live up to his on-court potential. That is not the sign of a player who is willing to do it all to win it all. I would take an Al Horford/Joakim Noah (smaller, less talented, but play with heart and leave it all on the floor nightly) over Drew at this point.

  4. @ Aaron # 1. To take note of Bynum’s “improved” passing skills out of double teams, I would like you to just watch, for instance, Game 5 of the OKC series or games 4 or 6 of the Denver series.

    You may have been able to make your point in April, but Darius is spot on here.

  5. CDog,
    Quit the opposite actually. Bynum’s passing was far better in the playoffs as compared to any time during the season as Drew made the right pass in the postseason as opposed to the “home run” pass he tried too often in the regular season.

  6. This was the first year that Andrew was truly featured in the offense. While he was inconsistent handling the double team he did show improvement over the course of the year. I feel there is no reason to believe this will not continue. And if we can find the pieces to spread the floor, it makes it that much more difficult to double and triple in the post. In the end, that was a far bigger problem then Andrews passing skills.

  7. “the Celtic I despised most during those epic 80′s battles”

    Excellent Darius. The sentence is perfect. Not only did you hate KM, but “the most” implies you hated all of them – as did I. I also disliked the Bad Boy Pistons of the late 80′s. I have a feeling that 20 years from now – the Heat will be a team like the Pistons (good for a few years and done), whereas that Celtic rivalry will still be there.

  8. Good post Darius. Interesting takes from the black hole.

    It restates Andrew Bynum is following a productive development arc. As Bynum becomes more comfortable passing out from double teams his scoring efficiency will increase. His game could go to MVP.

    Lakers utilizing the post coupled with Bynum improvement in post play is critical to Lakers winning championship next season.

  9. Funky Chicken June 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    “It’s easy to say that Bynum was getting doubled because of his ability to consistently beat single coverage, but as McHale mentioned teams also double team because they have success doing so. That means they force turnovers, bad shots, and frustration of the guy they’re doubling.”

    This is the key point in the article, and it doesn’t go far enough. Teams didn’t just double-team Andrew because he was dominating them one on one, or because it was just an effective tool to slow (or stop) him on offense.

    Teams proactively employed the double because doing so wreaked havoc with the Lakers offense AND produced a frustrated and totally disengaged Bynum on the defensive end. Opposing coaches have come to see that if Bynum isn’t getting his numbers on offense, he’s not going to be active defensively. That, plus a consistent inability to pass out of the double made the opposition’s strategy a no-brainer….

  10. As much as I have criticized Bynum on this Blog one thing I will say is his inability to pass out of double teams this year is primarily because of 2 reasons, 1. A change to Mike Brown’s Offense (or lack of) system and 2, lack of practice this season. The switch from the Triangle affected Spacing this season and killed us on offense.

  11. Darius I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement, “Too often the ball stuck in the hands of perimeter players – Kobe and his wing running mates are guilty of this – and not looking inside early or often enough.)”. I heard this simplistic argument made by so called Basketball experts and it made me laugh. The Perimeter players r not stupid. The entire world could predict every play the Lakers ran on offense so it was very easy to defend the obvious post play. Couple that with a Big man who was not really in great shape it was near impossible to simply dump the ball in the post. This isnt the 90s, illegal defense rules changed and teams can zone. I will repeat what I have said several times, if Bynum had proper conditioning all these conjecturing wouldn’t happen, we would be preparing for game 1 of the finals

  12. Doubling Bynum kills the Lakers offense because there are no shooters to make up the difference. Bynum needs to learn to make better passes. I think he has shown improvement over the course of the season. Still he could be Magic Johnson playing center and it wouldn’t matter when guys like Barnes, Blake, Sessions, MWP, and at times Kobe, are throwing up bricks.

    Clogging the paint against the Lakers is a given since the their shooters are not to be respected. The spacing in Brown’s offense doesn’t help either.

  13. Another issue with AB is that he so rarely gets any points in transition and has zero open court ball handling ability. Most of the great big men have been able to get out on the break, and get themselves easy baskets that way. In any case, my points of interest are whether we are building the post KB team around him, and if we are, how we handle the contract negotiations next year (and no I am not in AB’s mind, but I have a feeling this ain’t going to be pretty).

  14. #11. If you didn’t see the ball not entered into the post when there were clear opportunities to do so then we likely weren’t watching the same games.

    Does this explain everything? Of course not. One note explanations are rarely sufficient when analyzing the game. But Blake and Ron, specifically, are two players that like clean passing windows when entering the ball in the post. And, while it may seem simple to say, there were times where those clean windows didn’t fully materialize while Bynum had worked himself open.

    I’ve long battled the perception that entering the ball into the post is simple. It takes teammates working in unison to get the ball into the post effectively possession after possession. But, the wings must work to do so just as the big men must work to establish position. The fact is, this didn’t happen enough from both sides. It’s why I felt the need to mention the fact that Bynum didn’t get the ball when he was sometimes open. As noted, there were times I’m positive that affected his effort to continue working for position.

    I’m not playing the blame game. I’m writing what I saw.

  15. T. Rogers: “guys like Barnes, Blake, Sessions, MWP, and at times Kobe, are throwing up bricks”

    No doubt about that, and you left off Troy Murphy and the now gone Jason Kapono.

    So can this issue be solved with an MLE and vagabonds at the Vet Min?

  16. Hey Darius,

    What threesome would you rather have. Dwill Gasol Kobe OR CP3 Bynum and kobe and which team would you think we could win a championships with. Taking into account other pieces and what not.

  17. Chris y,
    Darius doesn’t like comparing players and since plenty of deciding what combination of players is better than another is “ranking” them while the rest is looking at overlapping skill sets… I’ll say that most every observer would say that CP3, Bynum, Kobe combo would be better. Because even if you think DWill (as I do) will be productive longer than CP3… Bynum is just so much younger, cheaper, bigger, and better than Gasol. NM the fact that a PF is easier to find than a true Center. But I too am curious to see what Darius thinks.

  18. All that as well as several Lakers have terrible entry pass skills.

  19. Aaron/chris y:

    CP3, Bynum, KB is what might have been.

    DW, Pau, KB is still possible (although remote).

  20. Darius keeping it real on ya! “#11. If you didn’t see the ball not entered into the post when there were clear opportunities to do so then we likely weren’t watching the same games.”

    yep …

    We can argue merits for why ball wasn’t thrown in, but it is like Bradley def. Pacman to argue there were not more chances for Lakers inside game.

  21. chris y,
    At this point the odds of getting CP3 are so small as to be infinitesimal, therefore that option would seem to be bogus. Besides, CP3 comes with injury issues – do we need that?

  22. Bynum has added a great baseline up and under move to counter double teams. Exit interview he said he’ll try to implement a 15 ft jumper as his 2nd counter. While these are good their not ideal for a Center his size. Him not physically being able to bully his way to the rim or explode past defenders makes his passing even more crucial to his development . He can’t get around you or go through you he has to shoot over you. And shooting over someone is much tougher than blowing by or skying over. Passing, post position and reposting are things he should master. That is unless the knee procedure turns him into rookie Shaq.

  23. There are so many issues with our post game that it’s hard to know where to start.
    1. Our perimeter players need to do a better job of entering the ball into the post.
    2. Our bigs need to do a better job of getting down floor and establishing early low post position.
    3. Our bigs need to get better at fighting for position down low.
    4. Our perimeter shooting was atrocious. We need better shooters to spread the floor and open things up for Drew, Pau, and Kobe.
    5. Pau is a good passer- maybe even a great passer….but Drew needs to work on that part of his game. Sometimes he makes the right pass, but other times he passes late which gives the defense time to recover. The worst is when he holds the ball until the double gets there and then inexplicably holds it some more.

    Blame goes all around though and can’t be pinned on any one specific player. They all need to get better, or we need to get better players?

    If Bynum is single covered, then he needs to attack the basket every. single. time. he touches the ball. Fight for position and attack. In his defense- if we had one shooter, as good as Ray Allen, on this team then he would have averaged 4 or 5 assists a game and teams would not have been able to double team him as much. We really need a ‘knock-down’ shooter.

    If we end up keeping Bynum, then he needs to get 15-20 shots a game next year.

  24. CONGRATULATIONS KINGS!!!

    Amazing run through the playoffs, an 8th seed knocking off the top 3 seeds in the West. 10-1 road record. Wish some of their killer instinct rubs onto the current Lakers squad.

    Hang another banner at Staples!

  25. Congrats Kings. Dodgers it’s your turn it’s been too long.

  26. Lakers just became a after thought.

    Thanks Jimmy and Mikey.

    Congratulating Kings.

  27. As long as Bynum is going to follow Bryant’s knee procedure regimen, he might as well take a pit stop to Hakeem’s house, too. I’m now more curious to see what he’s going to learn over the Summer as I think the boxing might have helped him a bit.

  28. 25, After Kings resounding success in getting the Stanley Cup in LA, there is now only one team who has been calling Los Angeles their home yet has not won anything? Yesss, the Clippers.

    Oh my bad, they won the 1st rd. draft pick!

  29. Warren Wee Lim June 12, 2012 at 4:47 am

    Completely off-topic but I would like to seek everyone’s opinion on David Lee. Its pretty much tampering and baseless, but the question is about his hypothetical fit next to Bynum.

    To Darius: I hope you can fill me in from the statistical POV regarding Lee’s shooting range outside 15-ft.

    Can’t call it a rumor yet since its not being spread out on the papers/ESPN/blogosphere but a little birdie hinted it to unlikeliest guy.

    If not, I completely understand.

  30. Warren Wee Lim June 12, 2012 at 4:49 am

    I also don’t know how to put it any other way but I am predicting Miami to win it all.

  31. #29. Tough to say, really. There are many other factors to consider.

    #30. I’m not a David Lee fan regardless of his hypothetical fit next to anyone.

  32. Finals predictions?

    Even though the home team usually wins Game 7, I am going with Miami in 7. It will be fun to watch. Like most here, I hope OKC wins, but if I had to bet, I would take the Heat. Barely.

  33. Darius is a very smart basketball fan. I will call him out right now because of that ;) I don’t think he actually thinks its a touch call. If he is as smart as the Lakers front office he knows the guy you try to trade is always the lesser player. The Lakers have tried to trade Gasol multiple times and have already traded him once. This is not a difficult decision for the Lakers and besides the fact Gasol is Darius’ favorite player I’m suprised he isn’t saying as much. I’m actualy just puzzled. We aren’t asking Darius to make a difficult judgement of two similar players. This isn’t pick between Drew or Dwight. This isn’t pick between Durant or LeBron. This isn’t pick between Blake Griffen and Kevin Love. This isn’t pick between Westbrook and Rose. If we can’t get Darius to pick between the best or second best Center in the league and the 6th or 7th best PF in the league… We will never get him to give any insight.

    Centers are not out there. Bynum, Hibburt, ad Dwight Howard (who just has a career threatening back surgery). That’s it. Unless Howard is healthy or LeBron and Durant ask for trades… The Lakers can’t improve by trading Bynum. Those are the cold hard facts. He is too good. Gasol is the only one the Lakers are trying to trade. They basically have said as much. This isn’t a conversation.

  34. Warren Wee Lim,
    I’m actually a big fan of David Lee. He can shoot. He is a good athlete. He is very underrated because he has played on so many bad teams. He is a perfect role player. The problem is he as suppose to be a star. That something he isn’t. He can make all the winning plays Artest makes as SF. He is a bull and plays better the bigger the game due to his strength, leaping ability, and skill. But he isn’t the go to scorer people wanted him to be. One of the trades I wanted to Lakers to make last year was Pau Gasol for David Lee and Monte Ellis.

  35. Darius-

    There is no doubt that Bynum was struggling with the double team, but the root of the frustration of the offense is only part of his blame.

    Once Bynum kicks the ball out after facing a double team we don’t have the personnel to have people dribble into the lane. We didn’t have a person capable of dribble penetration. This was temporarily solved when Sessions first got on the team, however he got tentative in the playoffs and we lost a key aspect to a successful offense.

    When Bynum kicks it out, the shooters were missing clean looks. What often happened was a missed outside shot or a pass to the top of the key. Then it would swing to Kobe with 7 seconds left and he would end up taking a contested jumper.

    The second problem is having productive opposite side action. Cross screens were few and far between with people getting open looks at the middle of the paint or the elbow.

    Finally, Bynum was tired of passing out of double teams. There was little success from the rest of the players so the mindset of, “I’d rather take a contested shot than to see another missed jumper” took place.

    This lack of success on offense carried over to defense and was a reason why Bynum was not sharp and focused.

    A better offensive plan needs to be developed, plain and simple. If better offense is created we won’t have to settle for contested jumpers from Kobe.

    The problem is convincing Kobe that the offense works. In the past, Phil Jackson was able to sell Kobe on the triangle, but will Brown and the rest of the coaching staff be able to do the same?

    This last season it did not look like Kobe trusted this system and took it upon himself to try to establish the post and take over after that failed.

    I hope we retain Sessions and develop him to be a main feature of the offense.

  36. David Lee has never made his teammates better. He puts up numbers but he’s constantly on lottery teams. Lee and Scola are 2 of the most overrated players in the league. Both bad fits for Lakers.