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The post-up isn’t dying, it’s evolving. And these five players have been the best practitioners of the art in the NBA this season.
NBA offenses use the post-up far less frequently than they did a decade or two ago but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still a valuable tool when used strategically. Teams have gotten smarter about when and where they use it and a handful of specialists still use it to score efficiently and bend defenses to the benefit of their teammates.
To compile a list of the best post players in the league this year I’ve blended my own subjective analysis along with a few different stats including the NBA’s play type data for post-ups, player tracking data for post touches and more.
Who are the best post-up players in the NBA this season?
5. Domantas Sabonis, Sacramento Kings
Sabonis really represents the best of both worlds — he has the strength, touch and footwork to be a dangerous scoring option on the low block. But he’s also a fantastic passer who can create havoc when he draws an extra defender.
4. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Oklahoma City Thunder
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has become a dominant individual scorer and the development and increased implementation of his post-up game has been another piece of the puzzle. He loves to drive and he’s leading the league in that category but on the rare occasion the paint is walled off to him, he’s been totally comfortable backing down and shooting over the top.
Gilgeous-Alexander doesn’t post up all that often but he ranks in the 91st percentile in scoring efficiency when he does.
3. Jayson Tatum, Boston Celtics
Jayson Tatum is having his best season as a scorer, both in terms of volume and efficiency. While post-ups still make up a very small portion of his overall offense, he’s been exceptional at recognizing potential mismatches and using his size and length to attack them whenever possible.
Here, he gets the smaller Pat Connaughton on the switch and immediately begins backing him down, preparing to rise over him for the soft jumper. Of players who average at least one post-up possession per game this season, Tatum’s 1.37 points per possession are the top mark.
2. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers
Embiid is an unrivaled combination of speed and strength in the modern NBA but his post skills — footwork, awareness, touch, complexity — have gotten better and better. In particular, he’s gotten so much better at preparing and attacking double teams. Sometimes that means kicking it out to the open man before he can get tangled up, other times it just means being patient and then attacking the opening that presents itself.
According to NBA CourtOptix, Embiid draws an average of 15.4 double teams per game, sixth-most of any player. But the 76ers are averaging a robust 1.18 points per possession on any possession he’s doubled — not too shabby.
1. Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets
Everyone knows the value of Jokic’s passing and he’s just as dangerous on the low block with his back to the basket as he is from the top of the key where he can see the entire floor. But Jokic’s incredible passing might actually overshadow how effective he is as a post-scorer. He’s not quite as quick or as powerful as Embiid but his footwork and touch are off the charts and he knows how to use the threat of his passing to set up a defender.
Jokic leads the league in the number of possessions per game used (shot attempt, shooting foul or turnover) in post-ups and he ranks in the 86th percentile in scoring efficiency. Roll together his scoring and passing and there’s no greater force in the NBA right now on the low block.
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