Positions (or lack thereof) in today’s NBA


SoSH Member
Jan 31, 2006
around the way
One idea I saw was to narrow the lane by a foot or so on either side, to get the post players closer to the hoop. Makes post players more of a threat. Interesting concept.
Narrowing the lane and adding some distance to the 3pt line would help, but the latter is likely a non-starter.

Eddie Jurak

Go Leafs Go
Lifetime Member
SoSH Member
Dec 12, 2002
Melrose, MA
One idea I saw was to narrow the lane by a foot or so on either side, to get the post players closer to the hoop. Makes post players more of a threat. Interesting concept.
That's one of Goldsberry's suggestions (maybe others suggest it too, but Goldsberry is where I heard it first).

I think posting up people who can do that is still an efficient play, but with players who are average to mediocre at it, it is less efficient.

Especially since a lot of 3-point shooting offenses also rely on attacking the basket. Look at the Celtics' once and future point guard trio: Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie Irving, and Kemba Walker. Their ability to shoot the three opens up driving lanes, so they end up taking a lot of efficient shots, including open 3 pointers and close-in shots. To maximize their offensive capabilities, the Celtics tend to want to the lane open - have a guy post up on the low block and when the PG drives he's got less room and a help defender in the way.


SoSH Member
Jul 4, 2007
Good find on the Thibs "zone"defense. Another of the big problems with a post up offense is if the defense takes away the post up, the kick out to the front side of the defense is going to be covered, and as the shot clock winds down, the offense better move the ball crisply to the weak side, with little room for error.

Teams are better off with a drive and dish by their most skilled driver/playmaker in a spread offense, than a not-great passing big man trying to get to the rim with a defender between him and the rim. It's easier to get to a clear in close shot by going by a defender in space, especially with pick action, than by overpowering a defender.

Plus, a front side kick out to the post will usually necessitate one help defender to scramble back out on a shooter, while a drive and kick tends to get the entire defense scrambling, because the kick out destination isn't as obvious. We saw Embiid struggle mightily with the post kickout in the 2018 playoff loss to the Celtics. The weakside post kickout seems to be a lost art in today's NBA.

One last factor is today's players are heavier, stronger, and more muscular than those in 1980. With more core and low base strength, it makes it more difficult to overpower defenders in the post because you're a bit taller, That lean muscle creates faster movement, and that explosive quickness allows players to help down quicker, and recover to open shooters more quickly.

Big John

Dec 9, 2016
That's one of Goldsberry's suggestions (maybe others suggest it too, but Goldsberry is where I heard it first).
In addition to narrowing the lane, Goldsberry also suggests eliminating the officiating differences between the post and the perimeter. The refs allow players to bang in the post, but call the slightest touch fouls on the perimeter. Maybe it should even out.


SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
Kiev, Ukraine
Narrowing the lane and adding some distance to the 3pt line would help, but the latter is likely a non-starter.
Yeah, I think there has to be a better solution than adding distance to the line, since then you just get even more missed 3s, which are already getting pretty bad. Long rebounds also take away yet another big man advantage.

Something like discrete 3-point shooting zones, like circles on the court from which shots count for 3, could work, but it starts to feel gimmicky (although the 3-point line is pretty gimmicky to begin with).


SoSH Member
Dec 22, 2006
Not the first time I feel like Bertie Wooster amidst a whole gaggle of Jeeves's here, but this thread is one of the all time greats. Takeaway: let's get to the FT line more often than not next season, fellas!


SoSH Member
Apr 30, 2013
Kiev, Ukraine
The Clippers new roster, if healthy, is going to be an amazing example of treating the 2-4 as just "long, strong, fast guys running around."


bet squelcher
SoSH Member
Jan 15, 2004
Then why did teams score so effectively in the post in the 80s and 90s, when defenders were allowed to clutch and grab?
It’s all about the rule changes which change how the game is played at this level which causes a trickle down effect as kids growing up emulate how those in the NBA play the game. So in essence, the NBA rule changes have impacted how the game is taught (or should be taught) to youngsters.

I saw this first hand growing up on the playgrounds as Bird/Magic made it “cool” to share the ball with passing. Then I also saw at the end of my playing days how it was all-iso all-the-time once Jordan and then later on Iverson were the kids primary influencers.

Post defenders are allowed to clutch and grab more than ever today. The rules prohibiting hand checking and use of defending with your forearm (The Derek Harper Rule) only impacted perimeter defends as it did not outlaw this physicality inside the paint.

My theory: as the game has changed, fewer players even learn how to post up. They don’t have post scoring skills and at no level do they learn them because the game is all outside-in. So very few players actually have legit post skills anymore.

I know I’m talking about two of the all time great post players, but there’s no way McHale and Olajuwon don’t score a ton in the post even in today’s game.
This reminds me of the guy who says that there are no great NFL running backs today which is due to how the game has changed. Correct.....the game has changed due to the rules that make running the ball less efficient just as the NBA has made low post offense less efficient with the illegal defense rule.

Neither McHale nor Hakeem played when the Illegal Defense Rule was implemented (in 2001) so it was much easier to score in iso on the low block. I don’t see any reason to believe that they would be nearly as good as they were under the current rules limiting their effectiveness. Once it became more difficult the game moved away from this focus and as I mentioned above the kids growing up are no longer watching as many post-ups with scoring being the primary intention.

Part of it is because just as post offense has disappeared, post defense has disappeared with it. Total anecdote here but I play at a university gym all the time, even with guys who were outstanding high school players. And none of them - even the guys that are 6’5” - know how to post defend. Everyone plays outside now. It’s a lost art.

But I don’t know why it has to be that way. Good post scorers should score more often than not on the block.
The game has evolved way beyond this. Running the ball in football due to rule changes, lack of bunting in baseball with analytics, the lack of a backhand in hockey from curved stick innovation.


goalpost mover
SoSH Member
Oct 1, 2015
I definitely hear what you're saying about kids emulating what they see in the NBA. Just yesterday I was working out with my daughter (who plays college hoops) and there was a bunch of younger kids playing pickup. They ALL were doing the Harden step back from three. And made about 5% of them. I'm thinking, if I'm guarding you, and you want to do THAT, by all means, do that til your heart's content.

I also agree that a big part of it (as I think I've mentioned) is that at every level they run NBA-style offenses. College (D1 through D3), high school, even middle school, they're looking to take a ton of threes. But at those lower levels they don't shoot it well enough to justify it, and the vast vast majority of those kids will never play in the NBA, so I don't get why high school coaches are orienting their offenses around a skill set that the vast majority of their players will never have.

Anyway, I'm sure you guys are all right in terms of why things are the way they are. Maybe it's my experience coaching (where I still coach HS girls to get to the block...yes I know it's girls so maybe that makes a difference...but my teams are very successful at it) and even playing (where I roast college kids who used to be very good high school players on the block even though I'm 30 years older than them). I just think, man, wouldn't you rather get a shot from 5 feet than from 10-12? If you can get to the rim, yes obviously. And if you get a wide open three, yes, obviously. But after those two options, isn't a good post player the next best option?

I guess my view is out of date though. Heh, not the first time for that.

EDIT: PS - things do come and go in cycles. Funny you should mention running, because the Patriots won their last five games of the year (and a Super Bowl) by running for 889 yards (178 a game) while throwing for 1305. That's one passing yard for every 1.47 rushing yards. To show you how big a departure that is from their recent history, compare that ratio to their past 5 seasons (which included 4 trips to the Super Bowl).

2014: 1727 rush, 4291 pass, 1:2.48
2015: 1404 rush, 4812 pass, 1:3.43
2016: 1872 rush, 4456 pass, 1:2.38
2017: 1889 rush, 4619 pass, 1:2.45
2018: 2037 rush, 4405 pass, 1:2.16
Last 5 of 2018: 889 rush, 1305 pass, 1:1.47

It's not just "matchups" either. Yes, the Rams and Chiefs were bad against the run so that made sense. But Buffalo was #10, the Chargers were #12, and even the Jets weren't terrible at #19. So they were able to run well. Anyway, this is a major digression. Just wanted to say that I think that as things change, the good teams adjust off those changes. See how the Patriots do things. Maybe it's harder in the NBA than it is the NFL. I just think you can zag when everyone else is zigging.
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Anderson Cooper x Mr. Rogers
Staff member
Gold Supporter
Rule changes in the NBA have made post play less efficient, but the rules of the game haven’t changed nearly as much at lower levels. And the differences in size and athleticism that post play is designed to exploit are, of course, much more prevalent at those lower levels.

I understand that youth coaches tend to avoid extensive use of the post because of the perception* that it focuses too much on one player, to the detriment of the others’ development. But at the high-school and college level, where the objective is to win, I agree with @BaseballJones that the post is underutilized (at least from what I’ve seen — I don’t watch a ton of HS ball).

*- Whether this perception is reality depends on whether the post player is a good passer. A good-passing big will open up all sorts of opportunities for teammates, especially for kids who aren’t good enough to create their own shot.