Basketball Post Play Skills to Help You Dominate the Paint

Tim Duncan

Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best.


Playing in the Post

It is a common misconception to assume that unless you are tall or solidly built that you therefore don’t need to learn how to play effectively in the Post. There is no doubt that tall and strong players are more likely to find themselves playing in the Post position throughout the game. However, at any moment in time you may find yourself matched up man-to-man within the key area holding the basketball. There are essentially two scenarios here. Either kick the ball out, or “school” your Opponent with a nifty post move of your own.

Which option would you choose? Isn’t it better to know rather than to be ignorant and miss a perfect opportunity to score?

This IQ Matrix map will specifically focus on the key components, techniques and strategies on how to play effectively in the Post.

This article post is part of a Basketball Success Series of IQ Matrix maps. Topics within this series include:

Part 1: Basketball Shooting Skills
Part 2: Basketball Defensive Skills
Part 3: Basketball Dribbling Skills
Part 4: Basketball Passing Skills
Part 5: Basketball Offensive Skills
Part 6: Basketball Rebounding Skills
Part 7: Basketball Movement Tactics
Part 8: Basketball Post Play Skills
Part 9: Basketball Mindset Strategies


Post Play Basics

The 1st Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map breaks down some fundamental aspects of playing in the Post. We Specifically discuss effective Post positioning, shooting, shot fakes, and the principles of drawing fouls in the Post area.

Post Positioning Strategy

Playing in the Post requires a great deal of commitment, strength, agility and discipline. For this reason you must master the fundamentals that will help you to establish good, solid Post positioning at all times on the basketball court. With these principles thoroughly ingrained into your psyche and body, you will be able to solidify yourself as an effective inside Post presence.

Your Physiology

How you position yourself in the Post area and to what effect you use your body will determine how effectively, efficiently and quickly you will be able to establish yourself as a solid inside presence on your team.

The following presents you with a few guidelines that will help balance, prepare and strengthen your body and stance when playing in the Post area:

Wide Stance

In order to gain maximum strength and balance, it is important to utilize a wide and solid stance that glues you securely to the ground. You need to be a “force” when playing in the post area, and your stability always begins with your feet.

Bum Sticking Out

Your Bum is to be utilized as a leveraging tool against your Opponents. However, in order for it to be effective you must position it so that it stick out behind you. Only in this way will you be able to gain the necessary leverage to move your Opponents in an effective and efficient manner that will enable you to rebound and score with greater ease and proficiency.

Knees Bent

Your knees are like Springs that will help you to jump with force, speed and precision. They will also assist you to solidify your stance and position on the basketball court. Finally, they are also utilized for balancing purposes and leveraging your Opponent under the basket. However, in order for your knees to be effective you must bend them slightly to allow you to solidify yourself in the Post.

Back Straight

When your back is straight you naturally have better balance, stability, and agility to move any which way at a moments notice. It also makes you taller and positions your shoulders and hands higher, thusly enabling you get better reach when receiving a pass or pulling down a rebound. Conversely, arching your Back forward will tend to destabilize you and will allow your Opponent to knock you off balance with the slightest shove.

Shoulder’s Parallel to Backboard

You must train yourself to hold your shoulders parallel to the backboard when going up for the rebound or taking a shot from the Post area. This will yet again balance your body and enable you the best possible chance of scoring a basket or pulling down the rebound.

Provide a 2-Handed Target

Whenever possible always provide a two-handed target for your Teammates to pass to. This means raising your hands above your shoulders with open palms and fingers spread. Only in this way can you maximize your ability to receive a pass from your Teammates. Finally, as a general rule, whenever you are positioned within the Key area, always raise your hands in the air, thusly providing and ongoing target for your Teammates to pass to.

Location of Post Positioning

As a Post Player you would position yourself in and around the basketball Key area either high at the free-throw line or low on either side of the basket. Keep in mind that you cannot stay within the Key area for longer than 3 seconds at a time. Therefore it is paramount that you make sure to gain Post positioning just outside of this Key area. Once you have the ball you can then begin working your way towards the basket.

The Fundamentals of Post Play in Basketball

Post Shooting Strategy

As a Post Player it is important to develop the ability to use both hands when shooting under the basket. You should ideally shoot with your right hand on the right side of the basket, and use your left hand when shooting on the left side of the basket. However, if you Opponent is bearing down on you on your left or right side, than you must use your non-contact hand (the furthest hand from your Defender) to shoot the ball with.

To be effective when shooting with your non-contact hand, make sure to release the ball slightly in front of your body and head. This should allow you just enough leverage to ensure that your Defender doesn’t reach over the top of your head to block your shot.

Whenever going up for the shot in the Post, you must always be consciously aware of using your body appropriately to protect the ball from your Opponents. As a general rule, your body must always be between your Opponent and the basket.

Finally, when shooting the ball from under the basket, be sure to hit the top corner of the small square on the backboard softly to ensure that your shot has the most chance of going into the rim.

Faking Shot in the Post

In many instances it will be very crowded within the Post area, and you will need to know how to fake your Defender in order to create more space for yourself to shoot the ball in the Post.

Initiate your fake by pumping (lifting) with your head and the ball. At the same time keep your Bum out and knees bent to maintain maximum power within your legs.

Drawing the Foul in the Post

Drawing effective fouls within the Post area is a fundamental skill in basketball. Great Post Players have an uncanny ability to draw fouls from their Opponents. This therefore allows them to score cheap points from the free-throw line.

To draw a foul from your Defender, begin by creating contact with them in mid-air as the Defender is coming down after their jump. At this point simply lean in by planting your inside shoulder into your Opponent. And finally, make sure to finish your shot with your outside hand, which is the hand furthest away from the body contact of your Defender.


“In Game” Post Play Scenarios

The 2nd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map tackles some “In Game” scenarios for getting open and receiving the ball in the Post. We specifically discuss what to do and what NOT to do when getting open in the Post area. We also break down the mechanics of how to receive the ball in the Post using one and two hands.

Getting Open in the Post

The following are a set of guidelines that will help you to avoid fouling, turning the ball over, and will enable you to get good position to receive the ball in the Post.

Don’t Lean Back into Defender

When you are leaning back and literally resting on your Defender in the Post area with your Back and Bum, this should immediately tell you that you are off balance and do not have stable footing on the ground. The instant your Defender decides to step back, you will most likely lose your footing and could potentially fall to the ground.

Don’t Push Off Defender

Any type of pushing with your hands or arms within the Post area will most likely be called as a foul. Gaining position and leverage is not about pushing your Opponent off balance. It is rather about effective footwork and perfect balance.

Don’t Knock Defender’s Arms Away

Defenders will always attempt to frustrate you by reaching in with their arms to prevent you from receiving a pass from your Teammates. If you get into the habit of physically knocking their arms away, than it’s very likely you will be called for the foul. Instead, work on getting better foot positioning, which will likewise help you win the “arm battle”.

Don’t Extend Elbows to Create Space

When playing in the Post area it is very tempting to extend your elbows in order to gain more space. This however can work against you, especially if you swing your elbows wildly into your Opponent’s body and face. Instead, consciously contain and control your elbows by keeping them closer in to your body. This does not mean that you should never extend them. To the contrary, extending your elbows is a great tactic once you have taken a rebound and tucked the ball under your chin. However, still under these circumstances be very careful not to swing them uncontrollably, otherwise you may be called for the offensive foul, or worse still, injure someone in the process.

Gain Leverage through Solid Footwork

How you use your feet will not only allow you to gain leverage on your Defender in the Post, it will also enable you to maintain good stability and balance to ensure that you are most effectively poised and positioned when receiving the ball from your Teammate.

Good stability and balance is achieved when your feet are positioned wide and your head is squarely over your knees. This will ensure that you a securely grounded and can take maximum advantage of your body to gain leverage and better positioning over your Defender.

Once you have position in the Post you must seal your Defender off in order to receive the ball from your Teammate. To do this you must effectively control your footwork by shuffling your feet to gain maximum positioning, by bodying up your Defender hip-to-hip and body-to-body in the post, and if necessary stepping over your Defender’s foot if that is what’s required to gain maximum leverage in the Post to safely and securely receive the ball from the perimeter.

Gain Leverage Using Arms

Your arms are just as important as your feet when it comes to gaining leverage over your Opponent in the Post. If your Opponent wants to instigate an arm battle inside the Post area, than oblige them by utilizing bicep and armpit clamps. Also gain maximum leverage by using your arm-bar to create space for yourself to receive the pass from your Teammate. Once you have locked your arm-bar into your Opponent, simply reach over with your “free hand” to receive the ball from your Teammate.

Getting Open in the Post

Catching the Ball in the Post

You can catch the ball in the Post in one of two ways. By catching with 1 hand or with 2 hands. The following set of guidelines takes you through the process on how to catch the ball in the Post using these options.

Catching with 2 Hands

Before receiving the pass from your teammate, make sure that you have both of your hands outstretched with your palms open and all 10 fingers providing a target for your Teammate to pass to.

When you see the pass coming towards you, immediately release your Opponent from the seal you created and jump towards the ball landing in a hop while tucking the ball under your chin for maximum protection. From here you can instigate any number of Post moves within your repertoire.

Catching with 1 Hand

Step into the pass while using your offhand arm-bar against your Defender. This arm-bar is to be utilized as a leveraging tool to keep your Opponent at bay and allow you to securely take the pass from your Teammate.

As soon as you receive the pass, drag your back-foot into your Defender. This will allow separation between you and your Opponent, which will further open up space within the Post area for you to instigate any number of Post moves within your repertoire.

Finally, when you catch the ball in the Post with 1 hand, be sure to immediately tuck the ball into your chest area in shooting position. At the same time keep your shoulders up and your elbows vertical in order to maximize the leverage you have gained over your Opponent.


Post Play Training Moves

The 3rd Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map provides a quick overview of several Post Play training moves for you to practice and assimilate into your game. We specifically target moves you can make while facing the basket, and with your back to the basket.

Post Moves: Facing the Basket

The following describes several Post moves you can utilize when facing the basketball rim. It is important to practice these moves regularly and consistently up until the point they become second nature. Only then will you gain the necessary confidence to make best use of these moves during “In Game” situations.

Hook Shot

Begin by facing the basket and holding the basketball waist high. You will be using your left foot as your pivot. Now face the rim just outside of the Key area on the right side of the basket. Turn sideways making sure that your shooting arm and the ball are straight out to the side, and not in front of your body. Make sure also that both your shoulders and the ball are positioned in a straight line. Your right elbow must be pointing behind you and positioned slightly down. While your left elbow must be pointing towards the basket positioned slightly up. Now square up to the basket by aligning your shoulders and the ball in a straight line to the basket you are shooting at. Finally, hook the ball directly over your head using a simple wrist flick motion.

Jump Hook

The execution of the Jump Hook is almost exactly the same as was discussed for the Hook Shot above. The only difference is that you must jump when you shoot the Hook Shot. This allows you better height and arc on your shot, which comes into full effect against taller Opponents.

Fake, Step, Hook

Begin by facing the basket. Step fake to your left and pivot forward about a quarter turn. Now square-up to the basket and shoot the Hook Shot.

Step Fake and Shoot Around Basket

Begin by facing the basket holding the ball waist high and making sure that your knees are slightly bent. Now, initiate the Step Fake by slowly pushing the ball in a direction away from your pivot foot, while simultaneously stepping in the same direction. Once you have initiated the fake, bring your feet back in so that they are now shoulder width apart as you move the ball over your head. From this position, square-up to the basket and shoot the ball.

Pivot Fake and Shoot Around Basket

Begin by facing the basket. Now pivot forward about 180° degrees so that your back is now facing the basket. From this position simply push the basketball to the outside as you initiate the Pivot Fake. Now pivot backward again into your original position facing the basket. Make sure to hold the ball above your head. From this position square-up to the basket and shoot the basketball.

Post Moves: Back to Basket

The following describes several Post moves you can utilize when you have your back towards the basketball rim. It is important to practice these moves regularly and consistently up until the point they become second nature. Only then will you gain the necessary confidence to make best use of them during “In Game” situations.

Spin and Go

Begin with your Back to the basket. Determine where the defense is pressuring you most (to your left or right). Immediately pivot off your Defender and spin towards the basket attacking the weak-side where you experienced least pressure from your defender.

Step Hook

Begin with your Back to the basket. Now pivot a quarter turn with your right foot. Step with your left foot, square-up to the basket and shoot the basketball.

Step, Pound and Hop

Begin with your Back to the basket. Fake the ball in one direction. Now, point your lead foot and toe into the direction you want to go and immediately drop-step to the other side. Follow this up by moving aggressively towards the basket with one power dribble dropping the ball down with two hands. Now land in a hop on both feet and shoot the basketball.

Hook Shot

Begin with your Back to the basket while holding the basketball about waist high. You should ideally be positioned about a step to the left of the basket. Once positioned, simply pivot and turn 90° degrees forward, square-up to the basket and shoot the ball.

Pivot Backwards and Shoot

Begin with your Back to the basket. Raise the ball above your head then pivot back towards the basket. Now square-up to the basket and shoot the ball.

Pivot Around Basket

Begin with your Back towards the basket on the right side. You will be using your left foot as your pivot foot. Now, move one step to the left, so that after you pivot you are in a good position to shoot the ball. Raise the ball over your head and then pivot forward to face the basket. Now, square-up to the basket and shoot the basketball.

Training to Develop Basketball Post Game


Post Play Tips and Strategies

The 4th Branch of this IQ Matrix Mind Map provides you with a number of essential Post Play tips, techniques and strategies that will help you to excel as an inside force on the basketball court. We specifically break down the mindset you must bring to every game, the skills you must master and discuss several “In Game” tactics you can utilize to get the edge on your Opponents.

The Mindset of a Post Player

Great Post Players have certain and specific qualities that enable them to gain the most out of their abilities when playing under the basket. These qualities are quite generic and apply to many aspects of basketball and life. However, when it comes to Post Play, they are of critical importance, and will help you to gain the most out of your potential in quick succession. Here they are in no particular order:

Patient

A Great Post Player is incredibly patient all the time. They realize that mastering the skills that are required to play in the Post can take a lot of time and practice. They also understand that playing effectively from the Post requires patience to setup your Opponent in the perfect position to score a basket; patience to pinpoint gaps that open up in defensive sets; and it takes patience to learn the movement and footwork that is necessary to excel as a Great Post Player.

Determined

A Great Post Player is at all times 100% determined and committed to score a basket, to pull down a rebound or to draw a double team that will help one of their Teammates to get off an easy shot. Their determination when hustling for loose balls is just extraordinary and helps win the hearts of their Teammates.

Persistent

A Great Post Player Never Gives Up! They always do whatever it takes to follow up a missed shot, to tip the ball into the basket, or to get their hands on a rebound that seems almost out of reach. And it is this persistence that wins them a loyal fan following and makes them the undisputed “heart” of their team.

Mentally Resilient and Tough

Becoming a Great Post Player not only requires physical strength, stamina and agility, it also requires a mental resilience and toughness that will keep a Post Player playing at their highest level from the moment they step onto the basketball court, till the moment the final buzzer sounds to end the game.

When the body tires from physical strain and exhaustion, than it’s up to the mind to stand tall and help the Post Player to keep “keeping on” no matter what their physical condition or “In Game” circumstances.

Asks Questions

A Great Post Player always asks themselves questions throughout the game. These questions enable them to gain new and better insights about the game, themselves, their Teammates and Opponents.

A Great Post Player understands that they are in a very important and powerful position on the basketball court. Within this position they are able to draw defenses and double-teams, which consequently helps their Teammates get wide open scoring opportunities on the basket.

Specifically when it comes to shooting, a Great Post Player will ask themselves the following set of 3 questions before shooting the basketball. These questions enable them to make better and more calculated decisions during the game:

Is there traffic in the key area?

Is there space to make my move?

Is one of my Teammates open to receive the pass?

A Post Player’s Critical Skills

Playing in the Post requires a certain set of skills that a Post Player must learn and master in order to be the very best they can be on the basketball court. The more these skills are developed, the more effective the Post Player will be throughout the game, and the more valuable they will be to their team.

Shooting 80% + Free-Throws

A Post Player will find themselves playing under the basket and in the Key area for the majority of the game. Within this region of the basketball court there usually isn’t much room to move, making physical contact a very real possibility every single time down the court. As a result the Post Player is likely to get fouled often while shooting the basketball. This will put them at the free throw line where they are expected to hit the vast majority of their shots in order to justify their efforts under the basket.

Great Post Players are in essence complete players, and are therefore able to hit over 80% of their free throws from the line. Anything less than this is just not good enough, and will impact your team in a very negative way. You also work hard to get good looks at the basket from the Post position. If you get fouled, you therefore deserve to give yourself justice by hitting your Free Throws and penalizing the defense for their foul. And if over time your free throw shooting improves to such an extent that you are hitting almost every shot when you step up to the line, than this can only help your offensive game as Defenders will tend to hesitate fouling you, fully knowing you will hit your free throws.

Creative and Solid Passing Ability

When playing in the Post, you will usually find yourself being double and sometime triple-teamed by your Opponents. In such instances your Teammates will most likely be available for open looks at the basket. However, if your passing ability isn’t up to scratch, than you will simply fail to find your Teammates when these scoring opportunities pop up. This is why it is of major importance that you are able to develop solid and creative passing skills and awareness.

Good Defensive Footwork

When you are on the defensive end of the floor you will naturally be guarding good Post players on the other team. In order to prevent them from scoring easy baskets you will need to develop solid defensive footwork that will enable you to always stay between your player and the basket.

Defensive Anticipation Skills

Leading on from Good Defensive Footwork, you also need to develop the ability to anticipate your Opponent’s movements at a moments notice. This involves knowing when your Opponent is going to drive to the basket, realizing when your opponent is faking a shot, and understanding when to jump and how to reach for the ball in order to prevent your Opponent from scoring a basket.

Guidelines for Playing Basketball in the Post

“In Game” Tactics for Post Players

The following set of “In Game” tactics outlined below will help a Post Player to become more efficient and effective when playing in the Post. In essence, these tactics are nothing more than essential habits that must be developed at such a deep level of awareness that they become second nature, and can be actioned during a game without thinking.

Playing in the Key Area

When you have the ball and you are playing in the Key area, it is important to remember to use your dribble sparingly. It is usually very crowded within the Key as many players fight for position. And therefore, the less you use your dribble, than the less likely you are to turn the ball over unnecessarily.

Because it is so crowded within the Key area, it is important for a Post Player to protect the ball at all costs in order to avoid unexpected strips or deflections from Opponents. The best way to protect the ball is to make most use of your shoulders, chin and chest to help maneuver the ball away from the grasp of Defenders. As a general rule, whenever possible, keep your body between the ball and your Defender at all times.

Gaining Leverage and Positioning

We have already discussed how important it is to gain good positioning within the Post area. If you are not capable of gaining good positioning, than you will struggle to be effective throughout the game.

To gain good positioning within the Post, be sure to always think about creating maximum space between you and your Opponent. Also utilize effective footwork and arm movement tactics to seal your Defender behind you so that you can easily catch the pass from your Teammates.

Finally, playing in the Post is all about your ability to gain maximum leverage over your Opponent. The better you are at gaining leverage, than the more space you will create for yourself, and the more effective your Post moves will become.

Other Post Play Tactics to Keep in Mind

Here are a few other Post Play tactics that you should keep in mind when playing a game. These are all very much self-explanatory, however they will take time to master through conscious awareness, practice and repetition.

Keep Things Simple

Playing in the Post is all about keeping things as simple as possible. Don’t complicate matters by trying to be too fancy or doing too much. Instead, go for the high percentage plays and make the most use of your strengths and abilities.

Read Your Defense

Pay solid attention to your Opponents while on the basketball court. Get a sense for their reactions, where their eyes focus, what defensive and offensive moves they consistently utilize, and how they use their body position to their advantage.

Once you are consciously aware of your Opponent’s habits, moves and actions, than you will be better able to counteract their effectiveness on the basketball court.

Everyone you play against is like an open book. All you have to do is read it / them.

Run Length of Floor

Many Post Players believe that their role is to just gain position under the basket. Therefore anything that involves running, simply does not fit into their game plan.

Did you know that it actually takes a very special Post Player to run the length of the floor on the fast-break. These players are special because it is so very rare to find. And if you become one of these players, than you will have an undeniable edge over your counterparts who couldn’t be bothered running the length of the floor on defense or offense.

Running the length of the floor will also provide you with new and potentially uncontested opportunities to score baskets.

Develop a “Go To Move”

Great Post Players have perfected a “Go To Move” in the Post that they utilize to great effect on unsuspecting Defenders. Yes, it will take time and practice to develop and master this move. However, the long-term benefits will certainly be worth the effort. You may like to start with the Post Play moves discussed a little earlier. Once you have mastered a few of them, you can then mix them up and create a “Go To Move” that incorporates several moves and “Fakes” in a few deadly steps.

Develop Counter Moves

Great Post Players understand that solid Defenders will read them like a book and will be fully aware of the repertoire of moves that can be initiated from the Post position. In such instances, these Great Post Players develop several Counter Moves that draw the defender IN while opening up new avenues to the basket.

The key here is to be creative and unpredictable, always leaving your Defender second guessing what you will do next.

Recognize Scoring Opportunities & Gaps

A Great Post Player has an exceptional ability where they are able to recognize scoring opportunities and gaps within defensive sets that others simply would not see. However, this isn’t something that can be taught through reading an article, it is instead something that comes through experience on the basketball court.

The key here is to always be aware, to read your Opponent accordingly, and to take advantage of what they give you each and every time down the court.


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Final Thoughts

Playing effectively in the Post requires dedication, commitment, practice and patience. There is no doubt that it is arguably the most difficult position to master on the basketball court, as it involves close contact and provides you with little space to move or get to the basket. However, with a dedicated spirit and a willingness to learn, anyone can master the footwork and technical skills that are required to play this position, no matter how tall, small, bulky or lean you may be. After all, the only limitation is the limitations you set in your mind.

I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any further queries or questions, or would like to share your experiences about this topic, than please do so in the comments section below.


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Basketball Post Play Skills

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam’s story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.