Unconventional NBA Ranks: Post Passers
This series will rank the top players in some intangible skills or statistical areas that do not show up in traditional boxscores. This will be for last season’s production and does not necessarily reflect upcoming potential.
Our first in the series will attempt to rank the best passers out of the post. To do so, one most factor in the way a player passes to cutters, shooters and out of double teams. The passer needs some help from their teammate to complete the play, as they have no control over the shot, but they do have control over who they make the pass and what position they lead that player to with their pass. There are plenty of great passers not mentioned here but these are my pick for the top four from last season.
#4 Nene, Washington Wizards
Nene is only an average scorer out of the post, as he averaged .817 points per possession (PPP), according to Synergy Sports, but he complements this with a nice passing game out of the post. When assists are factored into his PPP, it increases to almost 1 PPP, which is very good for a player with as many possessions as Nene used.
Usually, Nene starts his post move by dribbling from a few steps beyond the block. He then takes a few steps toward the baseline or the middle of the lane and if the draws the defense, he’ll then make the pass to the open man. Even on the move, he can be an accurate passer to the open teammate.
He isn’t a great passer out of the double team, as he turns the ball over a high amount when doubled, especially compared to the others on this list. Many of these turnovers come before he attempts to make the pass and is the result of him trying to beat the double himself. When he is able to find the open man, he is just as good a passer in terms of delivering the ball in the proper position for a scoring opportunity for his teammate.
What ranks him lowest on this list is his propensity to turn the ball over. One of his tendencies is to palm the ball at arm’s length while he surveys the defense. If he decides to pass out of this scenario, he is not very accurate, which leads to steals or wild passes. If he cuts down on this quirk, he will be a much more efficient post player.
#3 Al Jefferson, Charlotte Bobcats
53% of Jefferson’s possessions were categorized as post ups, according to Synergy Sports, so he is well-versed in this part of the game. He gets double teamed one of the highest percentages in the league and he is a solid passer out of the double team.
What hurts Jefferson is that his passes are not always accurate, with many sailing high. This forces his teammates to jump to corral these passes, which doesn’t allow them to catch and shoot in one motion, which allows the defense some added time to recover. In this frame, look at how high his teammate has to leap to catch the pass. This takes him out of his rhythm to continue the action. Although it works out in these clips, this is an area Jefferson needs to see some improvement.
Jefferson could work on making more accurate passes, especially across the court, which is often where the open man is after the defense rotates. The defense often shades extra defense toward because of his strong offensive post skills, so he needs to become a more accurate passer. He has good vision and has often makes the right pass, now he needs to focus on making the pass more accurate.
#2 Joe Johnson, Brooklyn Nets
Johnson posts up the least of any of the players on the list, as post-ups only make up 21% of his offense, according to Synergy Sports. He’s just an average post scorer, averaging .83 PPP on post-up possessions that he ends but when passes are factored in, his efficiency increases to a more above average level.
He has great vision in the post and is an accurate passer to all areas on the floor. As you watch the clips below, watch how the defense rotates to the open man closest to Johnson and Johnson then uses his vision to find the open man two or three passes away. In the first clip from the Kick Out section, when the double team comes, the open man seems to be Brook Lopez. However, Kirk Hinrich rotates down at the last second, which Johnson realizes and makes the right pass to the shooter. It’s the easiest pass but it took skill to recognize where the defense was going to rotate and what player was going to be open because of this.
Although Johnson doesn’t post as much as others on this list, he seems to always make the best pass when the defense rotates. He demonstrates a high basketball IQ in the post, as he goes at his defender when the opportunity presents itself and makes the perfect pass to the shooter or cutter when the defense collapses.
#1 LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers
My choice for best post passer last season goes to LaMarcus Aldridge, as he was the best at all aspects of passing out of the post and rarely turned the ball over on these passes. He made the right pass most of the time, which lead to an easy shot attempt for the offense.
Aldridge likes to make the easy pass but the offense of the Blazers is designed so that if Aldridge executes the pass, they will be able to swing the ball around the perimeter to the open man. Aldridge is a strong post player who commands double teams, so the spacing of the Blazers is designed to take advantage of his passing ability. Aldridge doesn’t make the flashy pass but he does initiate the offense out of the post well by timing his pass correctly.
Aldridge was one of the most efficient players when factoring in Aldridge’s points and passes out of the post, as he averaged .99 PPP on 9.5 possessions per game. Much of his success was because of the Blazers spacing but Aldridge knows the proper pass to make and delivers it in the perfect spot to keep the offense flowing.
Due to the large sample size that Aldridge had last season, Aldridge demonstrated this skill on a regular basis and showed he knows when to go at the rim and when to pass out to find the most efficient shot. What gives him the top spot here is his ability pass out of double teams, as he ranked 2nd in PPP for players with at least one categorized post possession per game. His accuracy in these passes is the seal on what makes him the best post passer.