For an entire generation, "post play" probably reminds people of Shaquille O'Neal's spin and hook. Not the jump hook, or sky hook, but that brush-off hook Shaq would use with his off hand. Or Alonzo Mourning's jump hook. Or Yao Ming's turnaround jumper. Whatever the move, it has to happen within five feet of the basket, right?
Hardly. "Post play" can encompass an entire court. Just as long as your back is to the basket, however briefly, you are technically working from the post. So who are the best post players, technically speaking, in the NBA? Who scores most efficiently while facing the other end of the court for some point within his move?
Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook, as is often the case, has the answers. And the detailed post he wrote on the subject is so good, that giving away the top-five names isn't giving anything away. To hear Sebastian tell it, and you really need to go hear Sebastian tell it, the top-five post players in the NBA are Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Carmelo Anthony, Nene and LeBron James.
Hardly a jump hook among them.
Here's Pruiti's take on Nowitzki, king of the postal workers:
What's interesting about Nowitzki and his post game is that he isn't a guy who faces up a ton (which is something you would expect from a shooter with his size). Nowitzki's go to move is turning over his right shoulder while making a move off of the dribble on both sides of the court, though it is more prevalent on the left block (63.5% on the left block/48.1% on the right block). Despite that, when Nowitzki does face up (17.6% on the left/31.9% on the right), he is extremely dangerous because his height allows him to simply shoot it over the defense.
Going back to his go to move, what makes Nowitzki so dangerous is that he has that quick spinning unorthodox shot that he can knock down from distance. This means that Nowitzki doesn't need fantastic positioning. He just needs to get to a spot he is comfortable at (15 feet or so), and he is strong enough to back a defender to that spot.
There's so, so much more to read at this post, including improvements in post play that don't actually end in a turnaround jumper or spin to the hoop.
Fans have mused about the NBA getting smaller for years, how the traditional centers have gone away, and how competent play from big men has become a thing of the past. In a way, they're right, and I've been among that chorus.
But it's not so much that the NBA has gotten smaller, it's that it has gotten more talented. A skinny 7-footer like Dirk would have been a washout 30 years ago; but with improved skill sets this particularly skinny guy was able to lead his team to a championship this year. By no means does Nene have a consistent go-to move, and yet he's one of the most effective scorers in the NBA. Tim Duncan was born soon after the Korean conflict resolved itself, and yet he was still able to rank amongst the top five in 2010-11. Skill will out.
Go read the post. It's as entertaining as a seven-game Monday night full of NBA hoops.