One of the top candidates for Most Improved Player in the NBA this season is Julius Randle. Under first year New York Knicks Head Coach Tom Thibodeau, Randle has seen his role grow and become the hub of their offense. He has a usage rate of 22.1%, according to Synergy Sports Technology (SST), which is the highest on the team. Although he is able to create and score in many different actions, the post up still accounts for a large part of his offense, where he makes use of T-Up post footwork. We are going to explore how Julius Randle has success playing out of the post and is able to create for himself and others.
Shots vs Passes Out of the Post Up
Although Randle often gets a shot out of the post, efficiency is much higher when he passes out of the post. Analytics has shown that playing to score out of the post is a non-efficient way to play in the modern game, however, using the post as a spot for a playmaker to create offense for others appears to be more efficient. Learn more about using the low post as a playmaking spot here: Low Post Basketball Plays out of Reaction.
T-Up Post Footwork
A key skill that allows Randle to create for himself and others out of the post is his footwork on prior to and on the catch. Rather than catch with his back to a defender using a traditional butt seal in the low post, Randle positions himself in a perpendicular nature forming what looks like a T relative to the body of themselves and the defender. In a T-Up the offensive player’s backside is facing the baseline or corner, rather than the basket. Their inside arm is positioned between the defender’s chest. Their outside arm is extended as a passing and catching target. Their inside foot is usually positioned between the defender’s legs.
Randle uses a T-Up for a number of different reasons. First, it shows that he values possession over position. On the pass, he steps toward the ball with his outside foot to make the catch. Although this results in sacrificing position closer to the rim, it does make it more likely to lead to possession on the catch.
Second, once the ball is caught, the T-Up puts Randle in a position to have optimal vision of the weak side of the floor. This allows Randle to see the help side defense and the spacing of his teammates. If Randle would use traditional post footwork, it would result in him being blind to what is occurring on the weak side of the floor.
Lastly, T-Up Post footwork results in Randle having better balance and strength against physical defenders. This better balance is due to having an outside pivot foot. If being bumped and pushed, having an outside pivot foot allows the offensive player to be able to pivot away from pressure.
Read more about footwork playing out of the post in this blog post: Post Play: What to Teach and Why We Teach It
Due to his footwork out of the post giving him vision of the weak side, Julius Randle is an elite decision maker when it comes to reading the defense shifting to help or sending a double team at him. Depending on who his teammates are, this can involve him finding players spotting up or cutting. Both are efficient offensively compared to shooting out of the post which accounts for only 93.6 points per 100 possessions.
Decision making out of the post involves both the passer and off-ball players making good decisions. A possible way to develop decision making out of the low post is to use guided practice. Guided practice can be used to randomize the situation and to teach reactions to how the help defense is playing. A basic example of this would be to use a 3-on-3 small sided game with an extra player or coach passing the basketball into the T-Up post up to start the game.
A set of guided decisions can then be used to stimulate the offensive players to make decisions that create advantages. For example, the defense can be instructed to use a no help, an early shift or a late shift coverage.
- No Help – Weak side offensive players hold space to allow post match up to attack.
- Early Shift to Help on the Catch – Post player looks to move it right away on the catch while weak side offensive players open a passing window or ghost cut if their check is helping.
- Late Shift to Help on the Dribble – Post player engages help and then moves it while weak side offensive players open a passing window or ghost cut if their check is helping.
Eventually, more guided decisions can be loaded to add additional challenge for the offense:
- Double on the Catch – Post player looks to move it early while using outside pivot foot to create space.
- No Help and No Match up – No advantage to attack inside so post player moves it and gets to next trigger or action.
Additional loads can include:
- Adding an extra player on the strong side or weak side.
- Using a dynamic start for the post player to have to get to a spot to seal. For example, this can involve rim running out of transition or sealing after rolling out of a ball screen.
- Constraining the post player to passing with their weak hand.
- Constraining the weak side players to being only able to score on a ghost cut.
The value of the T-Up post up is considerable. Julius Randle has used this technique effectively to create for himself and his teammates, as a scorer, passer and shooter.