Feb 20, 2020 - Sports

Post-up rates are way down in the NBA

Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers is defended by Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena on February 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida.
Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers is defended by Bam Adebayo #13 of the Miami Heat during the second half at American Airlines Arena on February 03, 2020 in Miami, Florida. Photo: Michael Reaves / Contributor/Getty Images

NBA teams have been steadily abandoning the back-to-the-basket game for years thanks to the three-point explosion and the corresponding rise of stretch fours (and stretch fives). But this season, post-ups are bordering on extinction.

By the numbers: In 2005, 22 teams finished at least 10% of their possessions with a post-up, and zero teams had a post-up rate below 5%.

  • 15 years later, those numbers have essentially flipped. This season, 18 teams are finishing less than 5% of their possessions with a post-up, and only one — Philadelphia — has a post-up rate of at least 10%.
Data: NBA Advanced Stats; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
Data: NBA Advanced Stats; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Highest post-up rates:

  • 76ers (11.5%)
  • Spurs (7.8%)
  • Lakers (7.6%)
  • Nuggets (7.2%)
  • Knicks (6.9%)

Lowest post-up rates:

  • Nets (0.3%)
  • Wizards (1.8%)
  • Jazz (2%)
  • Bulls (2.3%)
  • Rockets (2.4%)

Mind-blowing stats:

  • This season, only four players have a post-up rate of at least 25%: Joel Embiid (35.6%), LaMarcus Aldridge (32.4%), Boban Marjanović (32.1%) and Carmelo Anthony (29.5%). Five seasons ago, 29 players were in that club. 10 seasons ago, 44 were.
  • Bucks center Brook Lopez is a great example of the revolution that's underway. In his first eight seasons, Lopez posted up regularly and attempted a total of 31 threes. In his last four seasons, he's attempted 1,466.

The bottom line: If low post masters like Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale played in today's NBA, they wouldn't be pulling off "Dream Shakes" and "up-and-unders" — they'd be shooting threes and living closer to the perimeter.

But wait ... "Don't read the post-up its last rites just yet," writes The Ringer's Rob Mahoney. Rookie Zion Williamson's modern twist "has already breathed new life into the traditional move" (i.e. sprinting down the floor and posting up before the defense can get set).

Go deeper: The decline of the basketball shoe

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