The first two trips down the court in their season opener, the Lakers ran a pick-and-roll to switch a guard — Patrick Beverley — onto LeBron James, then they threw the ball to LeBron in the post and let him go to work on the smaller player. It worked. At least at first.
While the post-up is out of fashion in the NBA because it’s not efficient, the Lakers went to it early and often in the opener — and it worked fairly well.
Expect to see a lot more of it, coach Frank Vogel told Dave McMenamin of ESPN, who had the stats to back up that it worked.
“The first positive is our post offense is a problem for other teams,” Vogel said Wednesday when asked to share a hopeful tidbit gleaned from the Lakers’ film session…
However, the Lakers’ 27 post-up plays worked out to the tune of 1.17 points per possession, which would have been the best rate in the league last season if L.A. had carried it all season, per Second Spectrum.
Chief among the post-up targets was Anthony Davis, who posted up 22 times in his Lakers debut, according to Second Spectrum, the second-most he has posted up in a game in the past seven seasons, which is as far back as the data go.
Clippers’ coach Doc Rivers was quick to say after the game that the Lakers are a big team, and that’s a problem in defending them. Post ups against a mismatch — such as LeBron on Beverley — can be very effective.
Post ups are defendable, too, and the Clippers had success with ball pressure on the wing that busted up entry passes to the post. This is not 2000 with Shaq, teams will use zone rules to both front and be behind guys in the post, making it difficult to get set up on the block. Los Angeles can make teams pay for that with the three ball, and the Lakers are better equipped to shoot that this season, but players not named Danny Green were 6-of-24 (25 percent) from three in the opener.
The Lakers need more production out of the pick-and-roll, more versatility, and more shot creation than they showed in the opener, albeit the Clippers are a physical defensive team that makes other teams look worse than they truly are. All of that should come with time, as a new team with a new coaching staff settles into a comfort level with each other.
Just expect more post-ups from the Lakers than any other team this season. Because it should work for them.