What Is The Post In Basketball?

“The post” in basketball refers to the position taken by any player standing between the low and the high posts in the paint to either attack the basket at short range (if they’re playing offense) or defend it (if they’re playing defense).

Though any player can occupy this position regardless of their role in the team, it is most often taken by the center or power forward.

Why is it called "The Post"?

The position’s name stems from the part of the court also known as the post. Simply put, ‘the posts’ are marks on the paint that enclose a portion of the key.

To be specific, we have the low posts or ‘blocks’, those would be the two square spots on both sides of the paint, just off the baseline, and beneath the basket. Then, we have the high posts or ‘elbows’. These would be the corners where the key meets the free-throw line. That area between the blocks and the elbows (the 4 posts) is known as: ‘the post’. Any player can rush to the post, but most of the time it’s the center or the power forward. Whoever gets a hold of that area is then referred to as ‘the post’ or ‘post player’.

How is it related to "posting up"?

Posting up is what they call it when a player in the offense uses their back to force a defender out of the low post to protect the ball as they make room for a jump shot at short range.

What does the post do exactly?

Whoever secures the post has specific responsibilities depending on their team and whose side of the court they’re on. When playing offense, the post is expected to dunk, go for layups, and take shots. It could be as practical and elegant as a hook shot, or as stylish as the turn-around fadeaway.

When playing defense, it’s more about positioning. Just standing right where the center or the power forward needs to be can thwart the offense’s strategy. Defenders can get rebounds and block the ball-handler from attempting a layup or, taking shots from the paint.

Do you want to rush the post? Master the basics

Now that you know what your goals are when taking the post, let’s take a look at some of the skills you need to work on to make the best of your position. We’re going to break it down in offense and defense so you see exactly how these skills come into play.

Offense

As an offensive player in the post, you’re expected to have strong shooting skills and variety. You read that right. Because you’re a priority target once you get a hold of the post, doing the same move over and over again will only work for so long before you start to become predictable.

Nothing wrong with having a signature move, but to help you expand your repertoire and look even cooler, here are a few moves you can start working on today if you don’t know them already:

Hook Shot

Especially handy when the defense has already anticipated you are on their way to block you. As you approach the basket from the front, turn sideways so you have your shoulder perpendicular to your opponent, stop, jump, and then throw the ball in an arc over your head with the hand farthest from the basket. This way you’re putting some distance between your opponent and hopefully also get to score.

The Dream Shake 

This one will help you shake off the defense once they’ve called your layup. Dribble your way up to the low posts as quickly as possible. When the defense meets you on the paint, box them out and turn in the direction of your weak hand to face the basket. This will make your opponent think you’re about to shoot. The moment they jump to block your feint shot, pivot back to your dominant hand and shoot.

Fadeaway 

The fadeaway shot is particularly nasty to block because it’s all about making the defense mistime their jump so by the time they get off the ground, you’ve already taken your shot. The key here is to create contact with your defender. As they block your path on your way to the low post, give them 2-3 bumps with your shoulder. This will give you plenty of room to pivot back and shoot.

As you can see, these shots are meant to help you make some room between the defense and yourself so you can take your shot with ease, but there are plenty more shots you can take. Take the time to look up some more for a wider set and more chances of scoring.

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Defense

Playing defense in the post means you’ll probably spend most of your time guarding the low post since it’s the closest to the basket. Of course, you should also prevent as much action in the high post as possible, but in doing so, the offense might sneak past you around the baseline.

The responsibilities of the defense include: being the first ones to make it to the post, blocking shots, making contact while avoiding fouls, stealing rebounds from the offense when they miss a shot, or just boxing out the offense to make passing the ball more complicated.

As far as moves go, defenders have a pretty straightforward set when compared to the offense, and that’s because defending doesn’t require as much feinting and bluffing as attacking the basket. Still, you’re expected to know your defense techniques like the back of your hand, starting with:

The Closeout

In short, closing out consists of reducing the space between you, the defender, and your opponent as much as possible. This is bound to mess up the offensive’s rhythm as their most threatening players will be guarded, or at the very least too encumbered by your cover to make an accurate jump shot.

Denial

Deny defense comes into play when an opposing ball handler intends to pass the ball to a teammate. Assuming the ball-handler has already dribbled and stopped to pass the ball,  getting between them and their teammate leaves them only two options:

  • Make the pass at the risk of losing the ball to the defense.
  • Take a very sloppy and unexpected shot also at the risk of losing the ball to the defense should they block the shot or steal the rebound.

It could also force them to make the mistake of a double-dribble, thus awarding the ball to the opposing team, or a free throw if it’s their seventh penalty in the same half of the game.

If the ball-handler just received the ball and hasn’t dribbled yet, there’s a myriad of ways they can get away, but it will still disrupt their rhythm.

Jump To The Ball

Picture this: you’re guarding the ball handler a few feet off the key and they pass the ball to a teammate on the sideline near the three-point line. They intend to cut to the post and receive the ball back from the same teammate so they can attack the basket at close range. Your job: rush to the post before they can complete the pass and intercept it. That’s what the jump to the ball is all about: anticipating and positioning.

In general, when you’re playing offense, you must have good bluffing, make contact, and have a good number of shots in your bag of tricks so you don’t become predictable. 

As a defender, it comes down to timing and positioning, yes, but also: balance. Balance will help you change direction quickly without losing stability (watch those ankles!). Most importantly, as a defender, block shots whenever possible, but focus more on forcing the offense to make difficult shots and passes to increase your chances of stealing second-chance points.

Who should take the post?

It’s not set in stone that only the center and the power forward can take the post, in fact, (legally) any player can take it, but it would certainly be more manageable —and logical— for these two due to their size and main skillset.

Power forwards should be particularly tall and strong because one of their main objectives is to get as many rebounds as possible, and it can get quite physical. That’s where size comes in handy. Guarding the post would be easier for a large player.

As for the center, they tend to be the tallest player on the team, but they also need to be quite sturdy. Since they most often specialize in shots at short range, they’re expected to get in the post to attack the basket from below, and as you know, it does get crowded and physical very quickly in there.

Ultimately, if you’re either the power forward or the center, you’ll want to take the post as quickly as possible. If you’re playing a different position, get in there if you must.

Famous Dominant Players in the post

Alright, now that you’ve had a taste of the basics, let’s take a stroll down the hall of fame of NBA Post Players (so to speak) and drop some names so you know what all that hard work can amount to with enough practice. These are the top-ranking post players of the NBA according to Bleacher Report:

  • Hakeem Olajuwon

Olajuwon is recognized as the best post player in the NBA due to his versatility. He had an excellent, well-rounded set of skills that allowed him to excel at both offense and defense. Remember what we said about variety with your shots? Olajuwon really knew how to mix things up in the paint, he even perfected the dream shake to the point that it became his signature move. Most impressively, he led the NBA’s blocks per game for three years in a row.

  • Shaquille O’Neal 

We’ve mentioned how your height and build can give you an edge when taking the post, but of course, none of that is any good without the skills to guard it or attack the basket from the paint. On that note, Shaquille O’Neal had plenty of both: a towering height of 7’1” and the skill to make his way into the post and get the most of it. We’re talking about an average of 23.7 points per game, and 10.9 rebounds per game in a span of 19 seasons, thus becoming one of the NBA’s most celebrated players.

  • Wilt Chamberlain

Let’s talk about one of the NBA’s best centers ever. Chamberlain had an impressive average of 34.7 points and 22.3 rebounds per game in his first six seasons. The league’s top scorer for 7 years straight and the best at rebounds for 11 seasons. He wrapped up his career with an average of 30.1 points and 22.9 rebounds per game. How? He was uncommonly tall at the time: 7’1”. Most importantly he knew how to use his height and frame to his advantage when taking over the post.

The list goes on and on, but you get the point just by looking at the names in the top 3.

The 4th Quarter

So hopefully we’ve cleared the air on what the post is and what the players in charge of rushing it are all about, but just to recap, remember:

The post is that area in the paint between the blocks or ‘low posts’ just below the basket, and the elbows or ‘high posts’, right where the key meets the free-throw line. It also refers to the player guarding the post or attacking the basket from there, most commonly the power forward or the center due to their size and ability to catch rebounds and shoot at short range.

Did you find our guide useful? Give us your thoughts in the comments section!

Justin D. Johnson
Justin D. Johnson
Justin is a PhD student at Stanford University and has been a basketball youth coach for over ten years. He is passionate about sports, cinema, astronomy, and sharing knowledge.