Whether you’re watching basketball on TV or playing in real life, you often hear players or coaches refer to a certain area on the court as the ‘post’. It’s one of the most physically-demanding areas and is where a majority of the fouls occur during a game.
So, what is the post in basketball?
The post, also known as the ‘paint’ area, is where the center and power forward spend a majority of their time on offense and defense. It’s divided into the low post, located near the basket, and the high-post, located near the free-throw line. Offensive players ‘post up’ when asking for the ball.
The post is one of the most difficult areas to play in basketball. It’s where offensive players receive the most contact from defenders, it’s often the most crowded area on the court, and is where most of the mistakes happen throughout the game.
Mastering the post takes hard work, determination, effort, and skill. With the right guidance and proper understanding of what the post is, anyone can prove they’re dominant at posting up.
Why Is It Called the Post in Basketball?
As important as the post is in basketball today, there’s a lot of confusion regarding why it’s called the ‘post’ and where the term comes from.
Believe it or not, it actually comes from the term ‘posting up,’ which is what offensive players do when calling for the ball in the post.
In basketball, the center or power forward ‘post up’ at either the low-post or high-post, depending on what play is called. Some believe they call it the ‘post’ because there are essentially four ‘posts’ to the paint area (the four corners) that dictate the location of the low-post or high-post.
‘Posting up’ is also slang used in the United States. Most people use it when claiming an area as theirs.
For example, when a personal trainer is getting set up with a client at the gym, they might tell the client to, “Go ahead and post up over there by the free weights.”
People also use the term ‘posting up’ when making plans with friends or family.
For example, you might say, “Let’s post up at the park and have a picnic,” or, “How does posting up at Eric’s house before heading to the game sound?”
What Is the Low Post in Basketball?
The low post is an area on the court located at the bottom of the key on both sides of the basket. To many, it’s the area underneath the basket, inside the paint area, and by the baseline.
When you picture power forwards and centers lining up underneath the basket, they’re lining up in the low post.
If you’re using the ‘four posts’ analogy, the power forward and center line up at the first two ‘posts.’
In fact, you might see a wide range of different players line up in the post area — especially as the play proceeds.
With the amount of size we’re seeing in point guards, shooting guards, and small forwards today, they’re becoming more comfortable with playing in the low post.
Securing the low post is one of the main priorities for the offense. They’re trying to secure the ball down low because that’s where the high-percentage shots are — layups, dunks, and hook shots.
Post players must also crash the offensive boards when a teammate misses, opening the door for second-chance opportunities.
The low post doesn’t only refer to the offensive side of the ball. On defense, the post defenders are responsible for blocking shots, staying physical without fouling, and boxing out to avoid giving up second-chance points.
In basketball, games are often won and lost in the low post.
What Is the High Post in Basketball?
Where the low post refers to the paint area near the baseline, the high post refers to the paint area near the free throw line — at the top of the key.
It’s still considered part of the post and is on both sides of the basket, but the high post is further away from the basket than the low post.
When referring to the ‘four posts’ analogy, the two posts located in this area are the corners (or elbows) of the key or free throw line.
The elbow is one of the most common areas on the court to shoot a mid-range jump shot. It’s also one of the main areas on the court coaches focus on in practice.
Big men also utilize the high post when luring their defender away from the basket, freeing up a lane to the rim.
Much like the low post, the high post is valuable to both the offense and defense. On offense, the high post is where a majority of power forwards and centers line up before setting a pick or setting up a play.
Coming off a set pick, the ball handler takes a lot of shots from the high post. If the player setting the pick doesn’t roll towards the basket afterwards, they often pop out to the high post area and wait for the ball.
Much like they do in the low post, big men also ‘post-up’ in the high-post. Instead of hook shots, layups, and dunks, they often perform fadeaways and unbalanced shots.
Defending the high post is one of the easiest ways to frustrate your opponent. When they can’t find success in the high post, it limits what they can do and makes them more one-dimensional when in the post.
This makes it easier on your entire defense.
What Is Posting Up in Basketball?
When most players are on offense, their body is always facing the basket. It’s the only way they can keep an eye on everything that’s happening in front of them and ensures they’re in the right position when running a play.
For players posting up, it’s the opposite.
Instead of their body facing toward the basket, players posting up have their body facing away from the basket. With their body facing towards their teammate, the post-up player signals to the rest of the team when they’re ready to receive the ball.
They also might signal for a pick or another play.
Posting up is a player’s way of gaining position in either the low post or high post. Similar to boxing out when creating space for rebounding the ball, posting up creates the space necessary for the player to make their next move.
Of course, physicality plays an important role here.
Once in position, the post-up player has a wide range of options. First, they can continue backing down their opponent if they want to get closer to the basket.
When backing down an opponent, use your butt and back to gradually move towards the basket. Watch out for charging calls, which are often called when posting up a smaller player.
If the post-up player likes their current positioning, they can decide to shoot the ball instead of further backing down their defender.
With so many different shots to choose from in the low and high post, many post players practice a combination of different shots.
Let’s take a look at some of the most effective post shots:
- Up and Under – when the offensive player performs a shot-fake (the up) underneath the basket, that way the defender jumps. When the defender is in the air, the offensive player can change their position (the under) for an open shot.
- Hook Shot – when the offensive player has their body between the ball and basket, they can shoot it with the hand away from the basket to create more space for the shot. It’s a move perfected by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
- Turn-Around Fadeaway – when you think of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan in the post, this is the move you think of. It’s when the offensive player has his back turned to the basket, is backing down the defender, and suddenly turns around for a fadeaway jump shot in the post.
- Layup & Dunk – the most basic forms of post shots, but also the highest-percentage shots in all of basketball. Layups and dunks happen underneath the basket.
- Jump Shot – if the offensive player has enough room when they receive the ball in the post, they might not need any special kind of shot to score. A simple jump shot is all that’s needed sometimes.
In the event a player isn’t ready for a shot and isn’t in position to back down their opponent any further, the post player has a variety of moves they can utilize.
These moves are an excellent way of creating space where space is limited. Let’s take a look at some of the most effective post moves in basketball:
- Drop Step – when the offensive player receives the ball in the low post, they often try to dribble or back down towards the middle of the basket. If the defender is blocking this from happening, quickly change direction and spinning the opposite way is an effective move for layups and dunks.
- Triple Threat – in the triple threat position, the offensive player faces up with the defender after receiving the ball in the post. They must get in the proper position to either pass, shoot, or dribble, and then make the right decision.
- Spin Move – this is a highly-effective move in the post. Faster players should utilize a quick spin move, while big men should utilize a power spin move.
- Sikma Move – made famous by Jack Sikma, this move is a catch and shoot type of play from the post. Immediately after receiving the ball, you turn towards the opponent and shoot. The shot, however, is often done from behind the head to create more space.
- Dream Shake – the move made famous by Hakeem Olajuwon. When backing down on the baseline, the offensive player fakes a layup and then goes up for the hook shot.
When building skill with an array of post moves, it’s important to scout your opponent prior to playing. By understanding their weaknesses and strengths, you can formulate a game plan that works in your favor.
Post players should also understand when to utilize those moves. For example, when your spin move is working well, it’s often a good idea to throw something else at the defense the next time down the court.
Since they’re expecting another spin move, you can catch the defense off-guard.
How to Build Confidence In the Post in Basketball
When most people imagine a post player, they imagine someone tall and big. While these two characteristics are common in post players, just being tall or big isn’t enough to be effective in the post.
What’s most important is physicality and the player’s ability to stand their ground when getting pushed around.
Post players are the ones that run from one baseline to the next baseline consistently, whether or not they touch the ball.
They don’t receive the most praise, but they’re often the hardest workers and rarely get a chance to breathe.
Since most post players play with their backs to the basket, building confidence often starts there. If you’re not comfortable in this position, you won’t succeed as a post player.
It requires a certain feel for the game that only a few players have and that’s why size doesn’t necessarily matter — not as much as instinct.
Earlier, we talked about some of the shots and moves post players should master on offense.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the specific offensive skills post players should spend the most time working on in the post:
- Positioning – knowing how to gain your position and battle defenders for your spot on the floor is essential when playing in the post. Unless you establish position, the defender wins everytime.
- Counters – not every move works the first time. That’s why every one of your moves should have a counter move. When the first move doesn’t work, the counter move should.
- Intelligence – it doesn’t matter what position you play, intelligence is extremely important. Studying the game and working with your skills coach to improve your vision and feel for the game helps you in a variety of areas.
- Footwork – offensive players in the post need to learn how to utilize their pivots and footwork. It’s key to finding the right position in the post.
- Rebounding – anytime you’re in the post, you must prepare to rebound the ball. Even in the high post, long rebounds are much more common in today’s game of basketball.
Finally, let’s take a look at some of our most prominent tips when building confidence and playing your best in the post areas:
- Understand your opponent. Players head to the post area for different reasons. Some do it to score, some do it to pass, screen, drive cut, and even rebound. Once you know their tendencies, exploit them.
- When defending the post, it’s essential you beat the offensive player to the spot on the floor. This gives you the best opportunity to break up the pass and create chaos.
- If the offensive player receives the ball, you must stay active. Use your strength, but don’t hesitate to utilize your speed and agility.
- Never give the offensive player a break down low. Even when the ball is at half-court, post players need to be hard-at-work down low.
Finding success in the post is vital to any team’s success — both on offense and defense. It’s no wonder why coaches spend so much time perfecting this area of the court!