Jermaine O’Neal Exemplified Poor Post Play in Playoffs

In Game 6 of the 2005 Indiana Pacer/Boston Celtic series, Jermaine O’Neal received the ball near the block late in the game with the Pacers needing a basket to clinch the series.

O’Neal received the ball with back to the basket and dribbled. He picked up his dribble, still facing away from the basket, and pivoted to the basket. He was well-defended, so he shot a fade away jumper.

Imagine this occurring on the perimeter. Dwayne Wade receives a pass at the three-point line, takes one dribble in place and picks up the dribble. Needing a basket and running out of time, he throws a fall away at the rim.

On the perimeter, most acknowledge this is a wasted dribble and a terrible offensive play. If that is true, why do we allow the same ineffectiveness in the post?

The O’Neal scenario occurs more frequently than a good move. Many players at every level catch the ball, take a dribble and then figure out what move to make. Unfortunately, at the professional level, many players have the strength and athleticism to make something out of nothing, compensating for poor footwork. However, had O’Neal caught and pivoted to the basket initially, he would have had a dribble to make a move once he realized he was well-defended; the dribble did nothing to advance his position or make him tougher to defend: it was a waste.

The dribble is an increasingly important aspect of the game. Defenses grow more complex and sophisticated, and athletes get bigger, faster and stronger, but the size of the court is fixed. These athletes cover more ground and put more pressure on offensive players on the perimeter and in the post. The dribble is a neutralizer; when a player has a live dribble a defense must respect his ability to go. Without the dribble, there is no threat.

Therefore, it is essential players do not simply waste their dribble. This means first establishing post position with a solid base so the player can catch and not dribble to prevent a travel or gain balance. Once the player receives the pass, he should look first, unless he has an obvious advantage leading to a lay-up.

Patience in this instance provides a player the opportunity to read the defense. If help comes in the form of a double-team, the patience allows an easier pass to the open player, as opposed to making a pass off a dribble, or the opportunity to pass fake to freeze the help and make a move to take advantage of the opportunity.

Like on the perimeter, a player should use the dribble to go somewhere; in fact, economical use of the dribble is more important in the post than on the perimeter. An idle dribble, as in the case of O’Neal’s, could lead to a turnover if a defender pokes from behind or if a smart off-ball defender attacks the ball from a position outside of the offensive player’s vision. Frequently a pass is made into the post and the passer cuts through; the cutter’s defender stops and tries to pick-pocket the post player. If the post is making an idle dribble, it gives the guard a much better opportunity.

Use the dribble sparingly and use it to attack, as part of an offensive move. Options are important. A player with more options is tougher to guard.

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