Sometimes Help Hurts (Post Play and Defensive Schemes)
Wise basketball heads both young and old have talked recently about why feeding the post isn't necessarily done with the intention of the post player scoring, but more to initiate the offense by getting the ball into the middle of the floor and forcing the defense to react. In effect, the threat of the post up score is meant to open up other high value shots either at the basket or from 3. What happens if this threat is not seen as credible by the defense? When talking about Blake Griffin's lack of post up prowess, I've talked about how the recognition that he is not at his best on the block can make those post touches ineffective for the Clippers:
One such team is Portland, who not only lead the league in exciting games, but also in things I find interesting to talk about. Last Thursday, Dwight Howard "destroyed" Portland's single coverage to the tune of 32 and 17 with only one turnover. However, Houston lost the game fairly comfortably in the end, shooting 5-20 from 3. That is well below their season averages of over 27 attempts (leading the league), and nearly 10 makes (2nd) per game, converting at over 10% worse than their seasonal average of 35.7%.
The following night, Houston played Golden State, and despite the Warriors having a post defender of similar ilk to Portland's Robin Lopez in Andrew Bogut, the Warriors elected to double Dwight Howard as soon as he started dribbling into his move in the post. Howard produced a much more modest 18 and 11 with 5 turnovers. However, the Rockets prevailed, shooting 12-29 from 3, bettering their season averages in makes, attempts and percentage (41.4%).
I don't think these two outcomes are unrelated. While I'm hesitant to declare the coverage of Howard the sole or even primary reason for the differing outcomes, (Make or Miss League is still a primary factor on a game-to-game basis) it has a lot to do with it. Posting up has two possible positive outcomes - either the guy who gets the ball scores or gets fouled, or the defense reacts to make him pass the ball, but in so doing puts other defenders at a disadvantage. Portland essentially asks the question "can you score, because we aren't going to help?"
On top of the possible mono-dimensional nature of a post play allowed to progress without the defense reacting or helping, these plays chew up shot clock. Especially for guys with a somewhat lumbering style based on sheer brawn in the post like Howard or Andrew Bynum, this approach is very much like the running game in football, with the offense executing fewer plays in the same amount of time. For example:
Of course, it is possible to generate quick post looks without running so much time off the clock, as in the following play where DeAndre Jordan executes a "rim run" in transition, burying Kevin Love under the hoop and scoring a layup in 6 seconds of shot clock time:
Of course, posting Smith in the monster lineup has obvious downsides for Detroit. If the threat of Smith posting is taken appropriately seriously and help does come, Monroe and Drummond are not exactly floor spacers or guys who thrive on attacking closeouts (as Parsons does in the Houston-Golden State example above). I think Pistons' opponents would be happy to live with the endless series of Brandon Jennings isolations which would be created by doubling Smith.