In the Eastern Conference Finals Paul George found himself defended by Ray Allen or Dwyane Wade frequently. With a four to five inch height advantage, George should have been able to post up the smaller Miami guards.
That’s something Larry Bird wants George to work on next season.
"Get down in the post. Take some of these younger guys down there and work out of the post, not only to score but to create double teams and opportunities for his teammates to have better looks at the basket," Bird said in his post season press conference.
Allen and Wade aren’t the young guys, but George also had matchups with Bradley Beal and Mario Chalmers. But George never exploited these matchups with smaller players.
For the season George’s worst offensive play type was the post up, per Synergy Sports. He scored .68 points per possession on 109 post ups or 4.9 percent of George’s possessions. Out of the post George shot poorly, 30 percent, and didn’t draw fouls at a high rate, 8.3 percent of possessions.
Compared to other small forwards in the NBA, George’s post up numbers look atrocious.
2014 post up numbers. Includes the regular season and postseason through June 11.
So why does George struggle in the post? It starts with strength. He is often pushed too far out by smaller defenders, so his post up possession starts 15 feet away from the basket.
Ray Allen is guarding George and has managed to force George far away from the basket. Instead of being near the three-point line, George needs to work at getting better position before he gets the ball, like here against Atlanta.
The majority of George post ups came as isolated post ups on one side of the floor like in the first picture. Luis Scola is screening George Hill for a flare screen that Indiana uses during post ups. But otherwise there isn’t a good option for George to pass.
In the second picture, Indiana has used a horns set and gotten the ball to Hibbert beyond the three-point line. George made a quality cut that allowed him to get deep positioning.
So the post up struggles aren’t entirely George’s fault. Better sets can get him better position. And if Bird wants George to be able to pass out of the post, Frank Vogel needs to be more creative with his players off-ball movement.
Here’s an in-bound play that got George the ball on the block. After showing some patience, George attacks Trevor Ariza and gets a layup.
But that is a rarity. Most of George’s shots out of post ups are his fall away mid-range jumpers.
This is a semi-transition possession, where Bradley Beal picked George up in transition. As the post up started, Nene came over to help, and George fired up a low percentage shot with 17 seconds on the shot clock.
But George can make this shot. His super star games often include mid-range excellence. When he has the fall away jumper dropping, George becomes the dynamic offensive threat that Indiana needs.
But these are not efficient shots, and they are the reason that George shot just 30 percent on post ups this season. They also attribute to George’s lower rate of drawing fouls. He is more likely to jump away – rather than into – the defense.
But would the Pacers offense even benefit from trying to get George into the post more often? He’s not going to have the strength or scoring prowess of LeBron James or Kevin Durant.
It is probably in the best interest of the Pacers to enhance George’s strengths and improve his ball handling. But if Bird does want to see George in the post more often, then Indiana has to get better off-ball movement around George.