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The Greatest Low Post Presence in the Past Decade
In the playoffs, each possession becomes more valuable. The games slow down, and half-court spacing and execution become the most important part of the offensive game. Recent NBA history proves that teams need a consistent low-post scoring threat to provide the proper floor spacing.
When a team establishes that a single defender cannot stop their low-post player from "finishing strong at the rim," or making high-percentage shots in the paint, passing, cutting and driving lanes are created and space is surrendered for perimeter players to catch and shoot.
Since the 1997-1998 season, only the '03-'04 Pistons have won a championship without Shaquille O'Neal, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett or Pau Gasol. Shaq was MVP of the Finals three times. Duncan was MVP of the Finals twice. Most important is that in every case there has been a great perimeter player that has won with one of those players but has never gotten a sniff of the Finals before or after playing with one of these future Hall of Famers.
Kobe won with Shaq but never made it back to the Finals until the Lakers got Gasol. Wade never got to the Finals until Shaq came to the Heat and has only dreamed about them since. The Finals were just a fantasy for Paul Pierce until the Celtics acquired Garnett. Pierce and Ray Allen went nowhere the next year when Garnett was hurt. The Celtics got off to a great start in 2009-2010 with a healthy Garnett. Garnett got hurt, the Celtics slumped.
Garnett came back, but he wasn't quite himself, and the Celtics got to the Finals, even though many thought they would lose to the younger Cavaliers. The Celtics lost in seven to Kobe and Gasol after losing one of their post defenders to injury.
As a poignant aside, the Cavaliers lost the Eastern Conference Championship series two years in a row to teams with an offensive post threat.
Conversely, it seems every year there is yet another retooled, run-and-gun team taking the NBA by storm. Their teams are built around a great perimeter player such as the Phoenix Suns' lock for "the Hall" Steve Nash, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant between centers or LeBron James. It's fun to watch these teams amass victories in the regular season, but they do not win championships
Chis Bosh is not a low-post scorer. He can score down low, but his inside scoring is set up by his face-up jumper from 15 feet. Bosh is playing well right now, but his game does not facilitate spacing and team execution the way a back-to-the-basket post player does.
Zydrunas Ilgauskas seems to fit in well with the Heat because he and LeBron have great "pick-and-pop" chemistry that they built together in Cleveland. His offensive game doesn't clog the middle, which enables the three young stars to drive the lane. Ilgauskas is too slow to provide a consistent low-post threat without clogging the lane.
What is the short-term solution? The Bulls had Bill Cartwright, Luc Longley and a bevy of less-than-dependable scorers in the post. What did they do? They stuck Jordan down there to shoot that indefensible turnaround, fall-away jumper, and that saw them through.
I don't know if LeBron has a post game, but he should get one. A passer like James in the post would be a devastating weapon. Whether it's James or someone they trade for, sign, or develop, the Heat are going to need a low-post scorer from somewhere if they are to win a championship.