Coaches Corner

How To Improve Big Man Post Play

Few positions on the basketball court are as pivotal to a basketball team as the post player. A player at any position can have impact, but no other position can change the game like a post player. Many of the rules we play by today are the result of post play. The foul lane was widened from 6 feet to 12 feet due to the play of Bill Russell. The rule that the ball cannot pass over the backboard came about as a reaction to Wilt Chamberlain. The no dunk rule now in effect....


The Trianale half-court offense originated with Sam Barry at the University of Southern California many years ago. It was further developed by former Kansas State head coach Tex Winter, who had played under Barry. Winter went on as assistant coach to Phil Jackson and the triangle offense was instrumental in the Chicago Bulls (Michael Jordan, et al) winning a number of NBA championships. Winter has also been a consultant to the LA Lakers.

Some college teams have adapted it, including the Tennessee Lady Vols and UConn's Lady Huskies. This article discusses the triangle in some depth with numerous diagrams below pointing out many of the options. Many of these diagrams point out how the offensive player(s) read and read to the defense.

The offense is detailed and takes a while to learn, but is very effective once players learn how to read and react to the defense. The offense can be confusing for the defense as it can be initiated in many different ways... not the same way with every possession (see "Establishing the Triangle" below).

Spacing is key, with players about 15-18 feet apart. The basic structure of the offense is the "sideline triangle" on one side of the floor, and a "two-man game" on the weakside. The sideline triangle is formed by a post player on the block and two perimeter players, one in the corner and one on the wing, and can be set up on either side of the court (diagrams A and B). The "two-man" weakside offense consists of a guard at the top, and a player at the weakside elbow-extended area. Players can interchange, but it's usually best to have two post and three perimeter players.

The spacing stretches the defense to defend both sides of the court, and this creates a problem for the helpside defense and defensive trapping. Unlike a free-lance motion offense, players should he looking to fill the five spots. But like a motion offense, players read and react to the defense without having to call set plays.

Establishing the Triangle

First, before discussing all of the options, we will outline the many ways, or entries, to get into the set. This can be confusing to the defense, and there is a counter for just about anything the defense throws at us. In each case, we want the ball on the wing and establish the sideline triangle.

1-2-2 set

In diagram C above, starting in a 1-2-2 set, 05 and 04 down-screen for 02 and 03, who cut out to the wings. The pass goes from 01 to the wing. 01 will cut to the ball-side corner, and the triangle is formed, with 05 in the low post. The weakside wing moves up to the top and the weakside post player moves to the weakside elbow-extended area. 02, 01 and 05 form the sideline triangle. 03 and 04 are positioned to run the "two-man game".

Point guard inside cut

In diagram D, 01 passes to 02 and cuts inside, off 05's screen (near the ball-side elbow). 02 has the option of passing to 01 on the give and go for a possible lay-up from 01 (diagram E). If the pass from 02 is not there. 01 can move to the ball-side corner (diagram D), while 05 drops back down to the block. Or 01 could cut to the opposite corner (diagram F).

In this case. the ball is reversed to the top to 03, and then to 04 who has stepped out on the wing, while 05 cuts to the left block... and now the triangle is established on the left side. 02 and 03 would now be the weakside "two-man game". with 02 dropping inside a little near the weakside elbow.

Point guard outside cut

In diagram G, 01 passes to 02 and cuts outside 02 to the corner, and the triangle is set. An option here is a hand-off from 02 to 01. If the X1 defender is screened by 02, 01 can drive to the hoop (diagram H). Recognizing this, 05 slides up to the elbow for spacing and a possible pass there from 01.

If the X1 defender goes underUte screen trnagram lb v I am II up and shoot the jump shot. If the X2 and X1 defenders switch the screen (diagram J), 01 and 02 run a pick and roll.

Dribble entry - wing pass denied

When the pass to the wing is being denied, 01 can simply dribble to the wing, as 02 slides down to the corner (diagram K). Sometimes, with X2 overplaying the pass, 02 can back-cut for a pass from 01 (diagram L). Here again, 05 slides up to the elbow.

Diagram M shows 01 dribbling right and 02 cutting through to the opposite corner. The ball is reversed from 01 to 03 on the top, and then to 04 (who has stepped out to the wing). 05 cuts to the left block, and now the triangle established on the left side. 01 and 03 are now the "two-man game".

Weakside guard cuts to ball-side corner

Diagram N shows 01 passing to 02, but this time 03 cuts through to the ball-side corner, while 01 replaces 03 at the top.

Weakside post cuts to ball-side corner

Diagram 0 again shows 01 passing to 02. 05 screens for 04 and 04 cuts to the ball-side corner 03 drops into the weakside elbow to replace 04, and 01 replaces 03 at the top.

Any player could Owe the low post

Although X5 and X4 are our main post players, any player can post up on the low block. This strategy could be effective when there is a size mis-match with one of the guards, or a perimeter defender is in foul trouble... so we post up his man and try to get another foul on him/her. We simply move 05 out to the corner and let another player take the low post. Diagram P shows 01 posting up. Diagram 0 has 03 in the post (01 replaces 03 on top). In diagram R, 04 posts up, while 03 drops inside to replace 04 and 01 replaces 03.

Weave-screen (dribble hand-off) entry

Another way to set up the offense is shown in diagram S. Here, 01 does a weave-screen (dribble hand-off) with 03. Often the X2 defender will drop inside to hedge on the dribble by 03. This allows for an easy pass to 02 on the wing, and 03 cuts through to the ball-side corner. 01 moves to the top.

Wing denial - ball reversal

Above we mentioned that if X2 denies the pass to 02, 01 could simply dribble to the wing as 02 slides to the corner. Another option (when the wing pass is denied) is to reverse the ball to the opposite side. In diagram T, 01 passes to 03 and cuts through to the opposite corner. 03 passes to 04 on the wing and 05 cuts to the left low block. 02 moves to the weakside elbow-extended area.

Diagram U shows the same reversal but with 02 cutting to the opposite corner, and 01 dropping inside to the weakside elbow-extended area. Diagram V again shows the ball-reversal, but this time 03 cuts to the corner, with 02 dropping inside to the weakside elbow-extended area.

Another example of ball-reversal is a skip pass from the low post to the opposite wing (diagram W). 02 passes in to 05. 01 cuts baseline for a possible hand-off from 05. If the hand-off is not there, 01 continues through (getting a screen from 04) and moves to the opposite corner. 05 skip passes to 03 on the opposite wing and 01; 03 and 04 create the triangle.

Diagrams X and Y show reversal again, beginning with 02 passing to 01 in the corner, and then making a give and go cut. 02 goes through: again receiving a screen from 04. 05 now runs a pick and roll with 01. As 01 dribbles around 05's screen into the top seam: in addition to the pick and roll options, or a jump shot from 01, there is an option for ball reversal with a kick-out pass to 03 on the left wing. The triangle again is established with 03, 02 and 04.

Sideline Triangle Options

We have already discussed above some hand-off and pick and roll options between 01 and 02 (on 01's outside cut to the corner). and a give and go option on 01's inside cut to the corner. When the ball is on the wing, the first option is always to look to pass into the post. The post player can make a strong post move (discussed below), or we can run one of these options.

Corner pass options

Look back at diagrams X and Y above. 02 passes to the corner and cuts through for a give and go pass from 01, while 05 slides up to the elbow (for spacing). If the pass is not there, 02 cuts opposite, and now 05 screens for 01; running the pick and roll.


Diagram Z... either 02 or 01 passes into the post 05. 01 and 02 cut around 05 with the passer cutting first. A hand-off from 05 (or a little dump-pass) can get 01 or 02 an easy shot. If the X5 defender, in the confusion, gets more concerned about helping stop the cutters, 05 can fake a hand-off and make a strong move to the hoop.

Post-split off corner screen

Diagram 1 shows 02 screening for 01, and then splitting the post along the baseline. 01 splits 05 in the top seam.

High post-split

The high-post split features three cutters (diagram 2). 01 initially cuts baseline on the pass to 05. 02 splits 05 in the top seam into the lane, while 03 cuts inside and splits 05 on the low side. 05 can drop the pass off to any of the cutters, or make his/her own move. 04 would have to rotate up top as our safety, and for spacing for 02's cut.

Wina screens opposite Diagram

3. After passing into 05, 02 screens opposite for 04. 04 comes hard over the screen for a possible pass from 05 and an elbow jump-shot. 01 cuts baseline. In fact, without calling anything special here, you can make this a routine screen whenever a guard cuts into the top seam and does not receive the ball... he/she then screens for the weakside post (04).

Wing dribble-drives the too seam

Diagram 4. Any time the wing's defender (X2) has dropped inside to help prevent the pass to 05, 02 can dribble-drive the top seam into the lane for the lay-up, pull-up jump shot. dump pass to 05, or kick out pass to 03 on the opposite wing. With X2 sagging inside, 02 could also shoot the 3-point shot.

Backdoor lob to weakside post

Diagram 4B. There are times in this offense (e.g. when the pass from the wing to the top is denied) when 04 will cut to the ball-side elbow for a pass. If this is being denied, 04 can back-cut for the lob from 02

"Runner" or "Circle"

Diagram 5. The wing player can trigger 01 to clear out and run the baseline to the opposite corner by yelling something like "runner, or "circle". Now 02 and 05 play a two-man game with 05 screen and rolling for 02 (pick and roll). Other options off this strong-side two-man game are discussed below.

"Clear" - clear out for wing

Diagram 6. 02 can call something like "clear or "C" to clear out the side, so he/she can take the X2 defender 1-on-1. 01 cuts to the opposite corner, 05 moves to the opposite elbow, while 04 moves to the opposite wing.

Post Offense

A strong low post offense is a big part of this offense. The pass to the low post is always the first option. Now we will discuss low post options, and reacting to the post defense.

Post being full-fronted

Diagram 8. Here the X5 defender is full-fronting the post 05. If 04 stays high on the weakside, there often is no helpside defender. 05 pins X5 outside and 02 makes a lob pass to 05. We can also feed the post from the top. Diagram 9 shows 05 sealing the X5 defender as the pass goes to the top. A quick pass from 03 to 05 is another chance for a power lay-up. Diagram 10 shows a feed from the high post 04. Again, 05 seals the defender and gets the pass inside.

Post being half-fronted from the top

In diagram 11. the post is being half-fronted from the top. Here 05 seals X5 as the pass goes to the corner. Ifs usually an easy curl bounce pass from 01 to 05, and 05 makes the power baseline move.

Post being half-fronted from the baseline side

In diagram 12, the post is being half-fronted from the baseline side. 05 seals X5. If 02 takes one hard dribble toward the top, the left-handed bounce pass can then be made directly into 05. 05 makes the jump hook or baby hook into the lane.

Post defender playing behind

In diagram 13, the post defender X5 is playing behind 05. 05 seals X5. and 02 has an easier pass into 05. 05 can make one of many post moves, or pivot, face the defender and shoot. or shot-fake and go to the rim.

Isolate the post

( Diagram 14 shows how we can isolate the low post player and let him/her take the X5 defender 1-on-1. 02 passes into 05, and then lateral screens for 03. 01 cuts baseline and then screens for 04. This cutting and screening action occupies the other defenders, allowing 05 to go 1-on-1.

Avoiding the post double-team

If the post player is getting double-teamed a lot. there are ways to avoid the trap. If the double-team comes from the opposite wing X3 (diagram 15). 05 can move a little toward the short corner. as this is usually too far for the helpside defender to venture. If the trap comes from the opposite post (diagram 16), 05 can move up to toward the elbow. again too far away for the opposite post helpside defender.

Skip gassing from the double-team

If the post player gets double-teamed (diagram 17) by the opposite wing defender X3. a skip pass to the vacated wing is usually a good option. Notice how 01 cuts to the weakside corner (getting a screen from 04), while 03 spots up on the wing. The X4 defender will have difficulty covering both 03 and 01 (diagram 18). And there will often be a mis-match in the low post with 04 being defended by X1. 03 can make the extra pass to a wide open 01 in the corner, or into the post mis-match.