Instead of spreading the floor with three-point shooters, Washington Wizards head coach Randy Wittman may want to use his big men in the high post to stretch the defense. But how are the Wizards' big men suited for this new role? With the help of MySynergySports.com and NBA.com, let's take a look at the pros and cons of putting Nene, Emeka Okafor, Kevin Seraphin and Trevor Booker in the high post.
Nene could be the team's best option in the high post. He faces up the opposition on many of his post-ups, so he has familiarity with taking his man off the dribble. In fact, he broke out a couple nice drives from the high post against the Nets late last season.
Nene shot good percentages on his jumpers from the free throw line and at top of the key last year, but he has rarely found himself shooting from those spots over his career. In the past few years, if he wasn't right under the rim, you were much more likely to find him shooting from the wings than straight on. Nene also boasts the best assist rate (by far) among this group of frontcourt players. Could Nene be forced into leaving usual position right next to the hoop because his frontcourt mates aren't good enough to play the high post?
Considering Okafor's poor free throw percentages over his career, one wouldn't expect him to be successful at shooting jumpers from the same spot when the defense is guarding him. But Okafor has been surprisingly good, shooting an impressive 59 percent on 34 free throw line jumpers. (Don't ask him to take a step back though; he's only taken eight shots from the top of the key in the last three years.)
That said, the vast majority of these shots came out of the pick-and-roll/pop. One would be hard-pressed to find him getting the ball at the high post, turning and facing the basket and making a play. When Okafor did get the ball in the free-throw line area, usually as a part of the Hornets horns set, he was primarily a passer. He rarely looked to shoot or drive, regardless of whether the defense was giving him space or pressing him.
Despite Okafor's surprisingly above average shooting from the free throw line, there's not much evidence of him being a versatile high post player. His shots mostly came from pick-and-rolls, and, as the video showed, the passes he was making were quite simple. With the Wizards, besides getting to that spot via pick-and-roll, Okafor could find success in flashing to the high post for a quick jumper. Anything more than that and he would likely be slowing down the offense.
Seraphin showed off an improved game last season, and that included a new jump shot. He was particularly effective from the free-throw line area, shooting nearly 60 percent on 29 attempts. Perhaps more importantly, Seraphin looked like he had a nice feel for when to make himself available at the high post. Unlike Okafor, the majority of his jumpers from this spot did not come from pick-and-rolls. Instead, Seraphin flashed to the open area and to hit the shot.
Seraphin also showed some potential for good decision making outside of catch and shoot situations. In the video below, he looks for the entry pass to Nene, and then drives to the basket when his defender sags off. If Seraphin was more of a distributor, he could have found the spot-up shooter on the weak side of the floor, but it's probably too much to ask of a young big man.
Seraphin looks comfortable with the ball in the high post, but it remains to be seen if he can make the necessary passes or attack the defense off the dribble when the opportunity arises.
Randy Wittman's emphasis on the high post might just help Booker the most of all. Booker's physical abilities lend themselves to be a nice fit at the high post. As an undersized power forward, he's not quick enough to consistently get from the perimeter to the rim. However, he is quick enough to take one dribble and get from the free throw line to the rim. Last year, Booker had some spot-up and pick-and-roll opportunities where he got the ball at the high post with the defense scrambling, and he was impressive at times. The video below shows a few isolation possessions Booker had in the middle of the floor. His combination of quickness and power lends itself nicely to driving from there.
Booker said that he's been working on his jumper all offseason, and based on his improvement last offseason, that will probably be a good thing. Booker went from a rookie who never shot from the outside to a second year player who was a fairly successful shooter from the top of the key.
Just like with Emeka Okafor, those shots will be harder when he gets the ball at the high post and has to read the defense, but I have greater faith in Booker hitting those semi-contested shots than Okafor.
Booker's high post passing abilities remain to be seen, but he did have the gem shown below. Booker times his cut to the high post well and is able to hit Nene with his man sealed on his back.
The Wizards don't have the perfect roster for using the high post; there just aren't enough Gasols to go around. But considering the options, things could be worse. Nene and Booker have the abilities to beat defenses with their speed, strength and shooting. Seraphin would likely be better off staying in the low post, but when he is used strictly as a jumpshooter, he looked comfortable.
Where this group will probably fall short is in their passing ability. Wittman wants to use the high post, but none of these players give him the option to run the offense through the high post. He may have to get creative to make the most out of the talents they do have.