Always Back Down: The Effectiveness of Shaun Livingston Post-Ups

If you ask any Golden State Warriors fan what the most reliable shot is that they see game to game, number one is probably a Steph Curry three. Somewhere near the top, though, you’ll also see a Shaun Livingston post-up. Whether it’s a spin to the hoop or a fadeaway, the backup point guard’s post play has been one of the Warriors’ best offensive options all year. It never seems to miss (although it does, as all shots do). Even before he joined Golden State, Livingston was one of, or maybe the premier post-up guards in the league. Blessed with great height and length at his position as well as great touch, he’s all too used to abusing smaller guards during games. We know his post game passes the eye test, but let’s take a look at how effective it is by the numbers.

Parameters: To filter out low sample sizes, filters of a minimum 10% frequency and 60 games played was applied to offensive post numbers from NBA Stats. For Playoff stats, players on eliminated teams are included in rankings.

Livingston was excellent in the offensive post during the regular season this year. Among guards, he was first in frequency at 19.2% of attempts. He was second in effective field goal percentage (eFG%) at 50.6% behind Arron Afflalo. Among all players (including big men), he was 7th in eFG%, placing him in the 87.5 percentile of all players in the offensive post. He was also shooting for 1.00 points per possession, and drawing fouls well, though he did occasionally turn it over. Here’s a graph look:

FREQ eFG% FT Freq TO Freq AND1 Freq Score Freq
Reg. Ssn 19.2% 50.6% 7.4% 8.4% 3.2% 48.4%

Those are some solid numbers from your backup point guard. Basically, he was good for a minimum of 2 points on every other one of these shots, drawing foul shots about as often as he lost the ball (a fair amount of those for and-1 chances). So yeah, this was a really effective shot in the regular season.

Now we have to ask, what about the Playoffs so far? Shoved into a starter role due to injuries to Curry, Livingston has been asked to carry more of the load offensively than usual. Given how solid he is in the post and his relatively diminutive matchups (Patrick Beverly and Damian Lillard), it stands to reason he’d go to this shot more. In the playoffs, his frequency is slightly lower, but his possessions went up as well, so he’s attempting more of them, but as a piece of the total the amount is similar. In those increased opportunities, Livingston has gotten even more efficient. Here are his playoff numbers, compared to those above:

FREQ eFG% FT Freq TO Freq AND1 Freq Score Freq
Reg. Ssn 19.2% 50.6% 7.4% 8.4% 3.2% 48.4%
Playoffs 17.4% 61.5% 20.0% 0.0 6.7% 66.7%

It’s fair to point out that the playoffs are a relatively small sample size right now, but they’re also significantly more meaningful. So we’ll call it a wash, especially due to Livingston’s increased role.

Look at those numbers. He’s hitting shots from the offensive post at a clip of 61.5%, good for 3rd among all playoff players (including some who have been eliminated). He’s also drawing fouls on those shots nearly three times as often, and generating twice as many and-1 chances. It helps that he hasn’t turned it over in the post one single time, either. He’s good for points on two of every three attempts from the offensive post.

For perspective: a Klay Thompson spot-up shot comes in at 76.1 eFG% with a 56% scoring frequency and most of those are threes. Additionally, a playoffs Livingston offensive post up generates 1.27 points per possession (PPP). Thompson spot up? 1.48. Another fun comparison: Andrew Bogut putbacks clock in at 1.25 PPP and 62.5 eFG%. Livingston in the post is pretty much as efficient as his 7’2” center going for a putback, and fairly close to that of a feet-set shot from one of the greatest shooters ever. Now that’s bang for your buck.

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