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Pick and Roll Basketball

December 20, 2016

Image above:  Sturt Sabre stalwart Jan Warbout screens featured athlete Isaac White (6'1'' Combo Guard Class of 2017).  Jan is straddling the defender's feet and setting a crushing screen for Isaac.  Isaac then attacks Jan's hip gets on the rim drawing multiple defenders before dumping off to Daniel Johnson, waiting under ring, for an easy bucket. 



The pick and roll play is a critical part of the game internationally.  I have observed many, many players at ALL levels that have little capability in some of the intricacies of effective pick and roll play.  Is it being taught effectively at ALL levels? - I don't believe it is.  I hope to help solve this problem.


Why is the Pick and Roll such a big part of the game today?


1. The Court has "shrunk":


I feel as players get longer, more mobile and more athletic over the years the court has effectively shrunk.  


Unless you penetrate the paint, to engage help defenders, help defenders are able to still provide adequate defensive coverage to their own players in the case of perimeter ball movement.

You have less room to play in, with the shrinking court, so constant off ball screens for the sole benefit of providing a ball reversal and random perimeter ball movement, like was the case in the 90s, without pass or dribble penetration into the paint, does not shift defense enough.  


2. Refs protect wing play makers more:


Points of emphasis for referees, globally speaking, tend to be about freeing up dribble penetration and protecting the player with the ball.


When guarding the ball the hands fouls are called more regularly.


3. Defense has collapsed


Defense has moved to a packline style where help comes on the ball side so moving those defenders out to the other side of the floor, from the ball, or onto the ball, in the case of the on ball sceener, removes players out of the the pack.


4. Shot clock


The shot clock has been introduced to all levels of basketball and now on an offensive rebound it only resets to 14 seconds.  This creates a sense of urgency and need to penetrate the paint faster.


The Australian pathways have implemented a style of play to support our countries' strengths in international competition and this is also heavily reliant on pick and roll basketball but this is not really dissimilar to other nations competing in the sport internationally.  


I am constantly learning and adapting pick and roll play, trialing new ideas and learning from others.  I wanted to deliver a blog on pick and roll play because I feel it is so important to developing elite players and am often frustrated by how I see it being taught and played at all levels, albeit I also am sometimes able to note new teaching methods and ideas to improve myself as well.


The biggest problem I have with how it is taught is that players are fearful to make plays on pick and rolls, I constantly see them taking 1 or 2 dribbles off a pick and roll and making a perimeter pass.  The ball moves from one side of the court, across the the split-line to the other side, never entering the paint, as players are not taught how, or encouraged-to, to make plays and reads out of pick and rolls.   If you are not looking to score out of a pick and roll you will not engage defenders, you will not cause "wrinkles" in the defense, you will not be forcing them to make decisions because they don't need to worry about you randomly swinging the ball, if you are not going to attack the paint - and attempt to score.  As defense has adapted to guard pick and rolls I am also frustrated that few players are able to effectively use the screener and the pick and roll is constantly neutralised by the defense unnecessarily.


The purpose of pick and roll play


I always tell guys I want them all making plays out of pick and roll actions.  Every pick and roll needs to be seen as an opportunity to score, be it the guy with the ball coming off the pick and roll, the guy that set the pick or the other team mates, not