The Pick and Roll

The pick and roll is one of the simplest plays to execute offensively. While it may be simple to run, if executed properly, it can be a nightmare for defenses to defend. That is why you have seen the pick and roll trickle down from the NBA all the way to the youth and high school levels. 

What Is the Pick and Roll?

  1. The Pick: An offensive player sets a screen for another offensive player who currently has the ball. This is also known as a ball screen.
  2. The offensive player dribbles around the ball screen and looks to score.
  3. The Roll: The screener, opens up to the ball, and cuts to the basket.

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Tips For Executing the Pick and Roll

Some NBA Players have literally made a hall-of-fame career off of the pick and roll.  Use these tips to get better at executing the pick and roll, and your team will benefit from it tremendously. 

Ball Handler Pick and Roll Tips

  • Get low and balanced - This enables you to explode by the defender and prevents the defense from easily knocking you off balance with a forearm or slight bump.
  • Wait for the screen - Too many times, players get anxious and leave too early. This makes it easy for your opponents to defend and can also result in an offensive foul (moving screen) on the screener because you started dribbling around the screen too early. It's better to be late than early when coming off of screens.
  • Fake opposite - set up your defender so you can run them directly into the screen. If they still don't play you honestly, you can turn down the screen and attack the basket.
  • Attack! - Attack and be aggressive when you dribble off of the ball screen. More good things will happen when you are aggressive and under control versus when you are tentative. 
  • Head up and see the floor - See and anticipate what the defense is going to do. Great defenses will have good help side defense versus the pick and roll. See where the defense is going and locate the open man.

Screener Pick and Roll Tips 

  • Communicate - You should let the ball handler know that you are going to set a ball screen by raising a fist and calling out the ball handler's name. 
  • Sprint to area - You should sprint to the area that you are going to screen. This will give the defense little time to react and make it more difficult for them to defend the ball screen.
  • Be stationary - Don't get an unnecessary foul. Stop moving and stay stationary as the ball handler dribbles around your pick. 
  • Be big - Get your feet spread a little wider than shoulder width apart, knees bent, and hips down. This makes it harder for the defense to move you or nudge by you.
  • Roll - After the screen is set, try to pin the defender on your back, reverse pivot and open up to the ball, and roll to the basket. Reach up your hand in order to give the passer a target.
  • Head up and see the floor - Good defenses will have help side defense on the pick and roll. As you receive the pass rolling to the basket, keep your head up so you can see if there is a help side defender. This will help you avoid the charge by sliding around the defender or stopping and passing to an open player.

More Options For the Ball Screen

While the pick and roll is certainly the most popular and can be one of the most effective options when utilizing the ball screen, there are other options for the screener and the ball handler. By understanding these options, you will be more of a threat. These are not the only options for attacking the ball screen, but they are some of the most effective.

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Ball Handler Options

Straight-line attack

This is when the ball handler dribbles off the screen and dribbles directly towards the basket. If the defense plays behind the screener, this option will typically be open.

Attack the hedge

One of the most common defensive strategies is to hedge. By attacking the hedge, this will force the post player to make a choice. Do they stay on you or run back to their post player?

If they switch and you get a post player guarding you, you can immediately attack or back up to give yourself some momentum to attack the bigger and usually slower player.

Another option is to pass the ball to the screener because they should have an advantage in the post with a smaller guard on them.

Pro Tip: When coming off of the ball screen, it's important to attack the defender's shoulder and take two hard dribbles off of the screen.

Split the hedge

Now after scoring a few times off of the pick and roll, the defender guarding the screener may get overly concerned and want to avoid getting beat again, so they slide way out on top of the screen and create separation between them and the screener. If this occurs, you can change direction and attack the gap between the screener's defender and screener.

Turn down the screen

Now you might start to notice that the player guarding you is starting to cheat over the top of the screen. This is when you fake high and drive the opposite direction.

Screener Options

Roll
If the defense switches or hedges, the roll to the basket will often be open for the screener.

Slip
If you see your defender start to cheat high on the ball screen, cut to the basket before the ball handler comes off of the screen. It's good to mix this in order to keep the defense honest.

Pop
If you have the ability to shoot the outside shot, you open up the ball and find an open spot along the perimeter or high post. This is very effective against defenses that collapse towards the basket on the pick and roll.

Summary

In order to maximize opportunities with the pick and roll, you must practice and understand options as a ball handler and screener.  You must be able to read the defense and how they play they choose to defend the pick and roll. When run properly, the pick and roll can be a go to play and very difficult to defend. Just ask anyone who has had to guard John Stockton and Karl Malone.

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