Pick and Roll Offense | Basics, Ways to Set Screen, Advanced P’n’R

what is a pick and rollPick and roll is one of the major basketball offensive plays. It was invented in the middle of 70’s in the former ABA league and culminated in 90’s. Until today it became the key element in tactics of many great coaches. Advantages of this play even lead some teams to finals.

It’s usually performed by a guard and one of two big men because of their physical attributes. Guard is short and agile, he moves very well and can create an advantage after leaving the screen. Also, shorter basketball players are usually better shooters so cleared space leaves them the opportunity to show it.

On the other hand, centers are huge and less mobile but exceptionally superior when they get into the paint. This advantage of course also depends on the quality of a pass.

But there’s also a few options regarding positions involved in a pick and roll. Today, there’s a large number of versatile players who can play both roles. If you have two of those players, it’s tough to organize the defense on them, as they easily create mismatches.

Pick and roll offense by definition

Pick and roll offense by definition involves two players.

The first player has the possession (most often it is a point guard or shooting guard who’s guarded by another guard) and moves towards the opponents half, towards the opponent hoop.

The second player (most often it’s center) approaches him from the front, usually at the right angle and sets a screen and slows down, or sometimes completely stops the opponent’s guard.

The guard then passes by that pick, and the player who set up the pick turns around the opponent’s guard and moves in a parallel direction along with his guard towards the basket. That’s followed by a pass from the guard to the center.

When the center receives the pass after he gets into the paint, he needs to decide what’s he going to do next. And the more extra skills that big guy has, besides height and power, the more options a team has.

  1. The scoring
    Most often that’s a dunk or lay-up.
  2. A pass back to guard
    When the center receives the ball, the guard gets forgotten by the defense, and he can punish it with a good move towards the basket literally behind the back of the guy who guards him. And while everyone’s focused on the ball, the center returns the bass to a player from whom he got it from who’s then in the opportunity to finish the play.

Advanced pick and roll offense

Although two players are involved in performing the pick and roll, for the opposing team sometimes the rest of the five can be a nightmare, especially if they’re good shooters.

At these moments, the defense is not paying much attention to them, so they have more room to make a shot. There are two options here.

The first option is when the point guard with the ball decides to pass to some of the open players after running around the screen. That opens up a lot of space for scoring.

When a team plays like that, it’s the common thing that we don’t even notice the point guard. We don’t even have the impression that he did an outstanding job before we see that the stats show a twofold number of assists.

But it also depends on the movement of the other players or, to say it more precisely, it depends on the (right) timing of their movement so that they would be able to receive an adequate pass and then shoot the ball.

It’s clear that the players need actually to make the shot. Otherwise, the game is not effective. There’s no plan B here.

Watch the first 15 seconds of the following video to see what I’m talking about.

The second option here is is that the center passes to a player in an opportunity to shoot (most often on the wing because from that position defense needs to help their center).

This is more complicated but difficult to defend. You need to have good shooters here who can make consecutive treys all day.

Two ways to set up a screen

When we talk about the screen that is being set up, there are also some differences.

  1. 90-degree angle screen
    If the basic idea is to open a space to a guard, the center will set a screen under the 90-degree angle and that will make the opponent guard disengaged from the player he guards. The bad side of this is that the less agile centers often have a hard time engaging in later in the play, so it’s easier to defend them.
  2. A screen at the angle of fewer than 90 degrees
    This makes it easier for the center to turn and get in the open position faster. In this situation, the opposing guard isn’t stopped but just slowed down, but still can take advantage of at least one step. This type of pick and roll opens up many more options, but it’s usually used just by the best teams in the world. Why? Well, it the screen is not set with extreme precision, better defensive players easily break it down (Draymond Green is the man in this. Screens are almost unusable against him). But, if everything is done right, this play produces the results.

The best pick and roll combo in the NBA history

John Stockton was a 6’0,” and 170 lbs point guard who looked more like a church boy, not like a basketball player who grew up to be the best passer and stealer in the best basketball league in the world in which the physical attributes and athleticism play a major role.

As opposed to Stockton, Karl Malone was a 6’9” and 250 lbs power forward with fascinating speed for the man of that size and muscles. We can now say that he had the ideal proportions for his position.

Stockton was the 16th pick in the legendary 1984 draft and Malone 13th in the 1985 draft. Since then, they have entered the playoffs for 18 years in a row. In the beginning, they didn’t have leading roles in Jazz, but with time and help of coach Jerry Sloan, they became leaders of the team.

Sloan made Stockton and Malone the best pick and roll duo in the NBA history. He did it implementing one of the most straightforward basketball plays, which was at the time something new – a pick and roll. They have perfected it, and for years it has been the foundation of the Utah Jazz offense.

The best basketball and the most inspiring basketball is simple basketball.