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Measures and countermeasures: videos of the pick and roll

I am out of town this week, traveling for work.  Through the magic of scheduled posting, I can bring you this short post on one of basketball's most basic plays -- the pick and roll.  Despite its simplicity, there is actually a lot going on with the pick and roll.  As we will see in the videos below, the defense has a number of different ways to try to disrupt the play, but the offense has a potential answer in every case.  Success comes down to skill and execution.

The pick and roll is a staple of basketball at all levels, from the driveway to the NBA.  In the pick and roll, one player sets a screen for the ball handler. Let's take a look at a basic pick and roll play.

Al Jefferon Pick and Roll (via SwagSoSickRick)


When running the pick and roll, the player setting the screen is usually a post player.  When you are defending this play in the driveway, you probably often switch defensive assignments on the screen, with the person guarding the screener switching to defend the ball handler.  We rarely see a switch at the highest levels of basketball, because it usually creates a huge mismatch for both the ball handler and the screening post player.  Even without the option of switching, the defense has a number of answers for how to defend the pick and roll.  Here is a video of Tom Izzo explaining the various ways that his teams defend the ball screen.

Video Tip Defending the Pick and Roll (via bongroviet)


The defense has many ways to defend a pick and roll.  This forces the offensive players to read the defense, and react in one of several different ways.  Each defensive approach creates a potential weakness in the defense.  While the music and editing of the video below are not really to my tastes, it does a pretty nice job of showing some of the different reads the offense can make depending on what approach the defense takes.

Pick and Roll Breakdown with Jamar Wilson: Presented by AFCA (via AFCAbasketball)

Many defenses focus on stepping out aggressively on the ball handler.  This was covered in the Tom Izzo video, but here is another clip that shows an example of this approach to defending the pick and roll.  At the highest levels of basketball, this is probably one of the very best ways to defend a ball screen.  There are two different plays in the clip below.  In the first play, notice how the defender who is guarding the screener steps out to impede the path of the ball handler.  This really disrupts the action.  In the second play of the clip, the defense plays more passively, which leads to a shot near the basket.

Heat Pick and Roll Defense (via beckleymason)

When the defense steps out on the ball handler, the screener needs to "slip" the screen and cut to the basket.  In this video clip Xavier coach Chris Mack explains how the offensive screener should slip if the defense attempts to step out to cut off the ball handler, and how the offensive player knows when to slip.

Chris Mack: Continuity Pick & Roll Offense (via SportsDVDs)


With all of the options that exist for the offense on the pick and roll, it generally takes more than two defenders to cover it.  Other players helping out becomes critical.  Here is a nice example where helping out on defense saves the day.

pick n roll gone bad (via dim183)


For the offense proper floor spacing and ball rotation become important when helping defenders collapse on the pick and roll.  Helping out in this way, while necessary for the defense, creates weaknesses that the offense can attack.  Few teams take advantage of the defense off of the pick and roll better than teams coached by Mike D'Antoni.  In the video below, D'Antoni talks about how the pick and roll and spreading the floor with three point shooters works to create an effective offense.  If the defenders stay with the shooters, the pick and roll can proceed unimpeded by help defense.  If the defenders collapse and help out, good ball rotation leads to an open three.


D'Antoni Explains the Knicks "Unguardable" Pick and Roll (via VintageRayAllen)

Hook 'Em, and see you next week.