A lethal two-man game
The pick-and-roll is a ubiquitous sight at all levels of basketball, from pick-up games to the pros. The reason for this is simple: by utilizing the differing talents of two players, you are able to consistently create mismatches and force the opposing defenses into vulnerable positions. When done the right way, this basic yet evergreen play is one of the deadliest weapons in a team’s playbook. Here are a few small ways to perfect this play:
Body contact: The ball-handler has to go as close to the screener as possible when utilizing the pick. Ideally, they should come into close contact so that there is no space between their bodies. This prevents defensive players from getting close to the ball-handler, especially if they try to go over the screen, putting sufficient space between the two players.
Fakes: If the ball-handler uses a screen directly, the defensive player will have the time and space to attempt to fight through the screen. By using a sharp misdirection, ball-handlers can force their men to collide into a pick in their blind spot, effectively forcing a switch. Similarly, the ball-handler can fake or probe with a hesitation move after coming into contact with the screener, to prevent the defense from making an early decision.
Passing: This is an underrated aspect of the pick-and-roll, but the pocket pass in such situations can be an artform. If you have an athletic big, this is an opportune moment for a lob to the rim, but a bounce pass into space can often work just as well. You are unlikely to be able to force a direct chest pass into the paint, but understanding the passing angles can create opportunities for a good shot.
Rolling to the basket: Beyond just establishing position, timing and footwork are also crucial for the screener. By turning only after coming into contact with the ball-handler and by opening to the ball on the turn, the big man setting the pick is able to simultaneously seal off the defensive guard while keeping their eyes on the ball, ready to receive the pass at any moment.