In basketball what is a pick and roll? Every great player in the league from LeBron James to Kyle Lowry has mastered the art of the pick-and-roll. It’s one of the first plays many players who have made it to the NBA learned when they first picked up a ball.
But what is the pick-and-roll and how does it work? Let’s take a look and find out.
The pick-and-roll (or screen-and-roll) is when a teammate puts their body in front of the defender who is guarding the player who has the basketball. This is called a pick or a screen .
Once the pick is set, the player with the basketball will then move towards the pick, which prevents the defender from following them.
The pick-setter will then roll or move towards the basket so that the ball handler now has two options: pass the ball or take it themselves for a shot.
The pick-and-roll is usually used by a guard who is handling the ball and a taller or bigger player, either the forward or centre setting the pick. It can also be used the other way around with a taller player handling the basketball and a smaller player setting the screen, but that’s far less common.
Players like Toronto Raptors guard Fred VanVleet have become NBA stars learning how to use the pick-and-roll effectively, but it was made famous by NBA Hall of Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone in the 1990s.
Today, every team uses their own version of the pick-and-roll which helps them create easier ways to score.
Now that you know what the pick-and-roll is, can you count how many times it’s used the next time you watch a basketball game?
What Is a Pick and Roll?
The pick and roll works with three people: two offensive players and one defender. One offensive player acts as the “screen” or the “pick” by standing tightly alongside the ball-handling teammate; the first offensive player’s goal is to act as a block to the defender so that his or her teammate may move freely across the court.
The two offensive players then work together to move toward the basket (known as the “roll”) and score. The direction of movement on the court dictates the different types of screens; for example, a down screen begins at the three-pointer line and moves down the court towards the basket.
The History of the Pick and Roll
The pick and roll rose to prominence in the 1990s, most notably used by the Utah Jazz duo John Stockton and Karl Malone. It has continued to evolve and remain popular in today’s game with Golden State Warriors’ duo Stephen Curry and Draymond Green.
How to Pick and Roll
Every basketball player should take time to practice the pick and roll, including how to recognize when a basketball screen is needed and how to become a useful screen yourself.
Defend Your Pick and Roll
Practice the pick and roll with some friends or teammates, with one person acting as the defender, one acting as the pick or the screen, and one as the ball handler. (If you do not have a third person to practice as the defense, a chair can act as a good stand-in for a defender.)
The defender can decide to either run into the screen, fight over the top of the screen, or shoot the gap, and the ball-handler can read and react according to Stephen’s advice. See if you can notice any subtle clues in your partner’s body language that help you know which way he or she is headed earlier in the play.
Watch for Good Screens in Live Games
You can also learn by watching how ball screens unfold during real NBA games, and be on the lookout for them the next time you catch a game on television. Can you spot the techniques Stephen teaches during a live game? Look out for ball-handlers starting at the level of the screen, getting low and grabbing the screener’s calf, surveying the floor after coming around the screen, and rejecting the screen.
The basic methodology behind the pick and roll can apply to a number of variations on the court. Try two of the more common techniques the next time you find yourself setting up a basketball screen:
Pick and pop
The pick and pop is an offensive move in which your screener “pops” over to an open spot on the court instead of towards the basket to receive the ball pass. This is also sometimes called the pick and fade move.
Pick and slip
This fake-out maneuver has the screener pretending to set a screen to throw off the defense. The “screener” then slips behind the defensive player and receives a pass.
Becoming an expert at the pick and roll, including knowing when to identify when the technique is needed and how to best effectively execute it in the heat of the game, will have you on your way to become the MVP of your team.
How To Run a Pick and Roll in Basketball
The pick and roll, or screen and roll, is a simple offensive play that is useful at all levels from drills at a Nike Basketball Camp to games at the pro-level. This play is run with two offensive players and is designed to create an open shot or make the defense switch, which can cause a mismatch for either the ball handler or picker.
There are many different variations of this play, but to help your players master it, it is important for them to understand the fundamental techniques and tactics.
When you first introduce this play, make it simple. Assume that the defenders are not going to throw something crazy so your team can understand a pick and roll in its simplest form.
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