What is a Pick and Roll: How to Execute and Defend

The pick and roll is a classic basketball move. In this offensive play, a player becomes a ‘screen’ for their teammate who is handling the ball.

The Basics

The objective of the pick and roll is to give the offensive team an advantage. There are four ways this can happen:

  • 1 - Offensive players are open because two players end up guarding the ball handler after the screen.
  • 2 - Defensive switch in which the guard has a weaker defender on them or the screener has a weaker defender on them.
  • 3 - Defensive miscommunication on how they are defending the screen. This creates ‘slip’ opportunities and open shots for the ball handler.
  • 4 - Defensive tagging and X-outs that open up swing opportunities and difficult defensive scrambles.
Play Video

NBA Trainer DJ Sackmann discusses the concept of refusing a ball screen when the on ball defender brings the inside foot over the screen early.

Simplifying a Ball Screen

  • 1. Ball handler uses (Refuses) screen and Finds Space.
  • 2. Screener sets a hard screen and finds space with a roll or pop.
  • 3. The Third Player reads the screener and fills the open space or works off another action.

Spacing is Key for a Strong Offense

A ball screen brings two offensive players together.  But afterward the screen, it’s important that the ball handler and screener read the D and find space.

-The ball handler does this by ‘attacking the screen’ The Screener does this by using his ‘Screener Options’

 (see below for defensive breakdown).

Game situations – This segment focuses on defending a step up screen by funneling the offensive player to the sideline and not letting him split the step up.

Play Video

3 Steps for Ball Handlers

FSR: Feel, See and Read

1.     Feel your defender

When setting up the ball screen, you will be able to feel/see if your defender is:

-Trailing on your hip or your back

  • Going under the screen
  • Playing in front to fight over the screen
  • Jumping on hip to not allow you to use the screen “ice”

Players can typically start to “feel” what the coverage is by the way the on-ball defender is guarding the screen.

2.     See the Screener’s Defender (Hedger)

Before coming off the screen we want our players to “peek” at the hedger to get a feel for the coverage as well.

3.     Read the Third Player’s Defender

Before coming off the screen, the player should have a feel for the “third” defender to understand how the help side is covering. Keep in mind that this is situational; it’s based on who’s playing and the flow of the game.

It’s important the ball handler has the ability to read that defender and attack, score, or deliver the ball to the screener or third player on time and on target.

Types of screens: 

"Sideline"

Sideline pick and roll happens when screeners back is towards midline and on ball attacks from wing to middle of the floor. 

"Spain Screen"

Spain actions occurs when the screener gets a back screen after setting an on ball screen.

"Middle-Screen"

set up in the middle of the floor giving the ball handler options.

"Drag-Screen"

Set by the trailing big, typically on the sideline or closer to the slot area. 

"Horns"

Two high angled screens set in the middle of the floor. These screens allow the ball handler to attack in either direction. When the offensive player attacks they have an option to attack, hit the roller, hit back to the opposite big or use the other big to come off another screen. There are multiple options to use the initial screen or to come off the other big if theres nothing available.

"Step up" 

A ball screen set with the screeners back to the baseline typically sending the offensive player to downhill and to the sideline. Step ups happen when the screener sets the screen near the sideline. The screen typically steps up from the corner or short corner area.  

"Flat"

Screen set with players back towards the baseline sending the offensive player downhill quickly. When using flat screens the ball handler wants to get the on ball defender to shift so they can come off the screen with defender more on the hip. Flat screens also force the hedger to make a decision on how to hedge because the ball handler is typically straight lining on the screen. 

Coverages:

"Attacking the Blitz/Trap"

The offensive player must be efficient when getting trapped on an on ball screen. There are multiple options but one constant is that there must be an immediate decision. If the ball handler waits, they will typically miss an opportunity. 

1 – Split the trap
2 – Attack the high foot of the hedger
3 – Immediately hit the roller or the pop
4 – Immediately swing the basketball
5 – Drag the big and the on ball defender out.

This allows you to pull them away from the basket and then getting rid of it to allow your teammates to have mismatch opportunities on the back end. 

"Ice, Blue"

When the defender tops the screen, not allowing the ball handler to use the screen. The big jumps to help and the on ball defender funnels the ball handler into the big. 

Play Video

(Above: Pocket Pass vs Ice Coverage)

"Blitz/Trap"

When the on ball defender and the big are aggressive during the screen. Jumping the ball handler and forcing him to give it up or forcing him to take bounce out dribbles towards half court. 

"Vertical Hedge"

When the on ball defender corals and forces the ball handler to use the screen. As ball handler uses the screen, the hedger shows keeping shoulders square to sideline forcing defender back towards half court. 

"Soft Hedge"

When the hedgers slightly shows but keeps shoulders square to opposite baseline. The on ball defender typically forces the offensive player to use the screen and goes over the top of the screener. 

"Zone Off"

On ball defender forces the player to use the screen and the big steps back away from the screen and zones the play off. The on ball defender can go over the top or under the screen depending on the scheme. 

"Jam"

“Jam the Screen”. When the defender pushes the screener towards the other basket giving the on ball defender easy access to go under the screen. 

Attacking the screen: 

"Turn the Corner

- When the ball handler uses the screen and begins to attack downhill. 

"Split"

- When the ball handler splits the hedger and the after using the screen. 

"Quick Split

- The the ball handler begins to attack the screen but attacks early before the screen, essentially splitting the screener and his defender. 

"Snake the Screen"

- When the ball handler uses the screen but cuts it back under and across the screener. 

Play Video

(Above: Snake the Screen)

"Twist/Flip the Screen" 

- When the screener changes the angle of the screen. Can be used a lot depending on how the on ball defender/hedger begins to defend before the screen action takes place. 

"Bounce Off"

- Term used for the ball handler to bounce back towards half court with the dribble. This can pull a double team out and give you pop options or can set up other screen opportunities. 

"Re-Screen"

- When the ball handler uses the screen and comes back off the screen a second time.  

"Advance It"

- Term used for the ball handler to get the basketball out of his hands quickly after or while using the screen. 

"Refuse the Screen"

- Term used when the on ball defender doesn’t use the screen but attacks opposite. 

"Drag the Screen"

-Term used for the ball handler to take additional dribbles, typically dragging the big away and the on ball defender away from the screen, forcing the defense to make a decision and open up differing passing lanes/opportunities. 

Screener Options:

“Circle”

After the screener sets the screen, they plant their top foot and sprint to the basket.  Their back will be to the ball for a split second.  This will allow them to push off the player they just screened and sprint to the rim or in to space for a pop

“Open Gate”

After the screener sets the screen, their top foot and shoulder acts like a gate.  They reverse pivot and turn to face the ball (Sealing the player they just screened) and will then sprint to the rim or in to space for a pop

Spacing Options:

“Roll”

After the screen is set the screener will sprint to the rim looking for a pass from the ball handler and a finish close to the rim.

“Short Roll”

Often used on Middle Pick and Rolls, when the screener sets the screen and there is a High Hedge or trap on the ball handler, the screener can stop short on his roll, allowing a passing outlet for the ball handler.  The screener then becomes the playmaker, making a play for himself or a teammate.

“Pop”

After the screen is set the screener finds space on the perimeter.  Once the pass is received the player will shoot, skip a pass, or reverse the basketball to keep the offense moving.

“Slip”

A Slip is an action where the screener goes to set the screen but before they get their they read that their defender is playing high (Antsy to stop the ball handler).  The screener will plant their high foot and sprint to the rim without ever setting a screen.  If the screener is a shooter, then they can sprint through the screen in to space on the perimeter for a shot. The slip can occur when the screener can feel his inside shoulder become “unoccupied”. This typically means the hedge starts to show early, giving the screener and free gap to slip.

“Euro Screen”

Typically screeners are set with the screeners chest to the player they are making contact with.  In Europe it has been common to to flip that and set the screen with your backside.  This way when the ball handler comes off the screen the screener is already facing him.  It is important that the screener is set and established for this screen at it is easy for ref’s to call it illegal.

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