Setting the Pick and Roll

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

What’s not to love about the Pick and Roll?  Turn on the NBA playoffs and you’ll see a ball screen just about every other possession.  While there’s nothing like pacing and spacing to rev up an offense, ball screens and the actions they create, like rolling, popping, or slipping, force the defense to do something.  And that’s when an offense can truly be effective by responding to how a defense attempts to play.  We’ve talked about them before in Snaking the Ball Screen and Sex and the Pick and Roll, but teams in the playoffs continue to advance in their creativity in utilizing ball screens.  As the complexity grows and filters down to all levels, however, learning and teaching ball screens remains a basic fundamental that none of us should ignore.

BASKETBALL – Set the Screen

A ball screen is a basic, simple concept.  Pro Training Basketball does a wonderful job producing helpful instructional videos, including a basic look at setting ball screens (from this video you can also connect to their entire series on using ball screens):

All of the magic that happens as we watch teams use ball screens begins with the simple act of setting the screen.  Now I grant you, the interpretation of a legal screen often gets confused, especially by officials at our Division III level, but nonetheless, setting the screen is critical.  I’ve got a lot of video to share today on how the pick and roll has changed, if you’re into that, but it all begins with setting an effective screen.  Even though ball screens are run at every level, players continue to blow through the craft of setting the screen.  That’s something I address each season with our new guys.

Here’s a quick look at the pick and roll and the basic options I first learned in the 80’s, taught by a few Hall of Famers:

The pick and roll was used primarily to emphasize the roll and getting lay-ups, but then in the 90’s John Stockton and Karl Malone expanded the concept to find more than lay-ups and get mid-range jump shots which both were capable of hitting:

With the advent of analytics, however, running ball screens for mid-range shots has lost favor, but finding ways to get to the rim or free up shooters, especially big men, has become the latest rage.  Look no further than the incredible season Russell Westbrook had by utilizing ball screens in a variety of ways as outlined by John Zall:

And while Westbrook and James Harden have used the ball screen to repeatedly attack and raise their own scoring, defenses have adjusted to find new ways to defend other than by switching through blitzing (trapping), hedging, and icing, good offenses are finding ways to disguise the ball screen and get other players shots off the same pick and roll.  BBall Breakdown explains the stats behind changes to pick and rolls and how the “ram” screen helps to disguise and create separation from a screen defender:

And many teams, including the Rockets and Wizards, have incorporated the Spain Pick and Roll by adding a back screen for the screener to create confusion and free up two more shooters:

But remember, all of this wonderful action begins with setting the ball screen!

LIFE – Get Set

When I get off track in my life, it typically results from feeling overwhelmed by my responsibilities and my schedules.  This is really basic, I know, but taking time to get set every day is often overlooked and undervalued.  Even with smart phone technology and endless apps, I often find myself overwhelmed.  But when I take the time to prioritize the next day before I leave the office, or before I turn in, or, at worst, when I first begin that day, life goes more smoothly and I know I am more effective as a husband, as a father, and in the variety of jobs that I work.  I have to get set.  For me, I still need to write things down and I’ve been using a daily form from Simple Organized Living that allows me to adjust the headings to fit my priorities.

FAITH – David Got Set

What’s not to love about David and Goliath?  It’s often overlooked as a quaint Sunday school story or material for a motivational speaker like a coach or the basis of a plot theme for numerous movies, but the story of David facing the giant is vital to the walk of a Christian.  Like the pick and roll, I can’t get enough it. When I read Max Lucado’s Facing Your Giants, I learned so many new insights that I referenced it in How Do You Treat Yourself After A Mistake and now another one of my favorites, Louie Giglio, has written Goliath Must Fall and I’m seeing even more in that simple story.  Like the pick and roll, the applications appear to be endless.  If, like me, you are dealing with various forms of anxiety in your life, take a look at Giglio’s work.  It’s well worth the time!

Here’s the first nugget I found.  Before David took on that giant, he got set.  He ignored Saul’s urging to put on his royal armor and use his sword.  He didn’t jump to all the complicated options and possibilities.  He got set.  He remembered his training.  He had fought with bears and lions to protect the sheep he watched over. He remembered that God had been with him then and was with him again and he reminds all of us in Psalm 16:8 to do as he did:

I have set the Lord continually before me. (NASB)

And with his mind set, he got set with the lethal weapon that through God’s training would fell the giant:

Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. (1 Samuel 17:40)

We all have giants to face.  Did you know that Goliath is not the only giant in the Bible – there was Sibbekai, Sippai, Elhana, Lahmi and a host of others?  And this story will never get old, over-used, or run out of applications because we all face giants – but, like David and like the ball screen, we have to get set by keeping God before us and using the training He has provided.