Posts Tagged ‘pick and roll’

John Stockton and Trey Burke

In Monday’s Utah Jazz media day, perhaps the most interesting story told involved Trey Burke’s summer pilgrammage to Spokane, Washington (he was accompanied by Alec Burks) where he personally trained with John Stockton. In the past Stockton had worked with Deron Williams (prior to DWill’s breakout 2006-07 sophomore season) and there’s no doubt the amount of knowledge and experience he can impart to a 20-year old rookie like Burke is invaluable.

One of the items Burke mentioned, was how to react when teams go “under” on the pick&roll. Burke stated that prior to working with Stockton, he was perhaps more prone to take a quick perimeter jumper but Stock taught him to be more patient and utilize the “re-screen.” This is another element of the pick&roll that Stockton&Malone worked to perfection and something you see players like Tony Parker of the Spurs still doing with great effectiveness now.

The real benefit you get from immediately re-screening is you essentially invert the pick&roll (sort of like flipping the direction of a run in football if you see the defense overloading to one side).

For example on side screen-roll instead of screening middle and rolling baseline, you’re screening baseline and rolling middle (or often popping as the weakside defense has more time to collapse and cut off the lane). Not only can you gain depth on the secondary screen, you often catch the defending big in “no man’s land” as he’s sagging off the screener to allow his guard to go under. If it’s side screen-roll, and the guard gets caught high, the screener’s man becomes the focal point and we all know 3/4’s of NBA bigs don’t defend screen-roll well.

Additionally, if the defender goes under the first time, he’ll often go under again so the pull-up jumper will still be there if the big doesn’t step up – but you force the defense to work harder, increase the percentage of getting your team a layup, and still receive an equal or better look at the basket.

This also takes patience and understanding on the screener’s part – to instantaneously recognize what the PG is doing, break off the initial roll and remain stationary long enough to set a legal “re-screen” – but also to know whether to pop or roll the second time around while providing the passer with the window to make that “pocket pass” which Burke mentions.


Here’s a frame-by-frame example of a classic Stockton&Malone side screen-roll where they’re patient and “re-screen” to get a better shot.

Stockton-Malone Screen-Roll Re-Screen #1

1.) Standard side screen-roll.

Stockton-Malone Screen-Roll Re-Screen #2

2.) Here the defensive strategy is to play it soft and go “under” on Stockton. Stock’s man will meet him on the other side of the pick to cut-off the driving lane while the screener’s man will loosely defend the Malone which negates any immediate roll-action. Defensively, this gives Stock an off-the-dribble three but also prevents any uncomfortable scenario where Stock is penetrating or the bigman is required to move his feet or go out on the perimeter to defend a point guard.

Stockton-Malone Screen-Roll Re-Screen #3

3. Instead Stock opts to “re-screen.” The result is his man gets caught top-side as Malone screens baseline and this puts the onus back on the bigman. If he stays at home on Malone, he gives Stock an open lane for a layup. If he comes out to defend Stock 15-20 feet from the basket he risks Malone rolling to the rim for a dunk. Ultimately he comes out but too slow – and Stock hits a pullup 15-footer in his face. So Stock was patient, passed on an initial three, went for the re-screen which put all pressure back on the bigman to defend – and got a rhythm jumper from 15-feet.


As you can see here, running the pick&roll to perfection is something John Stockton did it night-in and night-out for 19 seasons. Nobody is expecting Trey Burke to be another John Stockton – but he can take some of the things Stockton did and incorporate them into his own game to help become the best Trey Burke he can be.

Despite the questions lingering after summer league, I believe a first-rate version of Trey Burke is something that will make Jazz fans smile a lot over the next several years. Another thing that should also is the fact that John Stockton is still assisting.


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Karl Malone - The Ultimate Power Forward

This is Part 6 of “The Ultimate Power Forward” series, detailing several of the key components that made Karl Malone the greatest power forward to ever play the game.

For all of the diverse offensive skills (which have been covered extensively here over the past week) Karl Malone possessed that helped make him the second-leading scorer in NBA history, perhaps no play became as synonymous to the Mailman scoring than the pick-and-roll.

Of course, it’s impossible to talk about Karl Malone running screen-roll without mentioning his Hall-of-Fame pick&roll partner: John Stockton. Together, Stockton&Malone put on nearly a two decade-long clinic of how to run the pick&roll. Any type of defense they faced within the rules, they would counter and execute. It starts with Stockton, who had supreme court vision, the ability to pass accurately and quickly (thanks to his ability to pass off the dribble with one hand rather than two) and was an excellent shooter off the bounce. Malone always set a rock solid screen and combined his mobility, great hands and supreme ability to finish with both power and skill around the basket – was the ultimate finisher. Together, Stockton&Malone were simply unstoppable on the pick&roll.


Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #1a

In traditional side-screen roll, Stockton’s first read is always to go middle behind Malone’s screen – whose own read was to roll to the basket if the weakside help doesn’t come, or “pop” out on the baseline for the jumper if the help-defense rotates to shut off the paint.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #1b

Here Malone’s man shows out on Stockton and the weakside help is slow. Malone rolls unimpeded to the rim and skillfully finishes over Kobe who is late in his rotation.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #2a

On this play, the Chicago Bulls force the pick&roll baseline (a defensive staple of Phil Jackson coached teams). Utah counters with Malone simply re-screening to allow Stockton to drive baseline. This forces Malone’s man to help on Stockton and allows Karl to turn and roll uncontested to the rim.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #2b

Chicago’s weakside help defense is slow to react and Malone has a wide-open lane to drive for the hammer dunk.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #2c

Here in the same situation, Chicago’s help-defense reacts to clog the lane. As a result, instead of rolling – Malone simply pulls up from the elbow and drains the open 18-footer.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #3a

Here against Houston, Stockton’s man decides to go under on the screen so Stockton knows he’ll have a clean look from the foul line area if the big doesn’t show out.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #3b

The Rockets choose to stay with the screener (Malone), so Stockton simply pulls up and hits the open foul-line jumper.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #4a

After playing together for 10+ seasons, Stockton&Malone developed a sixth sense for knowing when to slip the screen. Here, they again show their standard side screen-roll.

Stockton-Malone Side Screenroll #4b

Instead of setting the screen, Malone slips right to the rim. Because Stockton could pass so well off-the-bounce, his trademark one-hand pass right by his defender’s ear leads Malone perfectly and the Mailman makes an excellent one-handed catch on the move and promptly finishes strong at the rim for a three-point play.


As Doug Collins said, “Whatever you show them, they counter it.” In the 90’s most offenses in the NBA were based more on isolation and post-ups than predominantly screen-roll. Now in 2013, with rule changes virtually every successful team relies on running the pick&roll to some degree of success. Guards are taught the nuances of the play at much earlier ages, and come into the league more skilled in that area. Nevertheless, the pick&roll bar set by Stockton&Malone has yet to be eclipsed. They did it longer, better, and more proficiently than any other duo in NBA history. Everyone knew it was coming, and they still couldn’t stop it.

Stockton and Malone PickandRoll #1

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Jazz at Lakers - Gm 4 - 98 WCF - 5-24-98 Images

15 years ago today, the Utah Jazz swept the Los Angeles Lakers 4-0 and advanced to their second consecutive NBA Finals with a 96-92 victory in LA.

As discussed when looking back at Game 1 – the entire series proved to be a systematic dismantling of a 61-win Laker club featuring 4 all-stars and picked by virtually everyone to defeat the Jazz. No play, however, baffled the Lakers more than Utah’s vaunted pick&roll. Doug Collins once said, “The beauty of the pick&roll is you take what the defense gives you,” and there was no better display of that in Game 4. The Lakers tried virtually every possible way to defend screen-roll and Utah still found a counter to score.

Here we’ll break down the different ways Utah’s pick&roll dissected the Lakers’ defense.

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll #1

#1. Nothing complicated here (6:05-mark). 2nd-year point guard Derek Fisher chooses to go under on the screen. As a result, Jazz point guard Howard Eisley simply pulls up and drains an uncontested three-pointer.


Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll #2

2-a: Here (7:23-mark) the Lakers build a wall and force Stockton away from the screen and towards the baseline. (Traditionally this is how Phil Jackson teams have defended side screen-roll – with their objective to keep the ball out of the middle of the floor and toward the baseline where they can smother it with their length.)

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll #3

2-b: Stockton&Malone have seen this a few times. Stock probes toward the baseline to force the Laker big to help, and Malone reads the gap and automatically slips to the basket as Stock hits him in stride with a perfect pocket bounce-pass. The Lakers weakside defense has to rotate to Malone prior to the pass. Once Malone catches the ball barreling toward the rim it’s too late.


Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Slip #1

3-a: This (7:55-mark) is Utah’s side screen-roll they like to run directly out of their UCLA shuffle-cut. Laker bigman Corie Blount plays Malone tight and is ready to show-out on Hornacek (one of the best shooters in the league).

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Slip

3-b: But the screen never comes. Hornacek recognizes Blount is over-playing Malone high, and a subtle nod has the Mailman slipping the screen and delivering a layup over weak-side help-defender Elden Campbell (circled) who arrives too late to prevent the basket.


Jazz at Lakers - 1998 Pick and Roll Trap #1

4-a: Moving forward to the 2nd-half (9:22-mark) the Lakers adjust and trap hard on Jazz point Howard Eisley. Eisley reads this, and buys enough time backpedaling with the ball to give himself a clean window to split the double-team with a bounce pass to Malone (circled).

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll Trap #2

4-b: Once Malone catches the ball, the Jazz are playing 4-on-3. The Lakers rotate to Malone from the weakside leaving a wide-open Greg Ostertag (circled) diving to the rim.

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll Trap #3

4-c: Ostertag makes LA pay with the dunk.


Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll #6

5-a: In 2-a and 2-b we saw LA force Utah’s side screen-roll baseline. Knowing LA’s tendancies, here (9:35-mark) Malone steps up and screens baseline.

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll #7

5-b: Malone picks off Eisley’s man (Kobe) and this forces Malone’s defender (Elden Campbell) to come up on Eisley. This gives Malone a wide-open lane once he pivots and opens himself up to the passer as he rolls off the screen.

Jazz at Lakers Pick and Roll #8

5-c: Again this is an automatic pocket bounce-pass Jazz point guards have executed to perfection and Malone converts at the rim as the weak-side help arrives too late.


Jazz at Lakers Pick and Roll #9

6-a: And finally, another side-screen roll (10:00-mark) but this time LA doesn’t force it baseline and allows Utah (Eisley w/the ball) to go middle. They also choose to stay with the screener (Malone), putting the onus on their weak-side defense to rotate to stop the ball. Kobe (circled) has to drop off his man (#34 Chris Morris).

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll #10

6-b: Once Kobe made his rotation, the backside defender (Eddie Jones) must make his. Jones must run at Chris Morris and force him to swing the ball to Shandon Anderson in the deep corner.

Jazz at Lakers 1998 Pick and Roll #11

6-b: Jones doesn’t rotate and Morris knocks down a wide-open three.


The Jazz were always 2-steps ahead of LA. Whatever LA tried to do, Utah had a counter for it. The Lakers were more athletic and physically gifted, but the Jazz were smarter, tougher and played better as a team. Their sum was greater than their parts and together they capitalized on the Lakers’ youth and inexperience with one of the most enjoyable playoff series in franchise history.

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The Pacers did a lot of good things in their 103-102 overtime loss in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but even prior to LeBron’s game-winning layup – one basic play with a clever twist caused them significant problems defensively. Late in the game, Miami ran an unconventional variation of high screen-roll with LeBron and Wade. Instead of a bigman (or pseudo-big like Battier in their small-ball lineup), the Heat opted to utilize their guard as the screener for Dwayne Wade and LeBron James – and the Pacers were unable to stop it either time.

Heat high screen roll #1

#1. The Heat bring Ray Allen up to screen for Wade. Wade’s defender – Sam Young – choses to go over the screen which puts the defensive pressure on Allen’s man – George Hill (circled). Hill, a point used to fighting over picks – not having his man set on-ball screens, is playing the screener softly. As a result, Hill isn’t in a position to show-out hard which would force Wade to elongate his path and give Young a chance to recover. (Also, why Young would go over on a screen 26-feet from the basket is beyond me.)

Heat high screen roll #2

#2. As a result, Hill’s choices are to pick up Wade and allow Allen to pop out for an open three, or recover on Allen and trust the help-defense behind him.

Heat high screen roll #3

#3. Hill opts to go after Allen – giving Wade a wide-open lane to the basket.

Heat high screen roll #4

#4. The only strongside help-defender in position to impede Wade is David West, and West opts not to leave Shane Battier (camped in the deep right corner) and Wade scores an uncontested layup to put Miami up 2 with 43-seconds remaining.


Fast-forward to overtime. Again the score is tied – this time with under 20-seconds remaining. Out of a timeout Erik Spoelstra again calls for a high-screen roll – this time with point guard Norris Cole coming up to screen for LeBron.

Heat high screen roll - OT #1

#1. The Pacers have a different strategy this time – to switch it with point guard George Hill (6-2/190) picking up LeBron (6-8/250).

Heat high screen roll - OT #2

#2. This is a huge mismatch as LeBron can power past Hill. Indiana opted to take 7-2 shotblocker Roy Hibbert out of the game to match up with the Heat’s “small-ball” – so David West is again the strong-side help-defender guarding Chris Bosh camped in the deep corner. The rest of the Pacers are matched up with quality 3pt-shooters spacing around the perimeter.

Heat high screen roll - OT #3

3. West half-heartedly helps off Bosh and LeBron blows past Hill for a go-ahead layup with 10-seconds remaining.


Much will be made over the Pacers’ defense on the final possession in which LeBron easily scored the buzzer-beating layup – but their normally solid defense fell apart defending Miami’s unconventional screen-roll. It’s a brilliant wrinkle from Spoelstra’s standpoint as it put George Hill in uncomfortable and unusual (for a point guard) positions and involved their best 3pt-shooters (Allen/Cole) as the “pick&pop” man rather than a frontcourt player such as Bosh (28% 3pt-shooter) or the the cold-shooting Shane Battier (0-4 in Game 1 from behind the arc).

Close playoff games usually boil down to matchups and adjustments – and late in Game 1 Spoelstra clearly had the advantage over Pacers’ head coach Frank Vogel. It will be interesting to see how Vogel and the Pacers opt to defend this Wing/PG high screen-roll in the ensuing games. This is where NBA head coaches earn their paychecks. It can be argued if Frank Vogel’s late-game decisions lost the game for the Pacers – but Erik Spoelstra’s moves unquestionably won the game for Miami.

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