Teaching Cues for the Ball Carrier in Pick & Roll

Posted on Apr 05 2020

Basketball Australia Centre of Excellence Men’s Head Coach Adam Caporn shares some thoughts on developing young players in the pick and roll setting. A former NBL point guard, Caporn is also an assistant coach with the Australian Boomers.

In teaching a concept, especially in a development context, I believe one of the most important things is to deliver the foundational idea of what we are trying to achieve. Then it is important to use this as a reference point in building up teaching points and helping facilitate decision making processes.

In our program teaching, we work to educate players on the most valuable shots so that we can work them into our teaching points and decision making processes in drills.

Like most programs, we are working to get the following very valuable shots:

  • Layups/Dunks
  • Uncontested catch & shoot 3pt shots

Bringing this into the concept of the pick & roll we teach the following simple objectives for the ball carrier when attacking a dropped screen defender (“drops”):

  1. Layup/Dunk for me
  2. Layup/Dunk for roller
  3. Throwback pass

We often use the analogy of a 2v1 fast break when discussing pick & roll situations as this is essentially what we are trying to create against drops. In a 2v1 fast break the ball carrier would be taught to attack the rim until the defender stops or commits to him, creating a layup opportunity for their teammate.

For passing to the roller, we start with two specific passes; the pocket pass & the lob pass. In our 2v1 drills at practice (fast break, pick & roll, penetration), any other pass will be called a turnover by the coach in the early stages of our learning curve. There are other passes that can be effective but we are trying to simplify the initial framework in breakdown drills to facilitate high percentage decision making. Attack the basket to score, pocket or lob pass to roller… in that order.

What do we do when defences help and where do we expect them to help from? Most (not all) defences are taught not to help from the strong side, and this is a relatively simply kick-out decision for the ball carrier. More often the screen defender would be forced to stop the layup by the ball carrier and therefore weak side help will be required to stop the roller’s layup – leading to the throwback pass.

Can I get a lay-up? 

Can I get the roller a lay-up?

Look to throw it back.

This is not a rule, just a simple framework for learning to attack a dropped screen defender.

The throwback gives us an opportunity for one of our most valuable shots in the game, the catch & shoot 3. Other potential outcomes are driving a close-out for penetration or a quick pass to the roller who stops/seals at the basket. These are all ways we are trying to get lay-ups or create catch & shoot 3’s.

 A simple drill we use to practice this decision making is our 2v1+1 MPR Drill.

Starting positions

  • 1 = toes on the 3pt line
  • 5 = heels on the 3pt line
  • X5 = below FT line
  • X1 = 1 step behind ball carrier (can adjust this to skill level of players)

  The constraints of the drill are:

  • 2 dribbles & 1 pass maximum
  • Lob or Pocket pass only
  • Must shoot in keyway
  • Rebounds are live
  • Can progress to 4v3+1

  3v2 version to grow to throwback pass

  • Can include X1 but disallow X1 droning to 2-man
  • 2 man can catch & shoot 3, high/low pass to 5 or 1 dribble on the rim

There are obviously many technical aspects and teaching points of pick & roll play not included in this framework, but we find this a good place to start as it gets to the heart of what we trying to achieve. Hopefully the athletes have a target in mind when they next use a pick & roll next in a game context. Then we can layer in ball handling techniques, screening technique & strategy etc.

This is an example of a constrained, open, contested drill and we believe they are imperative in skill development and decision making. We will gradually build up our pick & roll/pop philosophy and strategies and they will become very complex. But we know that we will still need to continue hitting the fundamentals consistently and therefore this drill and variations of it are within the offensive breakdown/finishing/passing phases of our practice plan throughout the entire year. 

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