Analyzing The Pick-and-Roll Defense

December 9, 2011

By Austin Tedesco

Jordan Daniels really should have been the story of Thursday night’s game. Boston College put up a good fight against the Providence Friars before losing 64-57, and Daniels ran the point guard position with the poise and control head coach Steve Donahue has been desperate for all season. Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford both went off offensively because Daniels helped run the motion smoothly until the big men got good looks. Anderson and Clifford deserve credit for converting, but Daniels was the reason for the Eagles’ offensive success. Beginning half-court possessions with either Anderson or Clifford running pick and roll with Daniels consistently led to high-percentage looks (even for Matt Humphrey, who played under control for most of the night). The problem for BC and the real reason for the loss on Thursday was defending the pick and roll on the other end of the court. Time after time PC took advantage of frustratingly poor reactions to the pick and roll by the Eagles. Here’s a breakdown of what BC did and where they can improve.


Going underneath ball-screens

BC began the game by going underneath the Friar ball-screens. This method only works if a) the ball handler is a terrible shooter or b) the man guarding the screener hedges the screen until the on-ball defender can recover. Vincent Council and Gerard Coleman are both great shooters and torched BC using ball-screens. Patrick Heckmann and Humphrey split time guarding Council and each of them would slide underneath the ball screen leaving room for Council to shoot. Whoever was guarding the screener, usually Clifford or Anderson, hugged their man and didn’t step up to contest Council’s shot. This strategy would be fine against a poor shooter, but Council especially is a serious threat. If BC is going to continue to go underneath screens, then Anderson and Clifford will need to step out and hedge until Heckmann or Humphrey can get back to their man at which point the big can sprint back and guard the screener. This method, when done properly, will also lead to more chaos and turnovers to go along with less open shots.

Switching ball-screens

The one time the Eagles switched a ball screen it worked beautifully. Anderson was guarding the screener and he passed off his man to Heckmann who was guarding the ball handler. Anderson, left in a half court isolation with a Friar guard, held his own and ended up contesting a long two that didn’t fall. This strategy may not work with Clifford, but Anderson is an agile big man who has the ability to defend a guard. While BC probably can’t rely on this all the time because of possible extreme mismatches, it’s a good option and a much better one than continuing to allow wide-open jumpers.


Defending the drive off of pick and roll

Because of the time it took for the BC guards to recover after going underneath the ball-screen and the lack of a hedge from the Eagle bigs, the Friars ended up with plenty of driving lanes. This is what really hurt the Eagles defensively. When PC attacked the lane the help-side guards on defense would step in to stop the drive like they were supposed to. The problem was that when stepping in to help, the BC defenders would go way too far and lose sight of the man they were originally guarding. Friar guards then found open shooters at will and the helping defender had no time to recover and contest the shot. The Eagles need to show quickly and then recover back to their man while keeping an eye on both guys when someone is driving. On too many occasions there would be a help side guard, a big man, and the original recovering defender all collapsing to the ball leading to wide open Friar players. If the help side guard just does a quick show like he is supposed to and the recovering defender sprints back to the ball, then the drive should be taken away. If the recovering defender is late then a big can step up and contest a shot, but having all three go to the ball is inefficient and unnecessary.


The offense was held under 60 points again, but the play of Daniels makes me worry about scoring a lot less. He got the big men involved while also finding opportunities for Lonnie Jackson and Humphrey to have high-percentage looks. The number of early, low-percentage shots dropped significantly with him on the floor. The offense is going to grow with time, but pick-and-roll defense is a fix that needs to happen as soon as possible.


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