Attacking Multiple Pick and Roll Coverages

Last week I wrote about screening angles and how they can lead to a more efficient offense. Today I wanted to take some time and just discuss some of the options available to attack several different pick & roll coverages. At the youth and high school levels, very seldom do I see a team that will throw different types of pick & roll defenses throughout a game; usually a team will either switch, go under, or trap and do that the entire game. In contrast at the collegiate and professional ranks, teams will handle pick & rolls differently depending on multiple factors:

  • Where is the screen taking place?
  • Who is receiving the screen?
  • Is he right or left hand dominant?
  • Is he a shooter?
  • Who is setting the screen?
  • Is he a shooter?

All of those factors will determine how the rest of your defense rotates and guards these situations. In an effort to keep this simple I am going to break down six ways to handle different pick & roll coverages.

Quick Change of Angle – Step Up Pick & Roll

These techniques are widely used in the NBA and have recently trickled down into the collegiate game more and more each year. If you are battling a team that is very aggressive and likes to hard hedge/blitz/trap pick & rolls this is a great technique to combat that. As the screener (5) sprints into the pick & roll, if 5 feels the defense is jumping out hard, quickly change the angle of the screen and get your guard going downhill in a 4 on 3 situation.


The Step-Up technique is most popular in the NBA because most teams prefer to Ice/Blue side pick & rolls to keep the ball out of the middle. Furthermore, the coverage is usually called out early and loud enough for the offense to hear. As 5 sprints into the side pick & roll, if he sees X1 get on the topside of 1 to force down and X5 get on the low side, he knows to change the angle to a Step-Up and get the guard going straight downhill at the defense. Few bigs have the foot speed to stay in front so they are just there to hold until X1 can recover. As X1 recovers and X5 holds (If 1 cannot get to the rim), roll the screener (5) to the elbow area for a throwback and look to attack.


Attacking Under and Below Free-Throw Line

If the defensive coverage is to send the guard under the pick and have the big (X5) either quickly show or lift the screener (5) up, than this is one great technique to use. As the defender (X1) starts moving under and the guard (1) starts attacking, roll the screener (5) into the defender (X1) . This method is all about timing takes some practice to master. The goal here is to force a switch and lead to multiple options:

  • 1 can attack the rim having a big guarding him
  • 1 can throw back to 5 who has X1 sealed on his back
  • Depending on other player placement, 1 can throw to either wing and look to post-up 5 who has a mismatch inside.


If your screeners have a difficult time mastering the rolling technique above, another technique is to get the pick & roll set below the free-throw line and preferably inside the 3-point arc. Typically teams will go under on any picks if they do not think/respect the ball-handler as a shooter. By setting the screen lower and closer to the rim, it puts the ball-handler into higher accuracy shots (i.e.- Rajon Rondo). The problem is, it can be difficult to get the ball into that area on your own. Therefore, setting a quick step-up will get the ball-handler into a position, hopefully block or 1st hash mark extended, for the 2nd pick & roll. Florida Coach Billy Donovan ran this quite a bit last season in the college game (Here is another technique to get the ball lower). Some of the coaches that frequent this in the pros are Gregg Popovich, Doc Rivers, and Tom Thibodeau.


Slipping Double Pick & Rolls

If you are facing an aggressive (trap/hard hedge/blitz) or switching pick & roll defense this is one option to get the defense scrambling. Typically when a big sets a single pick & roll the other big defender is usually in a position to help or switch out. However, when you sprint both bigs into a pick & roll and slip the first screener, the other big (X5) is not able to help on the slip because he is occupied with the 2nd pick & roll. So if X4 gets caught for a second on the ball, 1 can look to throw over top to 4 rolling to the rim or throw to a guard spotting up in either corner who’s defender left to help on 4. Similar, if X1 and X4 attempt to switch and 4 quickly vacates this could result in poor communication and no one guarding the ball.


Attacking a Level or Flat Coverage

This last technique is becoming more rare because bigs are getting quicker and more agile every year. Typically a team will flat/level a middle pick & roll if the defender (X5) is not capable of moving quick enough to show, hedge, trap, blitz, etc the ball-handler. If you face a team with an immobile big who gives the ball-handler space to come off, the goal of the guard is to attack the big and try to get to the rim in an isolation situation.


These are just a few ideas I have to attack different pick & roll coverages. What ways do you like to attack in these situations?

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