Creating an Offensive Play Call System (Part 2)

In Part 1 I discussed many of the schemes/plays that are commonly run and how they are usually referred to.

Signaling the Players Involved

During Stan Van Gundy’s lecture that I mentioned in Part 1, he briefly described one aspect of his play call scheme with his elbow series. He uses the terms “In” and “Out” when calling a pick & roll. If he calls “Out”, that is the signal for the 4 man to set the pick. Conversely, if he calls “In” the 5 man will set the pick. For example, if Coach Van Gundy calls “1 Out”, this is a side pick & roll that the 4 man sets for the 1. If he called “3 In”, that would be a pick & roll in which the 5 sets the pick for 3 to come off.

Similar to Coach Van Gundy, I like to incorporate the position number in my play calls whenever I can. Not only does it help designate a “go-to” player for the action, but it is also makes it easier for the players to process a 1-5 middle pick & roll called “15” rather than calling it something like “Minnesota”. Some coaches may argue that the opponent players and coaches will pick up on this and make it easier to sniff out the plays. My opinion is this, your opponent should know (some) calls anyway through scouting. However, as long as you execute your plays with precision this should not be a concern. Make the defense prove they can stop your play(s) on a consistent basis.

Pick & Rolls

I have several different philosophies when it comes to pick & roll and they are all determined by the location of the pick, how and when it is set.

“GO” – Early/Quick Pick & Rolls: If a pick is set early in the clock or in transition I like to call these “Go’s” with the ball-handler’s number in front (1 Go, 2 Go, 3 Go). “Go” is just a short and precise word that signifies a sense of urgency as the action is to take place quickly. The NBA commonly refers to these picks as “Drags”.


“DOUBLE” – Stagger/Double Pick & Rolls: “Double” is a term I use when I have both bigs setting staggered (or double) pick & rolls. You may think of the term double as screen in which both bigs are shoulder to shoulder but I just think “Double” is easier to match with a number system. Similar to the “Go’s” above, I always preface the call with the position (1 Double, 2 Double, 3 Double).


Middle Pick & Rolls: As I have already mentioned numerous times in this article, I am a strong proponent of using positional numbers in my play calls. “15” is a very easy way to call out a 1-5 middle pick & roll.; 1 signifying the receiver of the pick and 5 signifying who is setting the pick. Further more, if you want to instruct your bigs what to do after picking you could add a “pop” or “roll” after the call; for example, “15 Roll” or “14 Pop”.


One other option you may prefer if it is a roll & replace action is to use the numbers of both bigs (the roller & replacer). Such example to coincide with the diagrams above would be calling the middle pick & roll a “54” or “45”.

“X” – Slipping Pick & Rolls: If you are playing a very aggressive defensive team that traps or hard hedges your pick & rolls, I recommend an occasional slip of a pick to keep the defense honest.  I use the letter “X” in play calls to signal a slip. For example, in the previous play actions above it is very easy to change the play calls to “1 Go X”,  “15 X” or “45 X”.



“TWIST” Screen & Re-screen Pick & Rolls: The last pick & roll play call I will discuss is the screen and re-screen action that could also coincide with your slip actions as mentioned above.  I like to coin this type of action a “Twist” since the ball-handler is changing directions before using another pick. This type of action is commonly run out of the Horns set so it is easy to call out “Horns Twist”. You could even add it to the above play calls “15 Twist” or “45 Twist”. Make sure the 1st screener has rolled and is out of the way before setting the 2nd pick.


“HOOK” – Screen the Screener Pick & Rolls: The term I like to signal a screen the screener into a pick & roll is “Hook”. There is no real reason behind it other than it is a term I learned at a previous coaching stop a few years ago. Depending on the complexity of the play and the number of players involved you may want to incorporate the positions (numbers) involved in the play call.



Stay tuned for Part 3 where I will discuss Flare screen and Post-Ups.

2 thoughts on “Creating an Offensive Play Call System (Part 2)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *