The Pick and Roll

The pick and roll is one of the best plays that can get your team through tight defenses.

Cover Image: The modern game of basketball has seen most teams running the pick and roll to effectively penetrate elite-level defensive schemes. (

“Offense wins games but defense wins championships.”
This statement is something you would commonly hear in basketball – a statement that remains true even after decades have passed. If you look at some of the greatest basketball teams in history, all of them boast an elite-level defense that enables them to dominate their foes. In addition to how physical their defenses can get, they are very strategic with every member of the team moving as one to cover for one another.

There are several ways to get through tight defenses but ideally, you would want to create mismatches (shuffling the defense to your advantage). One of the best ways achieve that is by calling for a ‘pick and roll.’

The pick and roll is one of the most basic plays in basketball. Most people view it as a two-man offensive play but in reality, it opens up multiple passing and cutting lanes for everyone in the team to get a clear shot. In essence, the pick and roll may look really simple to execute but it demands good communication, timing, and court awareness from everyone in the team. If mastered, your team can leave the defense constantly guessing where your point of attack would be especially if your squad is loaded with talented scorers.

Running the pick and roll can be summarized in three steps:

  1. The Pick – an offensive player sets a screen for the ball-handler.
  2. The Dribble – the ball-handler dribbles around the ball screen.
  3. The Roll – the screener, ready to receive the ball, cuts to the basket.

Once the ball-handler dribbles around the screen, he or she must be able to read how the defense reacted. If the defense went under the screen, the ball-handler could take the open shot or pass to the cutting screener. If the defense denied the path to the screen, the ball-handler must go the opposite way and look to pass.

The pick and roll is one of the most versatile plays in basketball which is why most teams have it in their playbooks. It can be executed almost anywhere in the court creating multiple opportunities for your team to attack the defense. Below are some of them.


The screen is set near the wing with the screener’s back facing the middle of the court.



The screen is set near the wing with the screener’s back facing the baseline.



The screen is set near the top of the key.



The screen is set near the corner allowing the ball-handler to attack the baseline or the middle of the court.



An advanced pick and roll play where the ball-handler can choose from two screeners to attack.

Reading the defense is key to successfully execute a pick and roll. Essentially, the play would either free up the ball-handler for a jump shot or the screener for an easy layup but as the game grew through the years, most teams have used it as a catalyst for almost all of their sets. The pick and roll may be one of the most basic plays in basketball but mastering it would certainly elevate your game to the next level.

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