The Spurs stick out to me as one of the NBA’s top pick and roll teams.
They’ve ranked among the NBA’s elite teams in that category since they paired Tony Parker and Tim Duncan together.
A few things come to mind for me when I think about the Spurs or any elite pick and roll team:
- You want a point guard who can read defenses quickly and accurately, a skill that isn’t intangible but that is often glossed over in mainstream basketball coverage. Reading and reacting to how a defense is covering screens makes a huge difference.
- The point guard has to pose a scoring threat in some way, whether that’s pulling up from the elbow or getting to the rim and finishing. If defenses don’t respect the point guard, they’ll take away other opportunities more easily.
- The more perimeter shooting threats you can space the floor with, the better. The Spurs have players like Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard to prevent defenses from collapsing on pick and rolls. That spacing gives more room for the pick and roll to operate and also creates opportunities for a point guard like Parker to penetrate and kick the ball out if a spot-up shooter is open.
- A big man like Tim Duncan who can set good screens, roll to the basket, or make a midrange jumper off the pick and pop will increase the defense’s difficulty in covering the play. Kevin Love contributes in a similar way in Minnesota with the way he can knock down threes off the pick and pop.
Q: It seems like there aren’t as many post scorers in the NBA as there used to be. Why do you think that is? Are players not as skilled as they were in the past?
A lot of people have noticed this trend, and there’s something to it.
But there are other factors at work too.
- NBA defenses are more sophisticated than ever, especially with the rule changes of the last decade. In the 90s (and earlier), it was common to see a big man like Hakeem or Ewing catch the ball in the post and go to work — because they had the opportunity to. Now, big men who try to work with their back to the basket have to worry about sneaky guards swiping at the ball.
- Because of those changes, throwing the ball into the post isn’t as high-percentage of a play as it used to be. Other play types have become more reliable scoring sources, leading teams to rely more heavily on those plays. With teams shifting away from post play, big men have less incentive to spend valuable time developing their post skills.
- In general, teams are emphasizing floor spacing in order to challenge the advancing defensive schemes. That shift necessitates moving away from an offense run through the low post.
Thanks for the great questions, Antonio and Brian!
Get in touch with me to get your question in for the next mailbag!