How to defend the pick-and-roll

John Stockton and Karl Malone were perhaps the greatest pick-and-roll combo in basketball history.

Q: How can my team get better at defending the pick-and-roll?

A: The pick-and-roll can be one of the most effective plays in basketball, but there are many things that can be done to defend it correctly. Unlike improving your free throws or working on individual defense, defending the pick-and-roll takes the effort of an entire team.

If you see that one of your teammates is about to be screened, you should let them know immediately. If they are blindsided by a screen and you don’t let them know, it’s your fault. That’s because your teammate can’t defend what he can’t see. Be talkative.

You should also tell them which side the screen is coming on, so that they can be prepared to fight through it.

Fighting through a screen (meaning getting around it) is usually the first option. You can go under a screen, over it, or simply push your way through the screener. You should fight through a screen if the player you are guarding is not a particularly good shooter. This is because, when you fight through the screen, you temporarily give the man being screened a chance at an open look. You should also fight through soft screens, or screens that you feel you can easily get through.

The second option is to switch with a teammate. A switch is easy to execute, but it requires communication and quick thinking. Switching is tremendously effective at the end of games, when a team needs to get a shot off and doesn’t have time to take the ball to the basket. It can also be effective when the player getting screened for is a great shooter, and can’t be left alone.

The last major way to defend a screen is by hedging. Hedging is like switching, except that the switching defender comes out and prevents the ballhandler from penetrating. You can also quickly double-team the ballhandler and rely on help defenders to make sure that the roller doesn’t have a free path to the basket. Hedging a screen can be very effective if it is done properly.

 

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