How to Perform the Pick and Roll

The pick and roll strategy in basketball is one of the easiest ways to get a layup. If both players follow the method here, it is almost impossible to defend.


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    The big man sets the pick. For the pick and roll to work properly, the offense must be spreading the floor and the lane must be open. Since the center is usually occupying the lane, he is the best person to set the pick. Approach the defender quickly, get right up against him, set yourself and brace yourself for the impact.
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    The guard uses the pick. Drive hard and fast laterally and brush up against your teammate so that there is no way the defender can go over the pick. His only choice is to go under the pick (leaving you open) or switch (giving the big man an open lane).
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    If there is no switch, the guard drives to the basket for a layup.
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    If there is a switch, the big man rolls immediately. Pivot towards the basket leaving the switched defender in the dust. Both players need to be quick and remain more or less parallel with at least ten feet of space between them.
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    While the big man is driving, the guard passes the ball to him. Since the guard has a mismatch in size, a bounce pass will work best.
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    The big man makes the layup or dunks the ball. It should be easy since there is no one guarding him.
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    If the center/forward setting the pick has the ability, the pick and roll creates a perfect opportunity for an alley-oop. This play is not only a crowd-pleaser, but is also very intimidating.


  • Due to a recent trend in attempting to "break the opponents ankles" and preference for shooting difficult shots rather than open ones, often times the guard will refuse to take a pick, or simply not know how to use one when it is offered. The pick and roll will not work if the guard does not use the pick. You must force the defenders to switch.
  • Watch Steve Nash perform the pick and roll with Amare Stoudemire or Shawn Marion for a good example or watch old tapes of John Stockton and Karl Malone. Also watch Dirk Nowitzki and Marcus Camby for an example of "pick and pop."
  • If the big man does not roll fast enough, the guard gets ahead of him. Both players must move quickly and instinctively.
  • If the big man sets a "lazy pick," the defending guard will simply go over it.
  • If there is no switch, the guard cannot waste time looking for the roll. This gives his defender time to catch up to him and the play is useless. The biggest mistake a guard can make in the pick and roll is to look for the roll when he has an open lane.
  • It is also quite common for the defending guard to go under the pick while the big defender switches, effectively double teaming the guard and perhaps preventing the pass. If the big man cannot shoot, this is an effective defense. The best counter to this is a "pick and pop." The big man steps into a good angle for the guard to pass to him and takes an open jump shot. If the big man defender is good, he will feign the double team and get back to the offensive big before the pass is completed. This is the most effective pick and roll defense and the best way to beat it is quick, effective execution.
  • If the guard does not create enough space, the defending big man can effectively cover both offensive players and the pick and roll is useless.


  • The pick and roll is difficult and it is best to perform it with someone you play often with.
  • Many guards do not want picks. They might call for a clear-out for an isolation play. Although this is generally a bad idea, the guard controls the ball. It's not worth fighting over.

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Categories: Basketball