Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and the 10 Best Pick-and-Roll Combos in the NBA
After winning 10 of their last 12 games, Derrick Rose, Carlos Boozer and the Chicago Bulls look like they have really starting coming together.
So what are the reasons for their latest surge?
Well, for one, they can thank the success of Rose and Boozer in running the pick and roll.
The pick and roll is one of the simplest, yet most effective plays in basketball. Execute it well and you will give opposing defenses fits.
However, not all players are fit to successfully run this play.
First, you need an individual—most likely a guard—who excels at handling the ball.
This player must also have the ability to either attack the basket off the pick or hit the open jumper if the defense sags.
Furthermore, they need to possess superior court vision and be a skilled passer in order for them to hit an open pick-man on their subsequent roll or pop.
The pick-man, on the other hand, ought the be both big and strong enough to obstruct the path of the man defending the ball-handler, while also being quick enough to break away from the defense as soon as the ball-handler passes him by.
Furthermore, this player needs to be able to finish around the rim on the roll or pop away from the pick and knock down an open jumper.
Consequently, most traditional, low-post centers lack the quickness, shooting and ability to slash to the basket needed from this spot.
Yet despite these strict requirements, there are still a few combinations in the NBA which have thrived while running the pick and roll throughout the 2010-11 season.
Therefore, the following slides will recap the league's best pick-and-roll combos, naming the involved parties and explaining why they work so well together.
(all pick-and-roll statistics used in this article come courtesy of Synergy Sports)
If the Minnesota Timberwolves ran the pick and roll a bit more, then perhaps they would have made the list.
At this point in the season, they rank 15th in points per play (PPP) on pick and rolls when the ball-handler finishes the play and second in PPP when the pick-man finishes the play.
However, pick and rolls only account for 14.3 percent of Minnesota's offense, with only 4.0 percent of them going to the pick-man—which explains their high ranking.
But with a big man like Kevin Love patrolling the block, the T-Wolves ought to make more of a concentrated effort to get him the ball on those plays.
Like the Timberwolves, the Denver Nuggets are a team which experiences a good deal of success in their limited pick-and-roll situations.
They only run the play 11.8 percent of the time, but when they do, they rank fourth in PPP with the ball-handler as the finisher and sixth when the pick-man finishes.
However, this success isn't surprising, since Carmelo Anthony, Chauncey Billups and company currently own the most efficient offense in the entire NBA.
After the departure of Carlos Boozer, it was widely expected that the Utah Jazz would witness a substantial drop-off in their level of play.
And while this has been true to some extent, the team certainly still has some promise.
Led by star point guard Deron Williams, the team has earned a record of 28-20, and the combination of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson have labored to make Jazz fans forget all about Boozer's presence inside.
However, despite this inside-out combo, the team only runs the pick and roll a measly 10.1 percent of the time—which seems very low considering that this is a Jerry-Sloan-coached team.
Nevertheless, Williams is averaging a career-high 21.9 points per game, and the Jazz rank seventh in PPP when the pick-man finishes the pick and roll.
Consequently, one can only expect that Utah will run the play more and more as they become more entrenched in the Jazz system, and furthermore, when Mehmet Okur is able to fully return from injury.
No. 10: Atlanta Hawks
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The Atlanta Hawks have a roster full of suitable ball-handlers and bigs with diverse offensive arsenals.
Consequently, they are perfectly fit for the pick and roll.
Joe Johnson and Jamal Crawford are both fantastic ball-handlers for the play, as they are capable of shooting, driving or dishing, depending upon the circumstance.
Furthermore, Mike Bibby is capable of handling the rock, although he is not the scorer that either Johnson or Crawford are.
So behind these three, the Hawks rank ninth in the NBA in points per play (PPP) on the pick and roll when the ball-handler finishes the play.
But that's not all, as their pick-men are more than competent for their part.
Al Horford and Josh Smith have powered Atlanta to the league's seventh-best PPP ranking when the roller finishes the play.
And since the Hawks' offense has been average as a whole this season, it seems as though they ought to rely on their strong pick and roll more than the 15.5 percent of the time.
No. 9: Chicago Bulls
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Despite being ravaged by injuries, the Chicago Bulls have managed to claw their way to a 33-14 record—tied for second in the Eastern Conference.
One player who has managed to stay healthy is Derrick Rose, who is having a career year.
With career-high averages of 24.4 points and 8.1 assists per contest, Rose has been the heart and soul of the 2010-11 Bulls.
Furthermore, he has succeeded in leading his team's impressive pick-and-roll attack, carrying them to their ranking of sixth overall in points per play (PPP) on pick and rolls when the ball-handler finishes the play.
Moreover, the ball-handler is the one finishing 13.4 percent of the time in their total offense, whereas they roller finishes only 6.4 percent of the time.
However, the play of Chicago's pick men has not been nearly as impressive.
Nevertheless, this is likely due to injuries to first-year Bull Carlos Boozer and then to Joakim Noah, as well as Boozer's lack of practice with the team.
But with increased health and experience, the Bulls' big men will undoubtedly improve their play, making them one of the most dangerous pick-and-roll combinations in the NBA.
No. 8: Los Angeles Clippers
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The Los Angeles Clippers have become one of the NBA's most exciting teams in 2010-11.
And their pick-and-roll play (18.5 percent of their offense) has a lot to do with this.
Behind standout rookie Blake Griffin, his 22.6 points, 12.8 boards and 3.5 assists, and vastly improved third-year center DeAndre Jordan, the Clippers' pick-men are among the best finishers in the league.
Currently they're ranked fifth overall in points per play (PPP) on pick and rolls where the pick man finishes.
However, Griffin's heroics aren't all, as the LA ball-handlers have also performed fairly well.
After struggling with injuries early in the season, Baron Davis has been playing well of late, showing signs that he still has some solid play left in him.
But more impressive has been the play of Eric Gordon, who is also having a career year, with averages of 24.1 points and 4.5 assists per game.
So these two, combined with the surprisingly good performance of rookie Eric Bledsoe, the Clippers' ball-handlers have maintained the 15th-best PPP ranking on pick and rolls when they finish the play.
No. 7: New York Knicks
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Early in the 2010-11 NBA season, the New York Knicks struggled, losing eight of their first 11 games.
However, the team's new acquisitions have begun to play well with one another, as the team has rebounded to a achieve a 25-22 record and one of the league's better pick-and-roll offenses (accounting for 17.2 percent of their total offense).
And, like much in New York, it all revolves around Amar'e Stoudemire.
Averaging 26.2 points and 8.8 rebounds, Amar'e has been a force inside for the Knicks, serving as their primary pick-man with his ability to slash and knock down jumpers from mid-range.
Also performing this role has been forward Wilson Chandler, and behind these two players' strong performances, New York currently ranks fourth in points per play (PPP) on pick and rolls when the roller finishes the play.
On the season, the Knicks have not been as exceptional when the ball-handlers finish the play, but that is due largely to Raymond Felton's early season turnover woes—a problem which he has been working to resolve.
Still though, he has posted solid per-game averages of 17.2 points and 8.9 assists on the season.
So, with the dominating play of Stoudemire inside more than making up for the team's shortcomings, the pick and roll will continue to play a large part in New York's highly efficient offense.
No. 6: Golden State Warriors
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With combo guards Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, the Golden State Warriors have one of the NBA's most exciting and talented backcourts.
Furthermore, with both of their abilities to score (averages of 25.5 and 19.1points) and distribute (5.6 and 5.9 assists), the two are both fantastic pick-and-roll ball-handlers.
As a result, the Warriors are currently ranked second in the league in points per play (PPP) when their ball-handlers finish the pick and roll.
Therefore, it's no surprise that the pick and roll accounts for 19.1 percent of the team's total offense, with the ball handler finishing 74.9 percent of that time.
Their pick-men haven't been as impressive thus far, but given offseason acquisition David Lee's success in that position in the past, they should definitely except improvement.
No. 5: New Orleans Hornets
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New Orleans Hornets point guard Chris Paul is arguably the best at his position currently in the NBA.
Naturally, he is the ball-handler of one of the league's most highly featured pick-and-roll offenses (accounting for 21.4 percent of the Hornets' total offense).
Thus far, he is maintaining a fantastic 4.2:1.0 assist-to-turnover ratio, with averages of 16.7 points, 9.7 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game.
Furthermore, he is largely responsible for New Orleans' ranking of 15th points per play (PPP) when the ball-handler finishes the pick and roll.
However he's also likely also responsible for the team's ranking of seventh in PPP when the pick-man finishes the play, as he routinely sets up bigs like David West and Emeka Okafor.
West frequently hold his own, though, as he can finish with a roll to the bucket, but most often, by popping out and knocking down the jumper.
Therefore, behind Paul and West, the Hornets will continue to be a pick-and-roll oriented team for the foreseeable future.
No. 4: San Antonio Spurs
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The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the best pick-and-roll teams for years—something that has helped their current core of players on their way to three NBA Championships in the last decade.
In Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have two guards who are able to score in a wide variety of ways.
Consequently, they are highly desirable ball-handlers in the pick and roll, and they're the primary reason for the team's second overall ranking in points per play (PPP) when they finish the pick and roll.
Moreover, because of this level of success, 14.1 percent of the Spurs offense consists of ball-handler finished pick and rolls.
But with regard to the pick man, per usual, Tim Duncan is the big story down low.
His ability to finish inside and to step out and knock down the mid-range jumper have allowed San Antonio to rank 15th in PPP when pick-men finish on a pick and roll (5.8 percent of their offense).
And with young, athletic frontcourt players like DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter, don't expect the Spurs' pick-and-roll game to decline with Duncan's increasing age.
No. 3: Miami Heat
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With all of the size and talent on the Miami Heat, one would expect them to be the NBA's premier pick-and-roll team.
And in one facet of the play, one would be correct.
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are two of the league's most dangerous players when they have the ball.
They are among the best at attacking the rim, they can distribute the ball like point guards and they can regularly knock down open shots.
Therefore, the two teammates are ideal ball-handlers for the pick and roll—something which has proven to be true with their top overall ranking in points per play (PPP) on when they are the finisher.
However, the Heat have struggled when the pick-man is the finisher, only ranking 20th in the league in PPP.
And seeing as though the pick and roll accounts for 20.4 percent of their offense, pick men like Chris Bosh, Joel Anthony and Zydrunas Ilgauskas must step up if they are going to elevate their team to another level.
No. 2: Phoenix Suns
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Despite the much-publicized departure of Amar'e Stoudemire, the Phoenix Suns have remained as one of the best and most featured (20.3 percent of their offense) of pick-and-roll teams in the NBA.
And, obviously, the reason for this is the offensive mastery of point guard Steve Nash.
With per-game averages of 17.0 points and 11.1 assists, the two-time MVP has led a depleted Suns squad to the league's No. 6 ranking in offensive efficiency.
Furthermore, he is largely responsible for the team's impressive points per play (PPP) rankings in the pick and roll both when the ball-handler finishes (seventh in the NBA) and when the pick-man finishes (second in the NBA).
Consequently, it seems as though you can line Nash up with anyone in the pick and roll and he will find a way to get it done.
No. 1: Orlando Magic
After trading for Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson and Gilbert Arenas, the Orlando Magic have become the best pick-and-roll offense in all of the NBA.
Turkoglu, Arenas and point guard Jameer Nelson are all fantastic ball-handlers in the pick and roll, as they can shoot, drive and dish.
Furthermore, players like Richardson and J.J. Redick are able to score efficiently off picks, although they aren't the most apt passers.
Consequently, they are the fourth-ranked team in points per play (PPP) when the ball-handler finishes the pick and roll.
But that is not even their strength.
Inside, the Magic are led by center Dwight Howard—one of the strongest and most athletic players in the NBA.
Therefore, as the pick man, he is among the best in the league at rolling and finishing inside.
He is joined by fellow Orlando pick men Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson, both of whom are some the best at finishing the play, both inside and out.
Therefore, the Magic are the overall top-ranked team in PPP when the pick-man finishes.
And seeing as though Orlando runs the pick and roll as 21.2 percent of the their total offense, the 31-17 team will continue to execute in an extremely efficient manner, ultimately looking to be in the run for the 2010-11 NBA Championship when all is said and done.