NBA Power Rankings: Blake Griffin and Each Team's Best Pick-and-Roll Finisher
Blake Griffin, the Los Angeles Clippers' rookie, has taken over nightly highlight shows with his vast array of finishing moves. Whether the opportunity comes off lobs, in transition or as the result of a perfectly executed backdoor cut, the power forward has left just about everyone wanting more.
While Griffin has become a regular on SportsCenter somewhat recently, one of the staples of the NBA for some time now has been the pick-and-roll. The play became prominent during the '90s and its usage has since increased exponentially.
There are still some teams that don't use it all that often, but there are also teams that are completely reliant on good execution of the play.
For those unfamiliar with this aspect of the game, the pick-and-roll is a play that normally involves a guard and a forward or center. The guard usually has control of the ball on the perimeter with a big man setting a screen.
After using the pick, the ball handler has several options: He can drive to the basket if there's an opening or pull up and shoot, feed the ball to his teammate who, after setting the screen, is now rolling towards the hoop or find another open teammate.
Many screeners are also now adept at hitting longer-range shots, and instead of heading to the rim they can slip to the side where they are often open for a jumper. This is known as a pick-and-pop, a subtle variation on the pick-and-roll.
Thanks to Synergy Sports Technology, us lowly fans now have access to statistics that had previously only been available to teams.
Using the numbers provided by this service, we're able to see how often players run certain plays—such as the pick-and-roll—and gauge their effectiveness.
For the purposes of this ranking, we'll not only look at a player's field-goal percentage on pick-and-rolls, but also at the number of makes and/or attempts he has. Just as NBA'ers are unable to qualify for percentage lists on three-pointers, free throws and field goals unless they make a certain amount of those types of shots, players need to convert at some frequency to be considered for this list.
Keeping this in mind, we can then go about determining who the best option is for each team when the coach decides he'd like to run a pick-and-roll.
And just to be clear, the guy setting the screen will be known as the pick-and-roll man while the one controlling the rock is termed the pick-and-roll ball handler.
Atlanta Hawks: Al Horford
In his fourth year in the league, Al Horford is averaging career highs in PPG (15.9) and field-goal percentage (56.5).
His effectiveness in the pick-and-roll game is undoubtedly a factor in this. He is the screener more often than any other Hawks player and also finishes the play off at a higher rate than any of his fellow big men.
Horford has put up 140 shot attempts off the pick-and-roll—converting 58.6 percent of those shots. Perhaps the team needs to get him the ball more often.
Boston Celtics: Kevin Garnett
The range Kevin Garnett has on his jumper allows Boston to run a variation on the pick-and-roll that has become more common league-wide.
Instead of simply rolling straight to the basket after setting a screen, Garnett (and others who have picked up this skill) can slip more to the side, where he often has a clear view of the basket. This is known as the pick-and-pop.
This tactic helps explain KG's relatively low field-goal percentage of 46.7 on pick-and-roll plays (still the best on the Celtics). He finishes 73.9 percent of his shots at the rim, according to hoopdata.com.
On the season, Garnett is averaging 15.1 PPG and 9.2 RPG.
Charlotte Bobcats: Boris Diaw
The Bobcats aren't a particularly effective pick-and-roll team. They don't run the play as often as most teams and, when they do, their pick-and-roll men are ranked 23rd in the league in effectiveness.
Whenever Charlotte does employ this tactic, however, the team would be best served to involve Boris Diaw in the action. Diaw converts 47.9 percent of his field goals when he is involved in the pick-and-roll, and he also has utilized his range by putting up 26 three-pointers on the pick-and-pop.
The only drawback? His three-point shooting percentage of 26.9 on such plays is not very good and is below his season average of 34.2 percent. Diaw hits 58.8 percent of his shots from inside of ten feet. Perhaps what Charlotte needs to do is get him rolling harder to the basket more often.
Or they can keep doing what they're doing and battle for the eight-seed and a first-round meeting with Boston or Chicago.
Chicago Bulls: Carlos Boozer
While Joakim Noah has a higher field-goal percentage (54.8) on his shots coming off of a pick-and-roll than Carlos Boozer (45.1), the latter makes far more shots as the man setting the screen—an average of 1.1 per game compared to Noah's 0.5.
These statistics could lead to a case being made that Chicago needs to get Noah more involved in the pick-and-roll offense, or it could simply be that Boozer's ability to hit long-range two-pointers leads him to getting the ball more in these situations.
The multiple dimensions Boozer can bring to the pick-and-roll help get him the nod here as well. It's also possible that Noah's field-goal percentage would drop if he saw the ball more often.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Anderson Varejao
Okay, so he hasn't played since early January. Check these stats out, though: In 31 games Varejao put up 51 field-goal attempts off pick-and-rolls. Cleveland's leader in such attempts, J.J. Hickson, has 76 attempts in 63 games.
That's a mere 25 more attempts in 32 more games. On a per-game basis, Varejao had 1.6 pick-and-roll shot attempts a game while Hickson averages 1.2. It's safe to say that if Varejao were still out there, he'd be getting the majority of the looks in this situation, which would be good for the team given his 52.9 field-goal percentage as the pick man.
Although the Cavs' season has been a complete disaster, Varejao was one of the bright spots early in the year, averaging career highs in PPG, RPG and BPG. If he can stay healthy and Cleveland makes some smart moves, perhaps next year won't be quite as bad.
Dallas Mavericks: Tyson Chandler
Tyson Chandler doesn't have much in the way of offensive skills. One area where he does excel, however, is as a finisher at the rim—a beneficial trait for the pick-and-roll.
Of all the plays in which Chandler touches the ball, 18.7 percent of them are pick-and-rolls—for some perspective on his play distribution, another 18.2 percent of his touches come on offensive rebounds—and his field-goal percentage in these instances is excellent at 67.1 percent.
While Chandler's greatest attributes are his defense (1.1 BPG) and rebounding (9.3 RPG), he's also averaging 10.4 PPG and hitting a career-high 65.3 percent of his shots, which is surely helped by his shot-making rate on pick-and-rolls.
Denver Nuggets: Nene Hilario
The Denver Nuggets have three big men who are adept at finishing the pick-and-roll in Nene, Kenyon Martin and Chris Andersen.
In fact, Andersen has a field-goal percentage of 81.3 of pick-and-roll plays, but the the only problem is that he's only put up 16 shots in that fashion. This is probably due to his injuries this year as well as his status as a backup, but there has to be some sort of cutoff for attempts here.
After all, as mentioned in the open, players have to make a certain amount of three-pointers and field goals to qualify as a league-leader in those percentage categories, so why should it be any different here?
And it's not like Nene is some slouch in this department, as he converts 58.5 percent of his shots coming off the pick-and-roll. With the potential to become a free agent this summer due to his early termination option, Nene's career-high averages of 15.1 PPG and 63.0 field-goal percentage have certainly earned him some money if he goes that route.
Detroit Pistons: Greg Monroe
In what has been a tough season for the Detroit Pistons and their fans, one cause for optimism going forward has been the recent play of Greg Monroe.
While seeing an increase in minutes, Monroe has posted averages of 14.8 PPG, 10.4 RPG and a 50.8 field-goal percentage over his last 10 games; numbers that are all above his season marks of 8.6, 7.0 and 54.2.
The rookie out of Georgetown has also been effective in the pick-and-roll, converting 62.0 percent of his shots off the play.
Golden State Warriors: David Lee
When Golden State runs a pick-and-roll it's far more likely that the ball-handler will keep the rock rather than pass it to the screener. When one of the bigs is getting the ball, though, it's likely to be David Lee, who has put up 174 field-goal attempts off the pick-and-roll and converts 47.7 percent of them.
Lee has been a bit of a disappointment for Golden State, with numbers (including his averages of 15.8 PPG and 9.5 RPG) across the board that are down from a year ago.
At least he's running one play reasonably well for the team.
Houston Rockets: Brad Miller
The Rockets aren't a particularly great pick-and-roll team, and this is evidenced by the fact that their best finisher, Brad Miller, hits on just 45.9 percent of his pick-and-roll shot attempts.
The next most-effective guy on Houton's roster, Luis Scola, has more attempts than Miller (112-74) but is not as efficient with a field-goal percentage of 44.6 on pick-and-roll shot attempts.
That's a good amount of attempts for Scola, but his percentages indicate that he's not exactly a great option for this play, particularly when you consider that a guy like Al Horford has put up 142 shot attempts off pick-and-rolls, yet has still been able to convert on 59.2 percent of them.
Bottom line: We don't really have much to choose from with this team, and until one of its players becomes more effective on the pick-and-roll we'll have to go with Brad Miller.
Indiana Pacers: Tyler Hansbrough
Tyler Hansbrough has had a rough go of it in his first season and a half, but he has improved as the year has gone along, averaging 19.6 PPG and 6.9 RPG over his last 10 contests.
The Pacers aren't very good with the pick-and-roll, as their screeners hit a measly 44.5 percent of their shots on the play. Players like Josh McRoberts and Jeff Foster do have a high field-goal percentage from this set (54.5 and 54.2, respectively), but they don't have nearly the amount of makes as Hansbrough.
While Hansbrough isn't superb in this aspect of the game compared to some of his counterparts around the league, he's involved in such plays much more often than his teammates and converts at a rate above the average for his team (45.2).
Maybe he's not the best in the world, but he's still good enough to lead Indiana in this category.
Los Angeles Clippers: Blake Griffin
Not much a surprise here, huh? You knew who was getting listed from the Clippers as soon as you opened up this article.
The pick-and-roll is the second-biggest part of Griffin's offensive game—behind only post-ups—and he is extremely effective from this set with a field-goal percentage of 51.8 off pick-and-rolls.
With averages of 22.3 PPG and 12.2 RPG, the Oklahoma product is a lock for Rookie of the Year, although there is some merit to the argument that he's not really a rookie.
I'm sure Blake won't mind getting the award.
Los Angeles Lakers: Andrew Bynum
The Lakers are apparently not particularly fond of getting their big men the ball off pick-and-rolls, as that aspect of the game makes up only 2.3 percent of their offense.
In terms of the average makes-per-game for the screening men on pick-and-rolls, Pau Gasol is ever so slightly ahead of Andrew Bynum (0.43-0.42) while having a staggeringly low field-goal percentage of 41.4 when a part of this play.
Bynum, on the other hand, converts his attempts at a rate of 58.1 percent, showing that he is clearly a better finisher off the pick-and-roll than Gasol.
Maybe the Lakers need to just ditch this play when it comes to Gasol and only use Bynum when they want to run it.
Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol
At least one of the Gasol brothers knows how to get things done on the pick-and-roll.
In stark contrast to his brother, Pau, Marc Gasol hits on 57.1 percent of his pick-and-roll shots. While the younger Marc has taken a step back this year, he did show a good amount of potential in the 2009-10 season and we at least know he is very effective in this aspect of the game.
No word yet on whether or not this is a contentious matter in the Gasol household.
Miami Heat: Chris Bosh
For those of you who love ripping on the Heat, get ready because here's another opportunity to do so.
Miami's pick-and-roll men are, simply put, not very good, with a field-goal percentage of 44.0. On a points-per-possession basis, these guys rank 27th in the league.
One of them has to get named as the best, though, and that honor will go to one Chris Bosh, who converts on 43.7 percent of his pick-and-roll shot attempts. For some reason, Bosh has taken nine three-pointers on pick-and-pop plays, making just two of them.
Chris Bosh is a career 29.5 percent three-point shooter, so the reason for him taking these shots, or his coaches asking him to stroke it from deep, is unknown, and it has to bring down his overall shooting percentage on pick-and-rolls.
And for you Heat lovers who are sick of getting picked on, here's something to fire back with: Miami's pick-and-roll ball handlers are No. 1 in the NBA in terms of points-per-possession.
Milwaukee Bucks: Andrew Bogut
Coming back from his horrendous injury a year ago, Andrew Bogut has had a solid, if unspectacular, season. Some of his numbers, like his field-goal percentage and PPG, have decreased from where they were for the 2009-10 season, and this is surely due to the amount of practice time he missed during recovery.
His RPG (11.4) and BPG (2.6) have gone up, however, and he's proven to be quite capable on the pick-and-roll, coming in with a 53.3 percent shooting mark on pick-and-roll shot attempts.
Like Bogut, Milwaukee hasn't live up to expectations this year. Still, the Bucks have a good shot at the postseason and will need their center to get back to the level of play he showed a season ago if they wish to make any noise as a low seed.
Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love
Kevin Love's pick-and-roll field-goal percentage of 48.8 isn't as high as some of the other guys on this list, but he does have a dominant advantage over his fellow list-makers in one department: the pick-and-pop three.
Love has attempted 127 field goals on pick-and-roll plays and 67 of them have been three-pointers. Now, it's one thing to put them up. It's a completely different story when you make a ton of them, and Love has done that, hitting 50.7 percent of his three-point shot attempts on pick-and-pops.
The third-year man's accomplishments have been well documented, but let's just go through his numbers real quick. Love is averaging 20.7 PPG and 15.7 RPG while hitting 47.2 percent of his field goals and 42.2 percent of his three-pointers.
Simply amazing. His numbers on pick-and-roll plays only add some more information on just how good he has been.
New Jersey Nets: Brook Lopez
Just like with the Chicago Bulls, we have a bit of a quandary here. If we're looking purely at field-goal percentage on pick-and-roll plays, this spot would have to go to Kris Humphries, as he converts 55.6 percent of his pick-and-roll field goals as opposed to Brook Lopez's number of 47.7.
Lopez, though, makes far more per game than Humphries (1.3-0.7) and is also much more versatile. Whereas Humphries can go hard to the basket and finish or hit shots consistently from certain spots on the floor, Lopez is able to step out on pick-and-pops to hit jumpers out to 18 feet, finish at the basket and is also very skilled at pulling up in the lane and floating one through the hoop.
Due to the multitude of ways Lopez can hurt teams, he'll get the nod for the Nets, although we should keep in mind that Humphries is skilled in this area of the game as well. Both men are also benefiting greatly from the presence of Deron Williams.
New Orleans Hornets: David West
Averaging 18.5 PPG and 7.6 RPG, David West is having another solid season. West is an efficient player on offense, with a field-goal percentage of 50.6.
That efficiency carries over to his pick-and-roll game, where he hits 51.2 percent of his shots. This play is a big part of his offense—making up 15.1 percent of his production—and he hits over one shot-per-game off pick-and-rolls.
It also doesn't hurt to have Chris Paul feeding you the ball.
New York Knicks: Amar'e Stoudemire
It's long been held by many that Amar'e Stoudemire is the best pick-and-roll finisher in the game, and his numbers make it an arguable case for him.
Stoudemire makes 1.1 pick-and-roll field goals a game and has a shooting percentage of 57.4 on these attempts.
While his MVP campaign has lost some momentum as the year has gone on, Stoudemire is still having a fantastic season with averages of 26.4 PPG and 8.3 RPG while helping to make the Knicks relevant again.
The biggest story going forward with Stoudemire will be how the next few seasons play out with Carmelo Anthony. No matter what happens with that situation, there will certainly be a ton of buzz and excitement surrounding the team.
Oklahoma City Thunder: Serge Ibaka
Serge Ibaka only scores 9.3 PPG. He's efficient in doing so, however, hitting 54.3 percent of his shots. He is equally adept on the pick-and-roll, finishing off 63.5 percent of field goal attempts on the play.
Ibaka doesn't have as many makes or attempts as many of the others on this list, but that's just how it's going to be when you're playing alongside Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
Ibaka's job will be to get the job done whenever he is called upon, and so far he has done that.
Orlando Magic: Dwight Howard
This shouldn't be surprising given his explosiveness and the improvement he's made in his offensive game, but Dwight Howard's statistics on the pick-and-roll are staggering.
Howard makes 0.8 pick-and-roll field goals a game. While that's not a huge number compared to others around the league, his 87.3 field-goal percentage on the play is absolutely absurd.
With an overall field-goal percentage of 59.7, Howard has been efficient in every aspect of his game and is currently averaging 23.0 PPG, 14.2 RPG and 2.4 BPG.
Howard should be receiving much more MVP talk than he has up to this point. His current numbers on the pick-and-roll indicate just how good he can be, and we can't forget that he's only 25. It's pretty scary to think of where this guy could be in a couple of years.
Philadelphia 76ers: Elton Brand
After seeing his production drop in his first two season with the Sixers due to injuries, Brand has gotten himself back together and is posting respectable averages of 15.1 PPG and 8.5 RPG.
Brand has proven to be effective on pick-and-rolls, converting 50.9 percent of his shots when running the play and making a little under one basket a game from that set.
Philadelphia has taken just about everyone by surprise this year, making a run for the postseason that was completely unexpected.
There are a number of talented young players on the roster who have produced for the team. Brand is another reason the Sixers are where they are, reviving a career that looked to be over.
Phoenix Suns: Hakim Warrick
A guy with explosive leaping ability goes to Phoenix and puts up big numbers on the pick-and-roll with Steve Nash. Shocker.
Hakim Warrick's season average of 8.7 PPG on 52.2 percent shooting won't blow anyone away, but his 63.9 percent average on pick-and-roll field goal attempts might be able to sway some people.
Although no one in the Suns' frontcourt has been able to duplicate Amar'e Stoudemire's numbers, at least Warrick is doing what he can to replace his pick-and-roll abilities.
Portland Trail Blazers: LaMarcus Aldridge
After being a solid player during his first four years in the league, LaMarcus Aldridge has exploded in the 2010-11 season, averaging 22.7 PPG and 8.7 RPG. When the team was missing Brandon Roy, he was the main reason they were able to stay competitive and many consider him a big-time All-Star snub.
Aldridge has some range on his jumper. He is also very effective in the pick-and-roll, converting 55.2 percent of his field goal attempts when running the play and averaging nearly 1.5 pick-and-roll baskets a game.
Now if only the Blazers can get their guys to stay healthy they might be onto something.
Sacramento Kings: Samuel Dalembert
This one's a little ugly. Sacramento's pick-and-roll men are the lowest rated in the league on a points-per-possession basis, and their ball handlers aren't doing much better at No. 25.
The best among them is Samuel Dalembert, who has a field-goal percentage of 49.2 on pick-and-rolls. While the percentage isn't all that bad, someone listed at 6'11" could do better and Dalembert only makes about 0.5 pick-and-roll baskets a game.
Someone had to get selected, and that man is Samuel Dalembert.
San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan
How taken aback are you by this? Tim Duncan is fundamentally sound on the pick-and-roll and is one of the better players in the league at finishing off the play. Isn't that the case with every aspect of his game?
What is there even left to say about Tim Duncan?
He's the greatest power forward of all time and continues to produce in his 13th year in the league. As the pick-and-roll man, Duncan hits 1.1 shots per game and has a field-goal percentage of 54.9.
Just another reason he'll be making the Hall of Fame as soon as he is eligible.
Toronto Raptors: Amir Johnson
Amir Johnson is nowhere close to being a big-name player, but he has been reasonably productive on what has turned out to be a really bad team.
Johnson is averaging just 10.1 PPG and 6.7 RPG, although he has been efficient by hitting 57.5 percent of his shots. After looking over the numbers, it's also clear that a major strength in his game is his ability to run the pick-and-roll, as he hits 59.1 percent of his shot attempts on the play.
Who knows when or if the Raptors will become a good team again. One thing we do know is that Toronto does have a player who excels at one of the basketball's bread and butter plays.
Utah Jazz: Al Jefferson
News flash! The Utah Jazz have a big man who is highly effective in the pick-and-roll game. While Karl Malone's numbers on the pick-and-roll aren't readily available, we can probably safely assume that Al Jefferson, while good, isn't at that level.
Malone did make the Hall of Fame largely because of that play, right?
Still, Jefferson is able to fill up the basket off pick-and-rolls at a very good clip, hitting 55.8 percent of his shots as the pick-and-roll man.
On the year, Jefferson is averaging 19.0 PPG and 9.5 RPG while shooting 50.0 percent from the floor. Again, not quite up to Malone's level, but still rather good.
Washington Wizards: JaVale McGee
While fellow big man Andray Blatche sees the ball more often on pick-and-rolls, his shooting percentage (43.7) when running the play is just not very good at all.
JaVale McGee, though, who has attempted 50 less shots on pick-and-rolls than Blatche, makes up for the lack of attempts by putting in 63.6 percent of his pick-and-roll shots whenever he does get the rock.
This is another case of having to pick from a not-so-great lot, but this is the Washington Wizards. What did you expect? At least McGee provided us with some entertainment during the dunk contest and his 12-block triple-double.