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How to Defend the Pick and Roll in Basketball

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One of the toughest things to do in all or sports is defend the pick and roll in basketball. It is so tough that at the highest levels of the game it is still the play that is most widely used to score a basket.

Think of how many times we saw John Stockton to Karl Malone and how it was all done with the pick and roll. At the younger levels the pick and roll is actually a play that you can defend and stop. Let's go over some of the basics so that you can insert a game-plan that is effective at stopping the play.

Know the ball-handler: Is the ball-handler someone who can get all the way to the basket and finish? Is the ball-handler someone who can shoot? Does he like to go to his left or right more often? What hand does he like to dribble the ball with? All these thoughts should go into each possession while defending the pick and roll. If you don't know the ball-handler's strengths vs. weaknesses he can play you like a puppet.

Ball-handler can shoot, now what? If the person dribbling the ball can shoot then it is key to try and go over the top of the pick. Shooters want the defense to go under the pick so they can have an uncontested shot. They don't like to be crowded though. When defending a shooter and you see a screen coming take an extra step closer to the ball-handler. Make it tough to screen you and then try to go over the top of the screen. If your coach is smart he will have the off-ball defender hedge out to slow down the ball-handler and give you time to recover.

Ball-handler can't shoot, now what? If the ball-handler isn't a threat to shoot then simply go under the pick and dare him to shoot the ball. Never forget the key to offense is to get the best shot possible and if the ball-handler can't shoot then you are doing the best you can for your defense by letting him try. This also allows the defender time to catch up to the ball-handler should he aggressively drive to the basket.

What about switching? I say to never ever switch unless it is a guard-on-guard pick and roll. But don't ever switch if it is a big man picking a little man. When that happens you are going right into the hands of the offense and giving them a basket.

Should we hedge? Hedging is when the off-ball defender or the man who is guarding the screener steps out to slow the ball-handler down. I'm a big fan of hedging but there are now plays to beat it. If you have a fairly athletic big man it is still a good idea to hedge and slow the ball down until the normal defender can recover. The hedge defender wants to force the ball-handler to go over him to take away a straight line to the basket. There are 5 ways to practice and work on defending the pick and roll while working with younger players. It is important to practice these over and over again explaining each situation as you go.

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