Stats review: The pick and roll revolution

Nov 19, 2021 by Print
Stats review: The pick and roll revolution

Updating the standings of the 7DAYS EuroCup in the pick and roll revolution.

High Gravity Matchup

Joventut Badalona faced off with MoraBanc Andorra in this week’s only clash between teams entering the week with 3-1 records. Joventut took control of the game in the second quarter and never looked back getting a sterling showing from veteran center Ante Tomic who scored 18 points on a perfect 5-5 shooting going one-on-one in the post, and 6-6 overall to go along with 7 assists. Nearly every time he touched the ball it went through the hoop one way or another as his combination of size and craftiness make him one a unique weapon at this level.

Like Tomic, Justin Cobbs leaned on his biggest strength in Round 5 leading Buducnost VOLI Podgorica to victory over Cedevita Olimpija Ljubljana scoring 20 points handling the ball in the pick and roll—among the highest single-game marks in EuroCup history. He finished with 33 points to lift Buducnost to its fourth win.

Pick and Roll Proficiency

Cobbs's outburst was certainly impressive, but perhaps not exactly surprising as pick and roll play continues to be the cornerstone of nearly every EuroCup team’s offense. So far this season, 44% of all half court possessions are used or created by ball handlers in the pick and roll—up marginally from last year.

40% of pick and roll possessions are used by ball handlers. Since those possessions produce a relatively inefficiency 0.83 points per possession, having a player that can create for themselves efficiently is a significant advantage at this level. Not only are the five players listed above scoring prolifically out of ball screens, but each has done so with excellent efficiency in the early-going.

While the production of the group above has been similar, each has their own strengths as a ball screen scorer as all teams run some pick and roll but how they execute it depends heavily on their personnel. Aaron Harrison, for example, combines great size and shooting ability and his knack for rejecting screens has helped him avoid turning the ball over a single time handling the ball in the pick and roll so far this season. Will Cummings and Justin Cobbs are adept at getting downhill and while Cummings tends to find a little more daylight around the rim, Cobbs draws fouls in bunches and has deft touch on his floater. McCollum and Pullen rank among the most established perimeter threats in recent EuroCup history and their ability to stop and pop with range makes them difficult for opposing teams to defend without making some aggressive choices with their coverages.

Scoring is only a small piece of the ball screen puzzle as 60% of possessions originating in the pick and roll result in a pass out. Those pass outs result in 0.91 points per possession—significantly more than possessions used by the ball handlers themselves but slightly less than the average half court possession this season.

Axel Julien is having the best season of his pro career as a passer in his debut campaign in the EuroCup but Jacob Pullen’s placement is perhaps more impressive here given his top-5 ranking as a scorer. Pullen has been this season’s most productive pick and roll option this season creating, assisting, or scoring 18.8 points per game. His ability to find his own shot and get his teammates involved and the presence of Jaka Blazic as a second option is a big reason Olimpija is breaking the 50% barrier this season. Only a handful of European teams in recent history at any level have created more than half of their possessions out of ball screens.

Passing talent can be somewhat tough to quantify through the lens of pick and rolls as the reads ball handlers make can be influenced by defenses and the personnel around them. Notably among the players above, Julien and Pullen both do a nice job spreading the ball around while Derek Needham finds the roll man prolifically and Blazic has been especially productive driving and kicking to shooters.

Cuts make up a very small percentage of the shots created by passes out of ball screens as threading the ball to scorers inside takes unique precision. Only one player has created more two shots per game finding cutting teammates while handling the ball in the pick and roll—Milos Teodosic.

Looking Ahead to Round 6

In Round 6, the team most reliant on ball screens to create shots—Olimpija, takes on the team least reliant on pick and roll play—Segafredo Virtus Bologna.