Pick & Roll Offense Guide

Posted by Coach Chris on 10th Oct 2018

Pick & Roll Offense

The Pick & Roll Offense is a hard offense to guard. It creates great spacing for scoring opportunities to drive to the basket and also shooters around the perimeter. This offense can be extremely effective if you have players who have the ability to set good screens, roll to the basket, and finish at the goal.

In this article, we’re going to take a deeper dive into the Pick & Rolls by going over the different locations screens can be set and the reads that can be made coming off the screen to create scoring opportunities on the offensive end. By the time you finish this article you’ll know the strengths and weaknesses to implementing this offense and if its the right fit for your team.

Strengths of the Pick & Roll Offense

  • Difficult to Defend. The defense can be beat in so many different ways with the Pick & Roll regardless of how they try to stop it. With the Pick & Roll Offense, they take what the defense gives them and exploit it for a high scoring opportunity.

  • Flexible Personnel. Some offenses require a certain type of personnel, but the Pick & Roll offense is flexible in that a variety of personnel can effectively run it. There are many different ways to run this offense which means teams are able to use different personnel and still use the same offensive concepts.

  • Strong fundamentals. Cutting, screening, passing, and shooting are the foundational fundamentals that allows a team running this offense to excel. If your team can execute these four concepts accurately with the right timing and spacing then you will easily have scoring opportunities each offensive possession.

Need more reasons to use the Pick & Roll Offense? Dave Severns can tell you exactly why to use the Pick & Roll. 

Weaknesses of the Pick & Roll Offense

  • All-Around Ball Handlers. Players handling the basketball need to be able to come off the screen and drive to the hoop or shoot the long range shot. Essentially, they need to be able to do both. If your players can do both it will keep the defense on their toes and make your offense more successful. Otherwise, the defense will be able to scout your team and make adjustments by knowing players tendencies and defend accordingly.

  • Defense Switches Screens. A major way to defend the Pick & Roll is for defenders to switch on the screen. If a defense is switching then they most likely have neutralized your attack. Your offense make sure the defense CANNOT switch. How do you accomplish this? Be smart about your match-ups in the Pick & Roll. A post player setting a screen for a guard will not likely result in a switch because it creates a huge mismatch advantage. However, a guard screening for a guard could easily be switched because the positions do not create an obvious disadvantage.

Who should use the Pick & Roll Offense?

The Pick & Roll Offense is built for teams who excel at dribbling and screening. A team will be successful using this offense if they can execute tough screens and strong dribble penetration while being patient and spreading the floor. They also need to be able to read the defense and make the right decisions accordingly.

You need ball handlers that are smart decisions makers that can use screen correctly to not only create scoring opportunities for themselves but for their teammates as well. Screeners who understand how to read the defense after setting the screen to find the open space is important as well as being able to know down open shots.

The two main keys for any team using the Pick & Roll Offense is being able to score off dribble penetration and knocking down open shots. If you can do both of these things well then you’ll always keep the defense on their toes and make it hard to stop you.

What is a Pick & Roll?

The Pick & Roll can be referred to a number of other names: screen and roll, on-ball screen, and ball-screen just to name a few. Regardless of what you call it, the actions are still the same.

The action of the Pick & Roll is an offensive player setting a screen for their teammate who has the ball. Generally a Pick & Roll goes something like this:

  • An offensive player with the basketball goes to set a screen (The Pick) for their teammate with the ball.

  • The player with the basketball dribbles off the screen reading the defenders and attacking to create a shot for themselves or another teammate

  • After screening, the screener also reads the defense to see if they should roll, pop, or slip their screen (The Roll). All actions have them looking to catch the basketball and make a play.

Teaching the Pick & Roll

To make the Pick & Roll easy to learn, we broke it down into 7 easy steps.

  1. Ball Handler Creates Separation. By creating separation, the ball handler is setting their defender up to be screened effectively. If the defender is too close then they can trail or fight over the screen without being put at a disadvantage. Be sure your ball handler knows ways to create space before they dribble the ball and using their dribble.

  2. Screen Creates Separation. Just like the ball handler, the screen needs to create separation from their defender as well. The point of the screener creating space is so their defender will not be able to help on the dribbler which should for an opening after the screen for a shot or attacking the driving lane.

  3. Correct Screening Angle. The correct screening angle should be the screener setting the screen on the back hip of the defender guarding the basketball. The angle at which the screen is set is what makes or breaks the effectiveness and outcome of the action. It’s the most important part and can not be overlooked when teaching the Pick & Roll.

  4. Screener Makes Contact with Defender. The last part of the screen is ensuring the defender makes contact with the defense. You want your screeners to know how to set a quality, solid screen.

  5. Ball Handler Attacks Off the Screen. Once the screener has set the screen correctly, it’s up to the ball handler to do the rest. They have to wait for the screen to be set, come off the screen close enough to rub shoulders with their teammate and then be in attack mode.

  6. Screener Rolls to the Rim. Once the ball handler has used the screen and the defender has fought past to recover, the screener cuts to the rim looking for a pass and scoring opportunity. Your screener can either reverse pivot and roll or dive to the rim.

  7. Ball Handler Makes Decision. There are a number of options for the ball handler to make coming off the screen, but they should be able to read the defense and make the correct decision.

Pick & Roll Screening Locations

In Pick & Roll 101, Dave Severns goes on to outline different spots on the floor where Pick & Rolls can take place. These spots include:

  • Side Pick & Roll (or Wing Pick & Roll) is a ball-screen set on the wing leading the ball-handler towards the middle of the court.
  • High/Mid Pick & Roll (or Top Pick & Roll) is a ball-screen set at the top of the key leading the ball-handler towards the wing.
  • Step Up Pick & Roll is a ball-screen coming up from the post to set on the wing and lead the ball-handler towards the baseline.
  • Angle Pick & Roll is a ball-screen coming at an angle from the elbow to set with the screen's back to the goal and lead the ball-handler towards the rim.
  • Elbow Pick & Roll (or Horns Pick & Roll) is a ball-screen that uses 1 or 2 screeners at the top of the high post that gives the ball-handler options because they can go either direction of the court.
  • Drag Pick & Roll is a ball-screen set during transition leading the ball-handler. Teams can use 2 players to set drag screens for a Double Drag Screen Pick & Roll.

Pick & Roll Offense Scoring Options

Regardless of the screening location, your ball-handler has to be ready to attack when they're coming off the Pick & Roll and it's absolutely crucial they are able to read the defense. They have to be able to survey the defense quickly and make the correct decision to put their team in position to score. a

Below are some common reads your ball-handler will make:

  • Split the Defense. If the screener's defender hedges out too far to stop the ball or go for a steal then your ball-handler should make them pay but splitting through them. To make this work, they must quickly change directions and speed while keeping their dribble low so they defense can't reach down and try to make a play. If you're ball-handler can split the defense then your team may be able to score off a lay-up or jump shot or kick out to an open perimeter player.
  • Attack the Hip. If the screener's defender doesn't head out high and sticks to the screener then your ball-handler should be ready to attack the outside hip and head for the rim. Between attack mode and a screen set at the right angle, the on-ball defender will have no choice but to trail the play which means other defenders are going to have to choose if they're going to help stop the ball or let the ball-handler go. If the defense helps, there's a kick out to an open shooter. If the defense doesn't help, it's an easy lay-up for the ball-handler.
  • Turn Down the Screen. If the on-ball defender sees the screen coming they may attempt to cheat over or under the screen. When the ball-handler sees the defense try to do this they should explode in the opposite direction of the screen towards the rim. The defense will pay for cheating and have to recover, but they'll be a step or 2 behind forcing the defense to rotate and help stop the ball. Again, this puts the ball-handler in a position for a scoring opportunity for themselves or an open passing lane for a pass and shot to an open teammate.
  • Back Out. If the screener's defender hedges hard on the screen and the ball-handler doesn't have to chance to split then they can back out a couple of steps and see how the defense readjusts. This will create some space for the ball-handler and if the screener's defender hustles back to guard then screener then the ball-handler could be open for a shot or have a driving lane. Otherwise, the defenders may switch in this instance which could possibly create a mismatch. This is a bonus for the offense and you can play it two different ways: 1) your ball-handler uses their dribble to attack their new defender who is possibly bigger/slower than them or 2) your ball-handler finds the screener who has rolled and posted up against their new defender who is possibly smaller/shorter than them. Either mismatch leads to a scoring opportunity for the offense.
  • Shoot the Basketball. If the on-ball defender decides to go under the screen then your ball-handler should be ready to pull the trigger for an open jump shot. If your ball-handler is not a shooter then you may rethink putting them into a Pick & Roll scenario because if they can't shoot the defense will always go under screens which allows them to clog the driving lane and recover back on defense resulting in a missed scoring opportunity.

Below are some common reads screener will make:

  • Roll to the Basket. If the defense switches or the screener's defender hedges, the roll to the basket will often be open for the screener.
  • Slip to the Basket. If the screener sees their defender start to cheat high on the ball screen, they should cut to the basket before the ball-handler comes off of their screen. The screener slipping to the basket will force the defense to play honest or they'll be giving up easy scoring opportunities.
  • Pop Out for Jump Shot. If the screen is able to hit an outside shot, they can open up to the ball if there's an open spot on the perimeter or the high post. A screener that can shoot is going to be very useful for any offense because the defense will not be able to collapse to the basket on the Pick & Roll.

Pick & Roll Offense Set Plays

Double Exit 1

Starting Points

  • 1 at the top with the basketball
  • 3 in the middle of the free throw line
  • 4 and 5 midway on opposite lane lines
  • 2 in the middle of the line just above the low blocks

Actions for Double Exit 1

  • 2 comes off of 5 to the right side wing
  • 1 passes to 2 on the wing
  • 3 cuts to the opposite wing
  • 5 steps out to set a side ball screen for 2
  • 2 comes off ball screen and reads the defense
  • As 2 comes off screen, 3 and 1 shift over to find open passing lanes
  • After screening, 5 rolls to the block or flares to the short corner
  • 4 reads the defense and cuts to open gaps

Scoring Options

  • 2 has options: attack the rim or open shot for themselves, pass to 5 rolling or flaring, kick out to 3 and 1 for a shot, or 4 cutting to the open space

Step Up

Starting Points

  • 1 at the top with the basketball
  • 2 on the lower left wing (close to corner)
  • 3, 4, 5 stacked on the right side lane line

Actions for Double Exit 1

  • 1 dribbles to the left wing
  • As that happens, 4 and 5 set a stagger screen for 3 cutting to the top
  • 1 passes to 3 at the top
  • 4 comes over left elbow area to set screen for 1 cutting to the right wing
  • 3 passes back to 1
  • 5 comes to set a step up ball screen for 1 to attack baseline
  • As 1 comes off screen, 2 and 3 shift over to find open passing lanes
  • 5 pops back to an open area and 4 cuts to the middle of the lane

Scoring Options

  • 1 has options: attack the rim or open shot for themselves, kick out to 2 or 3 for an open shot on opposite side of court, 4 cutting to middle of the lane, or 5 popping out for a jump shot

European Ball Screen Offense

If you're looking for another ball screening offense to use, think about the European Ball Screen Offense. Unlike plays that use ball screens, the European Ball Screen Offense is a 5-Out continuity offense that allows you to run ball screens on both sides of the floor. It’s a unique offense with specific movement and actions, but it also utilizes special actions to get into the offense based around the personnel of your team.

Below Coach Lason Perkins explains the initial alignment for this Ball Screen Offense.


Now it's time to break down the basic movements within the continuity.

Phase 1 of the Continuity:

  • 1 dribbles down to the right wing to initiate the offense
  • 5 sets the ball screen on the wing, then rolls to the basket
  • 1 attacks the ball screen coming off shoulder to shoulder and looks to score by trying taking it to the rim or a short jump shot
  • If a scoring option is not there off of the initial ball screen, 1 reverses the ball to 4

Phase 2 of the Continuity:

  • As 4 receives the pass, 3 cuts to the basket and clears to the opposite corner.
  • 1 cuts to the opposite wing and 5 cuts to the top
  • After 3 clears, 2 cuts to receive a pass from 4 on the wing
  • 4 follows the pass and sets a ball screen on the wing
  • 2 attacks the ball screen and 4 rolls to the basket
  • If no scoring opportunities, 2 passes to 5

Phase 3 of the Continuity:

  • 2 fills the opposite wing.
  • 4 cuts to the top.
  • 1 basket cuts and fills the opposite corner.
  • 3 cut to receive the pass from 5 who would follow and set a ball screen
  • And the ball screen offense would continue

Tips for Executing the Pick & Roll Offense

If your team knows how to properly set a pick and how to use a pick, the defense will have trouble making stops on defense. Here are some easy tips for screeners to know and ball-handlers to know when it comes to any Pick & Rolls.

The screener should:

  • Feet spread. Create a wide base that is hard for the defender to get around.

  • Hips down and knees bent. Be in an solid, athletic position so a defender cannot knock you off balance.

  • Back pointing to targeted area. Have your back pointing to the direction you want the ball-handler using your screen to go.

  • Stationary. Do not move before the ball-handler comes off your screen. If you are not stationary and move then you’ll be setting an illegal screen and get called for an offensive foul.

  • Protect yourself. Place your hands in a position to protect your body. This will be different positions for male and females, but regardless do not extend your arms when you’re setting your screen.

  • Communicate the pick. Tell your teammate you’re coming to set a screen for them so they can be ready to use it. You may signal them by raising your hand and saying their name.

  • Open up to the ball. After screening, turn towards the ball and find the open space on the floor.

The ball-handler should:

  • Be patient. Wait for your defender to get their screen set before you use it. If you try to use the screen too soon then most likely the screen will be useless because your defender was never touched or your screener will get called for an illegal screen because they were not set.

  • Don't telegraph your screener. Ideally, you do not want your defender to know what direction a screen is coming from so they can't make any defense adjustments. Do not give away the screen by watching the screener. Instead keep your eyes moving to survey the court in case a teammate is open for a scoring opportunity.

  • Fake opposite. Before using the screen, set your defender up by faking the creating separation. This will help you dribble your defender into your screener.

  • Shoulders to Shoulder. As you come off the screen, make sure you rub shoulders with your screen. You want to come off the screen tight enough that your defender cannot get into the space between.

  • Attack Mode. Whenever you come off the screen, think attack mode. You want to come off the screen reading the defense and see what options you have to create a scoring opportunity. It may be a shot for yourself, passing to your screening, or attacking the rim for a kick out to another teammate.

Learn More

The Pick & Roll Offense has the potential to be unstoppable for your team against any defense. We have given you the foundation to implement this into your game plan, but there’s always more to learn. A great tool for any coach is learning directly from Pick & Roll 101 with Dave Severns. His short, instructional DVD provides you with a solid foundation of what it takes to execute this offense and drills to use in practice to get better.

If you're looking for more Pick & Roll Offense Set Play look no further than Lason Perkins' Great Pick & Roll Plays DVD. Perkins takes you through an incredible collection of plays step-by-step on the whiteboard then follows it up with excellent demonstrations to help you instruct your players on the court correctly. By the time you finish both DVDs you’ll have plenty of plays to exploit any defense with the Pick & Roll.

Another exceptional DVD from Coach Perkins is European Ball Screen Offense where he introduces you to a new continuity offense where you can ball screens on both sides of the court. In this DVD he covers the basics, adjustments to be made, entries and more.


If you want to learn even more about the Blocker Mover Offense, check out HoopsKing.com for DVDs you can download or rent.