To Pick or Not to Pick
There are a lot of instructional videos and articles describing the 2-Man Game and how to set picks. Whether they talk about the correct way of playing the pick-n-roll or the slip-pick or other variations, they all fail to discuss when you should or shouldn't set a pick in the first place. This post will attempt to answer that question.
What is a Pick?
A pick happens when an offensive player attempts to block, or "screen", a defensive player away from the man he is guarding. In doing so, he frees that player for an open shot or pass. Picks can also be used to force the defense to switch their coverage. This is typically done to pick a long-stick defender covering an attackman so a short-stick defender switches to guard him. Setting good picks is a fundamental part of the game.
There are many types of picks and ways to execute a pick but that is beyond the scope of this article. Suffice it so say, the "pick-n-roll" is one of the simplest plays, but when executed correctly, it is incredibly difficult to defend. What makes it successful is when both defenders end up covering one player. If they both cover the original player, the picker is wide open. If they both go to the picker, the other offensive player is open.
Reading Your Defender
As with everything else we do on offensive, it all starts with reading your defender. What we mean by that is understanding what your defender is doing and anticipating what he is going to do so that you can base your actions on any advantage he gives you. For example, cutting as soon as he turns his head away from you gives you an advantage because he assumes you will be in the same place when he looks back and it will take him a second or two to relocate you and recover. What type of pick to set is based entirely on what your defender and defender being picked do when the pick occurs. Determining whether to set a pick is based on what your defender does.
Answer the Question Already!
So what are we looking for when reading our defender? If your defender is playing you loose and does not follow you when you cut, a pick cannot be successful because the defenders are not likely to make a mistake and cover the same player. In this case a pick does little to create an advantage. However, if your defender is playing tight and is likely to follow you as you cut, then a pick is definitely warranted and likely to disrupt the defense, hopefully creating an advantage that leads to a quality scoring chance.
To recap, when deciding whether to set a pick or not, read your defender. If he's playing you tight and will follow you when you cut, a pick is likely to work. If he's playing you loose or says home when you cut, a pick is pretty useless.