HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — On the Washington Wizards’ first possession of their big, triple-overtime win in Toronto on Thursday, John Wall and Marcin Gortat ran a side pick-and-roll. The same primary action produced two big free throws in the final minute of the second overtime and a huge three-point play in the third OT.
SportVU cameras captured every pick-and-roll run in the 63 minutes of basketball at the Air Canada Centre on Thursday. The folks at STATS LLC have been tracking pick-and-rolls via SportVU this season, opening a new door as we look to learn more about the game, and have provided some of the data to NBA.com.
Note: All pick-and-roll stats included are through Wednesday’s games.
Heading into Thursday’s game, Wall and Gortat had run almost 200 more pick-and-rolls than any other combination in the league. They’ve been a pretty solid combination, with the Wizards scoring 1.06 points per possession when the pair ran a pick-and-roll. That mark is a notch better than the league average of 1.03 (on pick-and-roll possessions) and ranks 87th among 209 pairs of teammates who have run pick-and-rolls on at least 100 possessions.
But there’s a big difference between a Wall-Gortat pick-and-roll and a Wall-Nene pick-and-roll, which has produced just 0.85 points per 100 possessions. That’s one reason why Washington ranks 29th in pick-and-roll efficiency (better than only the Milwaukee Bucks).
Wizards’ most-used pick-and-roll combinations
|Ball-handler||Screener||Scr.||P&R Poss.||Team PTS||PTS/Poss|
|All other combinations||1,295||1,249||1,077||0.86|
Wall has been more likely to pass to Nene than Gortat, but that hasn’t been a good idea, as Nene has shot just 16-for-48 (33 percent) on those plays.
John Wall pick-and-roll partners
|Screener||Scr.||P&R Poss.||JW FGM||JW FGA||JW FG%||JW PTS||Pass to S||S FGM||S FGA||S FG%|
You see that Wall has shot worse when he’s come off a Nene screen, perhaps because Gortat sets a better pick and/or because Nene’s defenders are more mobile and able to defend Wall on a hedge or switch.
The Wizards will miss Nene, who’s out six weeks with an MCL sprain, but mostly on defense. The Wizards have allowed slightly less than a point per possession when he’s been the big defending a pick-and-roll. They’ve been almost seven points per 100 possessions better with him on the floor.
Offensively, they’ve been a point per 100 possessions better with him on the bench. And their pick-and-roll game might actually get better in these six weeks without him.
Top of the list
The Dallas Mavericks have been the most prolific pick-and-roll team in the league, but the Phoenix Suns have been the best, scoring 1.09 points per pick-and-roll possession, just a hair better than the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers.
Most points per pick-and-roll possession, team
|Team||Screens||Scr/100||Rank||P&R Poss.||Team PTS||PTS/Poss|
Scr/100 = Screens per 100 possessions
The Suns’ success starts with Goran Dragic and Channing Frye, the aggressive ball-handler and the 6-foot-11 floor spacer. They’ve been the league’s top pick-and-roll combination among those with at least 100 pick-and-roll possessions.
Most points per pick-and-roll possession, tandem
|Team||Ball-handler||Screener||Scr.||P&R Poss.||Team PTS||PTS/Poss|
Minimum 100 pick-and-roll possessions
Dragic has run almost the same amount of pick-and-rolls with Miles Plumlee (407 screens on 390 possessions) as he has with Frye (425, 392). But the Suns have scored only 1.03 points per possession on the Dragic-Plumlee pick-and-rolls. Clearly, Dragic prefers to have a screener who pops out for a jumper, rather than one who rolls to the rim.
On those 390 Dragic-Plumlee possessions, Dragic has passed the ball 232 times, but only 59 times (25 percent) to Plumlee. On the 392 Dragic-Frye possessions, he’s passed the ball 234 times, and 113 of those passes (48 percent) have gone to Frye.
Overall, the Suns have been efficient when Dragic has the ball, scoring 1.16 points per possession from his 1,238 pick-and-rolls. That’s the best mark among 46 starting point guards and other high-usage perimeter players who have been the pick-and-roll ball-handler for at least 300 possessions. And who’s next on the list might surprise you.
Most points per pick-and-roll possession, ball-handler
|Ball-handler||Poss.||Team PTS||PTS/Poss.||Top Partner||Poss.||Team PTS||PTS/Poss.|
|Goran Dragic||1,172||1,361||1.16||Channing Frye||392||510||1.30|
|DeMar DeRozan||690||793||1.15||Amir Johnson||261||303||1.16|
|Kevin Durant||732||813||1.11||Serge Ibaka||284||286||1.01|
|Jeremy Lin||528||586||1.11||Dwight Howard||166||181||1.09|
|LeBron James||659||729||1.11||Chris Bosh||188||225||1.20|
|Damian Lillard||1,121||1,238||1.10||LaMarcus Aldridge||441||526||1.19|
|Dwyane Wade||469||516||1.10||Chris Bosh||155||144||0.93|
|Jrue Holiday||783||859||1.10||Anthony Davis||245||256||1.04|
|Monta Ellis||1,451||1,583||1.09||Dirk Nowitzki||500||554||1.11|
|George Hill||619||672||1.09||David West||258||279||1.08|
Among 46 starting point guards and other perimeter players in the top 25 in usage rate.
Top partner = Player with whom he’s run the most pick-and-rolls.
DeRozan’s numbers seem a little fluky. He’s shot just 41 percent out of pick-and-rolls, has recorded an assist on just 5.8 percent those 690 possessions (the fourth lowest rate of the group), and averages less than one secondary assist (where his pass directly leads to somebody else’s assist) per game. But he has drawn fouls on 9.4 percent of his pick-and-roll possessions, a rate on par with that of LeBron James.
Some more notes from this list…
- It’s interesting that James has had good success with Chris Bosh, but Dwyane Wade hasn’t. Wade has actually shot better (18-for-32) than James has (14-for-31) coming off Bosh screens, but Bosh has shot better when receiving a pick-and-roll pass from James (15-for-22) than he has when getting one from Wade (9-for-25). The shooting numbers, of course, are some small sample sizes.
- Of the 46 pick-and-roll ball-handlers I looked at, the most likely to shoot is Tony Wroten, who has taken a shot on 31.0 percent of the screens he’s come off of. Next on the list are Nick Young (30.7 percent), Reggie Jackson (30.0 percent), Jamal Crawford (29.6 percent) and Rudy Gay (29.6) percent.
- The players least likely to shoot are Kendall Marshall (12.4 percent), Patrick Beverley (12.9 percent), Mario Chalmers (14.5 percent), George Hill (15.9 percent) and Ty Lawson (16.3 percent).
- James (20.1 percent) is less likely to shoot than Chris Paul (21.3 percent), Dragic (21.7 percent) or Wall (22.1 percent).
- The guy most likely to pass to the screener is Stephen Curry. Of Curry’s 830 passes out of pick-and-rolls, 56.3 percent have gone to the screener. Next on the list are Russell Westbrook (55.3 percent), Michael Carter-Williams (52.1 percent), Deron Williams (50.7 percent) and Kyrie Irving (48.7 percent).
- The guy least likely to pass to the screener is James Harden (27.2 percent). So when they come off pick-and-rolls, Curry is twice as likely to pass to the screener than Harden is. After Harden comes Carmelo Anthony (27.4 percent), James (28.0 percent), Jrue Holiday (29.0 percent) and Tyreke Evans (30.3 percent).
- Six of the 46 have shot better than 50 percent when coming off a pick-and-roll: Chalmers (54.8 percent), Dragic (53.2 percent), James (52.5 percent), Wade (51.3 percent), Kevin Durant (50.2 percent) and Tony Parker (50.2 percent).
- Get this: Durant has recorded an assist on a higher percentage of his pick-and-roll possessions (13.0 percent) than James (10.3 percent) and more than twice as often as Paul George (6.0 percent).
Location is key
SportVU keeps track of where every pick-and-roll takes place. As you might expect, the closer to the basket the screen is set, the more likely the offense is to score. The most efficient pick-and-roll spot on the floor is at the high post (around the foul line, inside the 3-point arc), which produces 1.05 points per possession.
But high post pick-and-rolls account for only 4 percent of all pick-and-rolls. The most common location is the top of the key, which sees 41 percent of pick-and-roll action. Next is the wing (foul-line extended), which sees 28 percent and the “sideline point” area (out by the coach’s box line) at 25 percent.
Pick-and-rolls by location
PCT = Percentage of total pick-and-rolls run from that location.
PPP = Points per possession on pick-and-rolls run from that location.
We’re just scratching the surface here. And that’s the issue with SportVU. There’s so much data to digest, it has to be compartmentalized and put into the proper context. But we’re really starting to see how much it has to offer.
Next week, I’ll take a look at pick-and-roll defense. (Hint: Indiana good, Portland bad.)