How To Set & Use A Pick In Basketball

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Picks in basketball are an invaluable tool that will give the offense many opportunities to score. If you know how to properly set a pick and how to use a pick, the defense will have trouble defending you. The greatest players in the game are masters at utilizing picks to create space for open shots not only for themselves, but also for their teammates. If you want to be truly great at utilizing picks, study film on players like Kevin Durant, Reggie Miller, Richard Hamilton, Steve Nash, and Chris Paul.

Picks are also often referred to as screens. You can set many different types of picks like the down pick, cross pick, ball pick, flare pick, new york pick, slash pick, flex pick, stagger pick, and many more.

Here's the definition of a pick:

When an offensive player legally blocks the path of a defender to open up another offensive player for a shot or to receive a pass.

When setting the pick, you should:
  • Feet spread - you want to create a wide base that is hard for the defender to get around.

  • Hips down and knees bent - you want to be in an athletic solid position with your hips down and your knees bent, so it is difficult for the defender to nudge by you or knock you off balance.

  • Back pointing to targeted area - you want to have your back pointing to the direction that you want the player using the pick to go.

  • Stationary - you want to be stationary before the offensive player comes off of your pick. If you are moving as you set the pick, that is an illegal screen and an offensive foul will be called on you. Make sure to pick an area and let the offensive player run off of your pick.

  • Protect yourself - place your hands in a position on your body to protect yourself. However, make sure you don't extend your arms toward the defensive player.

  • Communicate the pick - make sure to let the offensive player know the pick is coming. You can do this by raising your hand and calling out the player's name.

  • Open up to the ball - after the offensive player comes off of your pick, turn towards the ball and find an open space on the floor. Many times, the person who sets the pick is the player that ends up being open. If you set a ball pick, you can "roll" or "slip" to the basket or "pop" to an open area in the high post or perimeter.

When using the pick, you should:
  • Fake opposite - before you come off of the pick, you should fake in the opposite direction to set up the defender. This will help you run the defender into the pick. If the defender cheats over the pick, cut backdoor.

  • Shoulders by picker's hip - as you come off the pick, make sure to get low and get your shoulders at the same height as the player who is setting the pick. This will prevent the defender from knocking you off of your path while maintaining good balance to catch and shoot or catch and drive.

  • Think Curl - whenever you come off of a pick, think curl. This will create an aggressive mentality that will be hard to guard. When the defense starts to adjust, you can fade, pop out, or cut backdoor. By thinking curl, these options will open up even more.

Related Pages and Helpful Resources

Executing The Basketball Pick and Roll
Basic Basketball Screens
Basketball Pick and Roll Drills

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Ray Ray says:
1/29/2016 at 9:36:16 PM

This helped me a lot. I'm a player in a church basketball program and I was new at it. I found this website and it taught me deeper into what my coach taught us.Thank You!😀
(Our team name! I know, pretty wimpy)


Loretta Blackmon says:
12/5/2015 at 11:33:43 AM

It would be helpful to see more diagrams as to how a pick is used. There may be some ladies like me only played half court ball a long time ago. But who enjoy basketball now.

  1 person liked this.  

Jeff says:
6/12/2013 at 3:44:18 PM

Another reason to "screen an area" is to give the cutter room to use the screen and then read it. If the screener head hunts, it usually shrinks the amount of space the cutter has to work with and gives the cutter fewer options.

If the screener screens an area and does not set the screen to close to the baseline, the cutter has several things he can do based on how the defense reacts...
- back cut straight to basket
- curl
- fade
- pop out (4 back)

So basically it's up to the screener to get set, then it's the cutters job to make sure the defender hits the screen and the cutter makes the read.

As Coach Sar points out, it also helps cut down on fouls called.


Ken Sartini says:
6/12/2013 at 1:14:48 PM

Coach K -

Some coaches don't want their players picking up a foul while screening. As for me, I wanted them to screen someone..... but its the player receiving the screens responsibility to come off his shoulder. JMO

Its all a matter of philosophy..... but this says it all...

Stationary - you want to be stationary before the offensive player comes off of your pick. If you are moving as you set the pick, that is an illegal screen and an offensive foul will be called on you. Make sure to pick an area and let the offensive player run off of your pick.


Coach K says:
6/12/2013 at 10:00:00 AM

For years, my players were screening air. To ensure we were not missing the screen, I instructed my players to screen a body. Can you explain to me the theory behind screening an area?


Ken says:
4/6/2012 at 7:35:51 AM

Aloha Chic -

Its been awhile since we talked..... how are things over there? Jefjf & Joe have a great site with a wealth of information for coaches and players alike.

Hope to hear more from you on various subjects ,,, with all your knowledge your input would be great.

Coach Sar


Chic Hess says:
4/5/2012 at 4:36:20 PM

I just signed up, and so far I am extremely impressed with this website. I am looking forward to seeing and reading more.
Mahalo, Chic


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