Executing The Basketball Pick and Roll

The pick and roll, also known as the screen and roll, is one of the simplest plays to execute offensively. While it may be simple to run, if executed properly, it can be a nightmare for defenses to defend. That is why you have seen the pick and roll trickle down from the NBA and all the way down to the youth and high school levels.

What Is the Pick and Roll

  1. An offensive player sets a screen for another offensive player who currently has the ball. This is also known as a ball screen. (The Pick)

  2. The offensive player dribbles around the ball screen and looks to score.

  3. The screener, opens up to the ball, and cuts to the basket. (The Roll)
Check out the video below.

While the pick and roll can be executed almost anywhere on the floor. Here are some examples:

Wing Pick and Roll - Top Side

The ball screen is set near the wing area and the screener's back will face the middle of the floor.
Wing Pick and Roll - Baseline Side

The ball screen is set near the wing area and the screener's back will face the baseline.
High Pick and Roll

This ball screen is set near the top of the key.
Corner Pick and Roll

The corner pick and roll is set near the corner. This can be difficult to defend, because defenders are not used to defending ball screens from this position. However, you have to be careful because defensive traps are easier to execute in the corner as well.
Flat Pick and Roll

This pick and roll is executed with the screener's back facing the basket. It can be set near the 3-point line or all the way in the back court.

The flat screen can be utilized against pressure. It is also great to utilize in transition as well.
A-Set Pick and Roll

The pick and roll can also be executed out of the a-set. This is where there are two screeners at the top and the ball handler chooses which direction to go.

You have different options for which screener rolls to the basket.
  • You can have the ballside screener always roll to the basket.
  • You can have the opposite side always roll to the basket.
  • You can also have a designated roller. No matter what side the ball handler goes to, the same player always rolls to the basket.

Tips For Executing the Pick and Roll

Players have literally made a hall of fame career off of the pick and roll. See Karl Malone and John Stockton. If you use these tips below and get better at executing the pick and roll, your team will benefit from it tremendously.

Ball Handler Pick and Roll Tips

Ideally, you want to be able finish at the rim, make good decisions, have the ability to blow by defenders, and pull up for the jump shot off the dribble. However, you can still be effective without all of these abilities.
  • Get low and balanced - This enables you to explode by the defender and prevents the defense from easily knocking you off balance with a forearm or slight bump.

  • Wait for the screen - Too many times players get anxious and leave too early. This makes it easy for your opponents to defend and can also result in an offensive foul (moving screen) on the screener because you started dribbling around the screen too early. It's better to be late than early when coming off of screens.

  • Fake opposite - When you fake opposite, this makes the defense play you honestly. It will also help you set up your defender so you can run them directly into the screen. If they still don't play you honestly, you can turn down the screen and attack the basket.

  • Attack! - Attack and be aggressive when you dribble off of the ball screen. More good things will happen when you are aggressive and under control versus when you are tentative. Along with attacking ball screens, this approach should be applied to all parts of your game.

  • Head up and see the floor - I see too many players tuck their chin into their chest while attacking the basket and slam right into helpside defense which results in an offensive foul. See and anticipate what the defense is going to do. Great defenses will have good helpside defense versus the pick and roll. See where the defense is going and locate the open man.

Screener Pick and Roll Tips

Preferably, you want to have the screener be a post player who can set good screens and has the athletic ability to roll to the basket, catch the pass, and finish at the goal. It's always a plus if the post player can shoot from outside which sets up the pick and pop as well.

  • Communicate - You should let the ball handler know that you are going to set a ball screen by raising a fist and calling out the ball handler's name.

  • Sprint to area - You should sprint to the area that you are going to screen. This will give the defense little time to react and make it more difficult for them to defend the ball screen.

  • Be stationary - To prevent an offensive foul from being called, you need to stop moving and stay stationary as the ball handler dribbles around your pick.

  • Be big - Get your feet spread a little wider than shoulder width apart, knees bent, and hips down. This makes it harder for the defense to move you or nudge by you.

  • Roll - After the screen is set, try to pin the defender on your back, reverse pivot and open up to the ball, and roll to the basket. Reach up your hand in order to give the passer a target.

  • Head up and see the floor - Good defenses will have helpside defense on the pick and roll. As you receive the pass rolling to the basket, keep your head up so you can see if there is a helpside defender. This will help you avoid the charge by sliding around the defender or stopping and passing to an open player.

More Options For the Ball Screen

While the pick and roll is certainly the most popular and can be one of the most effective options when utilizing the ball screen, there are other options for the screener and the ball handler. By understanding these options, you will be more of a threat. These are not the only options for attacking the ball screen, but they are some of the most effective.

Ball Handler Options

Straight-line attack

This is when the ball handler dribbles off the screen and dribbles directly towards the basket. If the defense plays behind the screener, this option will typically be open.

Attack the hedge

One of the most common defensive strategies is to hedge. By attacking the hedge, this will force the post player to make a choice. Do they stay on you or run back to their post player?

If they switch and you get a post player guarding you, you can immediately attack or back up to give yourself some momentum to attack the bigger and usually slower player.

Another option is to pass the ball to the screener because they should have an advantage in the post with a smaller guard on them.

Tip: When coming off of the ball screen, it's important to attack the defender's shoulder and take two dribbles off of the screen. This will often create indecision by the player guarding the screener which will result in more scoring opportunities for your team.

Split the hedge

Now after scoring a few times off of the pick and roll, the defender guarding the screener may get overly concerned and want to avoid getting beat again, so they slide way out on top of the screen and create separation between them and the screener. If this occurs, you can change direction and attack the gap between the screener's defender and screener.

Turn down the screen

Now you might start to notice that the player guarding you is starting to cheat over the top of the screen. This is when you fake high and drive the opposite direction.

Screener Options


If the defense switches or hedges, the roll to the basket will often be open for the screener.


If you see your defender start to cheat high on the ball screen, cut to the basket before the ball handler comes off of the screen. It's good to mix this in order to keep the defense honest.


If you have the ability to shoot the outside shot, you open up the ball and find an open spot along the perimeter or high post. This is very effective against defenses that collapse towards the basket on the pick and roll.

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


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Albert Teni says:
12/13/2022 at 1:55:32 AM

Great tutorials. Thank you for helping coaches organize training based on them, very professional!


bill nye says:
4/5/2019 at 9:36:35 AM



Coach Mike says:
10/21/2016 at 9:58:07 PM

Depends what type of defender and if the 1 guard can shoot. The point of the pick and roll is to create mismatches. There are different ways to react to what defensive look there is. All depends on how good the 1 guard is and how well they''''ve been coached to react to the defense played. Your job as a coach is to react to how they are beating your defense and react with either a hedge or going over/under the screen or switching ect.


binov sonnadara says:
6/30/2016 at 7:32:42 AM

good Explation


Joe Haefner says:
10/23/2014 at 8:19:38 AM

Luc P, that's part of the reason I liked the roll. It was a way to utilize a moving screen (legally?). At least, it never got called in the U.S.

Things may be different at the higher levels now.

Step in is definitely quicker.


Luc P says:
10/23/2014 at 5:59:25 AM

Roll or Step In ? In FIBA regulation a Roll can be considered as a moving screen when you roll in the way of the moving defender going under! That's why we often Step In instead... and the step in is mostly quicker !

@ coach Kip : In Europe : no screens under 14 ! We work on individual fundamentals.


Dave Larrabee says:
3/9/2014 at 2:27:56 PM

Two very important ideas for pick and roll:

On a well-run pick and roll it is the screener who scores.

The screener MUST roll with his eyes always toward the ball - NEVER away from it. That's how he keeps the screened defender on his back and doesn't tangle shoulders with him.


Coach K says:
12/18/2013 at 4:20:55 PM

Coach Mike above saw what I saw. I see too many players open up now days instead of rolling to the basket. I was wondering if the screen and roll was being taught this way nowdays and if so why? Go online and watch clips of Larry Bird and Kevin McHale running pick and roll or Karl Malone and John Stockton. The roll the way I was taught.


Miša says:
6/3/2013 at 4:08:49 AM

@ Coach Kip
Sorry for this answer, but isn't the screening forbidden at that age?


Ken says:
1/28/2013 at 1:20:43 PM

Jack -

I think it depends upon the man with the ball, IF he can hit that shot, you better go over the top - IF he is not a good outside shooter, you can go under.

We taught this... SHOW early to give the defender room to go over the top, We had one hand on the screener....IFwe felt the screener leaves, we went with him.

This is kind of like picking your own poison..IF you have to give up something.... defend the person that is going to hurt you the most. JMO


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