Pac-12 Listicles: Pick and Roll Offense

Posted by Adam Butler on November 15th, 2017

Offensively, the pick-and-roll is a common means to forcing a mismatch, a big vs. small scenario either on the post or the perimeter. Its ubiquity gave way to positionless basketball and a treasuring of the 6’8” athlete. Philosophically, if a defender is versatile enough to defend both off the bounce or on the block, the offense would be limited in its ability to create these mismatches. Of course this is more difficult to achieve at the collegiate level. Players are less refined, needing greater definition to their roles. Considering as much, I thought it’d be interesting to see which of the Pac-12’s offenses utilized the pick-and-roll more often and more effectively than others. Heading in to a Pac-12 season featuring some fantastic frontcourt and backcourt combinations (Trier/Ayton, Holder/White, McLaughlin/Metu, Holiday/Welsh, Cartwright/Travis, Pritchard/Brown), is the PnR a tactic more coaches will be inclined to use?

Arizona’s Allonzo Trier is Murder on the PnR (USA Today Images)

Here are last season’s Pac-12 PnR utilizers:

Team PnR Frequency PnR PPP
Arizona State Sun Devils 25% 0.905
Arizona Wildcats 22% 0.969
Oregon State Beavers 18% 0.689
California Golden Bears 18% 0.814
Utah Utes 16% 0.867
Washington State Cougars 15% 0.826
USC Trojans 15% 0.886
Washington Huskies 15% 0.855
Stanford Cardinal 14% 0.736
Colorado Buffaloes 12% 0.854
Oregon Ducks 12% 0.892
UCLA Bruins 8% 0.934

Digging a layer deeper, we understand that Arizona State at 25 percent actually had the third-highest frequency of PnR ball handler utilization in college basketball. This makes sense as you consider the Sun Devils’ roster last season was devoid of anyone of consequential size. In those instances, the roll man was a guard now guarded by another guard – not a mismatch. Alas, this was the advantage that head coach Bobby Hurley sought to create. Unsurprisingly, 39 percent of Tra Holder’s possessions last season (128th nationally) concluded as the PnR ball-handler. Opposite the Sun Devils, Sean Miller’s squad utilized a more traditional PnR philosophy. Nearly half of Lauri Markkanen’s touches were as the PnR roll man, while 28 percent of Kadeem Allen’s offense was conducted as the PnR ball-handler.

Of course, that was then and this is now. We’ve outlined some of the more traditional options of PnR offense (big/small). How might some of the Pac-12 offenses evolve this season? To answer my own question, I’ll be looking at Oregon State to grossly improve on it’s 0.689 points per PNR possession. Not only is that number both abysmal and ripe for improvement, the return of Tres Tinkle creates a versatile oppportunity (read: mismatch) for the Beavers. Furthermore, as Travis Reid is rumored to have improved his range, I could see Stanford increasing both its volume of PnR offense and corresponding effectiveness.

And while Markkanen was fantastic last season for Miller’s Wildcats, it quickly seems that DeAndre Ayton is actually an improvement, meaning that the Wildcats will only be more lethal in PnR situations this season.

Adam Butler (47 Posts)

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