Notebook 23-Nov-2017: Pick and Roll Outliers. Notes & Numbers.

Imperfect yet successful pick and roll offenses take center stage in today’s notebook entry.

Crunched PnR metrics from Synergy Sports for this post. All rankings refer to the 148 teams playing in ACB, BSL, VTB League, Serie A, Pro A, BBL, Euroleague, Eurocup, BCL and FIBA Europe Cup this season.

The Outliers

Reyer Venezia

The 2016-17 Serie A champions are 12-2 in BCL & Serie A combined.

What makes them special: They don’t get to the rim. Just 5.7% of their pick and rolls end in the ballhandler’s field goal attempt at the rim, second only to Boulazac. Yet Reyer score 1.05 PPP (7th of 148) in pick and roll overall.

Main Ballhandlers

  1. Dominique Johnson (7.4 Poss/Game)
  2. Marquez Haynes (7.3)
  3. Andrea de Nicolao (5.4)
  4. Michael Jenkins (4.4)

PnR Identity

  • Team built around a couple of pull up shooters (Marques Haynes, Dominique Johnson), a quintet of highly versatile big men, plus knockdown shooters to stretch the floor.
  • The pull up threat draws the big ball screen defender out. Peric & Watt make solid mid-roll reads.
  • Jenkins & Bramos make good decisions against the close out.

The Haynes/Johnson pull up threat requires the big man to step out and the duo has been moving the ball in these situations fairly well, despite neither being considered a pure point guard. Additionally, it turns out that guarding elite pull up shooters isn’t easy even when you’re prepared for what’s coming: one unfocused moment defending a transition/drag screen results in a three pointer.

Reyer are an elite shooting team. They really knock down spot up jumpers out of PnR: score 1.21 PPP, 4th behind Oldenburg, ALBA and Obradoiro, in spot up situations out of a PnR pass (these include close out attacks).

While their ballhandlers are fairly straight forward in what they do, the Peric, Watt, Orelik, Biligha, Ress quintet of big men is extremely versatile. Four of them have knocked down a triple this season already and Biligha, the one player who hasn’t, went 5-for-11 from long range last season for Cremona.

Hrvoje Peric is a legitimate swiss army knife. He’s popping on 56% of his ball screen finishes, attacks the basket hard off the pop catch, has scored 23 points 15 pop possessions so far, 17 points on 11 roll possessions, and makes good decisions on the short roll.

He’s a weapon every year come playoff time, wreaking havoc with his ball screen versatility and aggressively going into the post when the defense switches on ball screens.

Both Peric and Orelik occasionally play as ballhandlers too: Reyer has scored 6 points so far in Peric’s 5 PnR ballhandler possessions, and 12 in Orelik’s 11 possessions.


Surprise team of the ACB. Currently sitting on 4th spot with a 7-2 record.

What makes them special: Obradoiro ballhandlers are 2 for 19 so far at the rim in PnR situations! Yet Obradoiro rank 3rd (of 148 teams) in PnR PPP just behind Oldenburg and Real Madrid.

Main Ballhandlers

  1. Jose Pozas (6.5)
  2. Albert Sabat (6.4)
  3. Matt Thomas (3.0)
  4. David Navarro (2.6)

PnR Identity

  • Not a high volume PnR team. Lowest PnR Usage in ACB (24.1% of possessions, including passes).
  • Not much middle PnR; more side PnR-oriented.
  • They don’t finish at the rim at all, yet hold 3rd spot in PnR efficiency overall (1.08 PPP). Shoot the ball extremely well off the dribble.
  • Matt Thomas is a monster in spot up situations. Only needs the slightest advantage.
  • Pustovyy provides vertical (lob threat) and — increasingly — horizontal spacing (long two point range)

Obradoiro average the worst at-rim efficiency in this group by far (0.43 PPP; next team is ALBA Berlin on 0.67 PPP), but Obradoiro PnR ballhandlers shoot a combined 1.13 PPP (9th) on dribble jumpers and off-ball players score 1.08 PPP (3rd) in spot up situations. Shooting matters.

Obradoiro run the least PnR of all ACB teams and create a large part of their offense in off-screen situations, where they rank 1st in volume in the ACB. They shoot just 37.3 eFG% in off-screen possessions though.

When they do run PnR, a high percentage — 43.4 (7th highest percentage overall)1 — are run on the side. Some of these result from off-screen plays for their high-level shooters.

All of Obradoiro’s four main PnR ballhandlers lead the team to better than 1 PPP in their respective pick and roll possessions (including passes, not just own finishing). The lion share of responsibilities is carried by Albert Sabat (their best slasher) and Jose Pozas, who’ve been solid all season.

72.2% of Matt Thomas’ pick and rolls are located on the side, 2nd in Top 10 Euro competitions. Thomas came into the ACB as a prolific Iowa State spot up shooter, leads the ACB in off-screen possessions and occasionally moves into pick and roll off the off-screen catch.

On-ball game/shot creation was one the areas to watch in Thomas’ game coming into the season, and I’ve been fairly impressed so far with his ability to attack ball screens via turning/flipping the screen, slashing away/rejecting the screen and getting into the mid range area.

Thomas has also been deadly in off-catch situations: only needs the slightest advantage to attack with one or two dribbles and launch.

JDA Dijon

Dijon, coming off last year’s 12-22 record are 6-4 at the national team break.

What makes them special: Their ballhandlers shoot a dreadful 0.61 PPP on PnR dribble jumpers (3rd from bottom of 148 teams). Dijon still manage to produce an above average 0.96 PPP (median PnR PPP is 0.93) in PnR though.

Main Ballhandlers

  1. Axel Julien (11.8)
  2. JJ Frazier (8.3)
  3. Rasheed Sulaimon (7.6)
  4. Valentin Bigote (2.5)

PnR Identity

  • Not making dribble jumpers. Shoot just 0.61 PPP on pick and roll ballhandler jumpshots. Only Sevilla and Usak shoot worse. Still manage to score 0.96 PPP in pick and roll alltogether.
  • Axel Julien has tremendous feel. One, two dribbles followed by an on-point decisions.
  • JJ Frazier and Rasheed Sulaimon go downhill. Frazier in particular draws the defense in and then kicks. Team holds 4th highest pass percentage (63.7%).

Dijon have multiple ballhandlers (Julien, Frazier, Sulaimon, Bigote and Rion Brown) who have very diverse pick and roll profiles: Julien has progressed into a phenomenal pick and roll passer, making on-point decisions at two dribbles out of the ball screens, finding roll men and spot up shooters with pin point passes. Pass percentage of 81.0 in PnR (higher than e.g. Lonzo Ball’s Pass% — 73.5 — at UCLA). Rewarded with a call up to the French national team.

Frazier gets seriously downhill, exploding to the paint for the kick out or finishing on layups and runners. His decision-making has been questionable at times, the dribble jumper isn’t falling (he’s shooting 27.3% from 3 and 33.3% overall), but it clearly hasn’t all been bad in PnR offense.

Sulaimon, Dijon’s top scorer who was hit with a suspension in mid-October, has been inefficient as a PnR finisher himself, but he too is attacking the paint hard and drawing defenders in.

Dijon rank middle of the pack in spot up PPP off a PnR pass, but they’re 8th of 148 in roll man finishing, thanks to methodical and creative passing and Jacques Alingue’s smooth roll finishing.

Julien’s PnR playmaking:

Their roll bigs (Alingue and Steve Taylor, mostly) have also been solid in mid roll decision making situations when called upon.

Loose Notes

Shocker: Oostende has the highest pass percentage (66.4) in pick and roll, largely thanks to Dusan Djordjevic, who posts a 68.6% individual pass percentage. Braunschweig and Le Portel come in 2nd and 3rd respectively. Olympiacos leads Euroleague teams (in Euroleague/A1 combined though). Anadolu Efes plays at the lowest pass percentage (44.4, thanks in large parts to Errick McCollum’s 35.9 and Ricky Ledo’s 42.1 pass percentages), just ahead of Sakarya and Szolnoki.

Median PnR Offense

  • PnR (incl. passes) PPP: 0.93. FG%: 43.5. eFG: 50.8. TOV%: 13.8.
  • Location: 70.2-29.8 high PnR vs side PnR ratio. High PnR PPP: 0.94. Right side PnR: 0.89 PPP. Left side PnR: 0.94 PPP.
  • Passing: Pass%: 54.5. To pop: 5.7%. To roll: 12.6%. To spot up: 30.7%. To cut: 5.5%. (relative to all PnR, not relative to all PnR passes played)
  • Roll-Pop Ratio: 69.4 to 30.6 %.
  • Ballhandler Finishing: Jumpshot 0.94 PPP, Runner 0.81 PPP, At Rim 1.1 PPP.
  • Spot up PPP off PnR passes: 0.98 PPP

None of the 43 teams whose pick and roll ballhandlers shot worse than a combined 0.85 PPP on jumpshots in pick and roll situations crack the 1 PPP mark in all overall pick and roll output.

Frankfurt is the most high pick and roll oriented team with a 15.3 side pick and roll percentage. Würzburg, Monaco, Milano and Falco follow on 2-5.

Nymburk leads the rankings in Pop Percentage (69.1). Have a suspicion Petr Benda is behind this! Olympiacos leads Euroleague teams at 53.5%.

Bamberg are 3rd behind Hyères-Toulon and Oldenburg in going away from (rejecting) the screen, a topic Trinchieri brought up in a pick and roll clinic two years ago. Maodo Lo sits at the top of the individual rankings in terms of volume (37.2% of his ball screen finishes come after rejecting the screen). Efficient when he has a free path, erroneous when forced to finish from mid range or kick out.

Teams that have serious problems in spot up situations created in PnR: Burgos (0.63 PPP), Boulazac (0.67 PPP), Kalev, Fuenlabrada, Yesilgiresun, Joventut. Anadolu Efes ranks 10th from bottom here (0.79 PPP).

Ponitka’s timely cutting, usually along the baseline, is standing out so far this season. He’s leading guards/wings in PPG off PnR cuts. Here he sneaks past Blums three times in one game:

The strongest correlations in this dataset involving pick and roll PPP are with spot up PPP and ballhandler jumpshot PPP; the rest (including at-rim FGA & PPP, pass percentage and screen location) was insignificant. It’s almost as if knocking down jumpshots is crucial for your pick and roll offense.2

  1. 1 Brussels, 2 VEF, 3 Kalev, 4 Estudiantes, 5 Union Olimpija, 6 Nevezis; 1st in Euroleague: Crvena Zvezda
  2. Many of these spot up plays are set up by non-finishing drives though.