The pick and roll (PNR) has become the feature play in the NBA. Its rise came with the influx of point guard talent and rules changes favoring that position. Since drafting Brandon Jennings, 21 percent of the Bucks offense comes from PNRs. This is only second to spot-up attempts which the Bucks have run 24.2 percent of the time since acquiring Jennings.
So why do a post on PNRs instead of spot-up plays? PNRs setup spot-ups, not the other way around. The Bucks two best players (Andrew Bogut and Jennings) are involved in PNRs. The biggest gains can be made in that play type as Jennings improves. There hasn’t been a big statistical fluctuation in spot-ups between the successful 2009-10 campaign (0.99 PPP/38.9 FG%/37.3 3P%) and the woeful 2010-11 season (0.96/38.9/37.3).
Also, Beno Udrih is the statistical god of PNR ballhandling, ranked second in that category by Synergy with 1 PPP.
The Roll Men
In Jennings’s rookie year, the Bucks PNR roll men averaged 1.04 points per possession (PPP), good for eleventh in the league. Their field goal percentage was 50.5 percent and they scored 50.2 percent of the time. For the 2010-11 season, the Bucks ranked eighteenth in the PNR roll man category. They scored 0.97 PPP, had a 49.2 FG% and scored only 47.5 percent of the time.
After digging through more stats, I saw that Jennings’s assists at the rim dropped from 2.2 his rookie year to 1.5 last season. So initially I formed the hypothesis that Jennings wasn’t looking inside as much as he used to. Jennings has problems in the PNR, but they weren’t the reason for the drop in production.
The main problem is that his teammates refuse to put themselves in position to score.
The entire platoon of power forwards insist on spotting-up, not rolling to the basket. That’s fine for Drew Gooden, but it’s about time everyone just gives up on Luc Mbah a Moute’s jump shot. It’s not happening. That’s not to say that he never should shoot it again. If he’s open like he always is, put it up.
But since he is always open no matter what he does, why not play to his strengths and make him cut to the basket. He’s a career 59.9 percent finisher at the rim. He cuts to the basket very well. Same goes for Larry Sanders. It might be a little early to give up on his jump shot, but damn it if I haven’t already.
The first thing that stands out when watching Udrih in PNRs is how efficient he is shooting off the dribble, but seems to absolutely refuse to shoot a three off the dribble. He only shot seven threes all of last year as the PNR ballhandler, converting on five. Plus, 90.8 percent of Udrih’s three-pointers were assisted. Udrih is also very good at running around ballscreens, often forcing his defender to chase behind him or run into the screen, but he doesn’t have the speed to sustain very many drives to the basket.
So what does all of this result in? A lot of midrange jumpers and floaters off dribble penetration. I abide by the philosophy that no one outside of Dirk Nowitzki should be taking a lot of long twos off the dribble. It’s just a really inefficient way to play offense. But Udrih is an exception because of how consistently efficient he’s been. Since joining the Kings, he’s never shot below 43 percent from 16-23 feet away and has shot below 50 percent once from 10-15 feet away (48.5 percent in 2009-10).
Because he’s so good at using ballscreens, but is very tentative about shooting the three, defenders often go under high screens against Udrih. Being proactive against Udrih’s midrange game really cuts into his effectiveness in the PNR. Yes, he’s a great finisher at the rim, converting over 70 percent of his shots in the last two years, but he has a hard time getting there on his own (his 15 percent FG increase in shots at the rim coincided with a 15 percent increase in his number of assisted FGs at the rim). His passing in the PNR is also highly suspect.
Last year, the Kings finished 27th in the league in the PNR roll men category with 0.65 PPP. That ‘s a team stat affected by Jason Thompson’s terrible hands and Tyreke Evans lack of a single point guard bone in his body, but Udrih is as much to blame. Synergy shows that Evans and Udrih shared PNR ballhandling duties evenly, running 270 and 251 plays respectively.
Udrih should be encouraged to shoot more threes coming off ballscreens. He has a flat shot that loses its effectiveness when he ventures into three-point land (35.7 3P%), but as pointed out before, the three-pointer is a big key to the Bucks offense.
So what about Bogut? Don’t worry. I’ll be covering him and delving more into his two-man game with Jennings (or lack thereof) in a follow-up post.
Ian Segovia is a contributor to Bucksketball.com. Follow him on Twitter, fan us up on Facebook.