RIP Pick and Roll

The Pick and Roll is a basketball staple. Like a ballet, it must be executed perfectly, with precision and grace. And when that happens, it is nearly un-stoppable.

Except… It died. Maybe last year. Maybe a couple of years earlier. For sure right now.

Nobody uses it anymore. And that has consequences for a certain type of player: the scoring power forward.

In Zach Lowe’s latest, he looks at the PnR combo of Lebron James and Kevin Love. Unstoppable? Nope. Teams just switch. It is actually one of the Cavs least effective plays.

Why? Let me count the ways:

2-Way Basketball

Jonathan Tjarks began writing about the importance of 2-way players early last season. His thesis is that basketball is a continuous motion game, with just five players per side. You cannot afford specialists. A team that fields the most 2-way players is going to win over the long haul.

In a remarkable coincidence, the Warriors went all-in on 2-way play last year. And won the Championship. Who got benched during that historic campaign? Elite PnR-man David Lee.

The NBA has a number of outstanding PnR power forwards, including Kevin Love. But they give up so much defensively that it doesn’t make sense to keep them on the floor.

3-pt Efficiency

PnR is designed to get very efficient 2-pt shots.  Like 55% conversion, for example. But modern 3-pt shooters stroke it at close to 40%, for an effective shooting percentage of 60%.

Modern D

PnR relies on isolation – it is a dance with 4 players. What if the other 3 defenders help? The latest defense rules allow teams to help, effectively using zone principles.


The future of 1-way power forwards looks a lot like the role David Lee is playing in Dallas now. (Also, Mo Speights in Oakland.) Come off the bench, defend against second-tier players, get buckets, sit back down. This is not max-contract level stuff. In fact, it is way down the salary tree.

(BTW – this is also the fate of mid-range shooters. Come in and gun while the 3-pt-shooting starters rest.)

The other option, honestly, is to just convert them to centers. At least half the teams in the league have a “defensive” center who is okay at defense, and awful at offense. They end up being big bodies who get in the way a bit,and absorb some physical punishment. Just as Dallas is now experimenting with Dirk at center, it makes sense for at least some teams to choose offense over defense.



Kevin Durant’s next move

I don’t really have any thoughts to add to the Kevin Durant speculation. As other, smarter people have noted:

  1. He will not waste these next 4 years developing a team. Sorry Lakers and Knicks.
  2. His best, most obvious option is to sign a Lebron-style deal: 2-years, with year 2 being a player option. He will be back on the market in a year, with a higher cap (and higher max salary). Plus, his BFFL Russ will be a free agent at the same time.

Here’s my add:

Durant, like LaMarcus Aldridge last summer, is seeking a total environment. He wants a harmonious locker room, quality coaching, a supportive FO. He is not fixated on market size or his brand. His brand does just fine in OKC. It will be fine elsewhere.

Which is why he unsubtly pal’d around with the Warriors, and said glowing things about the Celtics. Because if he does leave OKC, those are really the only sensible places. Every other franchise has one or more of the following:

  • locker room problems
  • suspect coaching
  • suspect FO
  • no clear path to a title

If he leaves this summer, he is giving up on Russ. Not sure I see that happening. And if he stays over for a year, I think that means he and Russ are plotting a package deal.


Kap, Bradford, and the rest – NFL QB Carousel

Let’s rewind the Kaepernick situation, shall we? (It could change at any moment.)

In December, the 49ers FO was leaking that Jim Tomsula had their full support. Kaepernick had already been banished from the team, presumably never to return…

After the 49ers sacked Tomsula and hired Chip Kelly, I think York/Ballke/Kelly were interested in cherry-picking Sam Bradford in free-agency. Kelly likes him. The Eagles seemingly had little attachment to him.

But then the Eagles pre-emptively re-signed Bradford for silly money: $22MM guaranteed, $36MM possible, over 2 years.

You don’t think that shook things up, QB-wise?

In the wake of the Bradford news, I think the 49ers realized that Kaepernick’s contract is quite reasonable (by comparison). That’s when Baalke and Kelly suddenly made encouraging remarks about Kaepernick in interviews. Which obviously blew up in their faces when Kaepernick asked to be traded.

Meanwhile, back on the ranch, the Super-Bowl-champion Denver Broncos knew they needed a replacement for Payton Manning, destined to retire. They had super-sub Brock Osweiler, but he was also a free agent. He would draw offers…

But wait! There’s more! The Redskins released RG III, potentially a very good QB, who maybe just needs a fresh start.

The Texans, as it turns out, were hot for a new QB. So that left a three team monte for three QBs: Kaepernick, Osweiler, and Griffin.

Osweiler signed with the Texans today.

It will be interesting to see how the Broncos reply. I’m sure they check with the 49ers to see if a cheap trade for Kaepernick is available. If not… do they snag RG III quickly? Do they wait out the 49ers (Russian-roulette-style) to see if they can just sign Kaepernick after April 1?