Breaking It Down

Raptors Playbook: Stack Pick and Roll

No, it’s not Jerry Stackhouse’s play.

Raptors Playbook: Stack Pick and Roll

Over at the Raptors Playbook YouTube channel (@RaptorsPlaybook on Twitter), I am breaking down the X’s & O’s of the Toronto Raptors. This week, we’ll focus on Stack Pick and Rolls- a trendy wrinkle to the traditional pick and roll. Watch the video embedded below alongside the summary written, and remember to follow and subscribe to never miss out on a video.

A stack pick and roll is similar to a regular pick and roll in that a ball handler is on the perimeter and uses a screen. In fact, the Stack element of this action is not even entirely necessary on every play. The first few plays in the compilation feature a ball handler simply attacking a backpedalling big man once using a screen – essentially the same advantage gained in a traditional pick and roll set.

Where the Stack factors in is how it relates to contorting the traditional defensive responsibilities against pick and rolls. As an overly simplistic blanket statement, pick and rolls generally have the screener’s defender responsible for guarding the ball handler while the original defensive matchup recovers. However, the screener’s defender in a Stack Pick and Roll is screened off by a tertiary offensive player, shifting the responsibility of helping on the ball handler’s drive to the rim to a tertiary defensive player. Examples of this can be seen starting at 0:14.

When the defense decides to “load up on the ball handler”, or send extra attention to the driving guard, the initial offensive player that set the screen is often left unguarded while they dive to the rim. Examples of this seen starting at 0:42.

Starting at 0:51, when the weak side defense tags that freely rolling screen setter, weak side players are left open in prime corner real estate.

When the first screen setter is left open due to their man doubling down on the ball handler, an above the break three becomes available. Organizing the personnel so that the secondary screen setter is a respected shooter is crucial here to maximize scoring potential. Examples of this can be seen starting at 1:15.

Starting at 1:50, examples of the above the break shooter’s defender recovering back promptly can be seen. The Raptors transition quickly into a dribble hand-off (DHO) which keeps the defense continuously moving, forcing them to defend several screening actions in a row.

As a result of the Stack Pick and Roll becoming a trendy action in the last couple years (I first remember seeing a variation of it used in the NBA when Monty Williams was still with the Pelicans, though its use has become fa more pervasive since then) many defenses have coordinated methods to combat its effectiveness. The result is much more shooting to avoid one offensive player being obviously wide open. Its interesting that seemingly no teams use this action for the explicit purpose of forcing a switch, as it is far more effective than just flipping a pick and roll ten times to force a switch as is traditionally done to secure a mismatch. Examples of this can be seen starting at 2:14.

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