Raptors Playbook: Drag Screens
Over at the Raptors Playbook YouTube channel (@RaptorsPlaybook on Twitter), I am breaking down the X’s & O’s of the Toronto Raptors every Wednesday. This week, we’ll focus on a the Toronto Raptors’ Drag Screens and early pick and rolls. Watch the video embedded below alongside the summary written, and remember to follow and subscribe to never miss out on a video.
Drag screens, a pick and roll used in transition, is one of the commonly used actions in the NBA. It should be no surprise that the Toronto Raptors, a team that depends heavily on high-usage guards to penetrate and create for others, would be consistent with such a trend.
The action starts with a ball handler dribbling up either wing, with the eventual screener just trailing the play. Seen starting at 0:00, Raptors’ ball handlers gain a distinct advantage on their perimeter defender, as they are typically ill-prepared to deny them the middle of the floor. Additionally, the screen setter’s defender is usually trailing the play as well and is not in optimal defensive position to corral the driving guard, making the action even more effective.
When the the screen setter’s defender is able to impede the progress of the driving guard, the screen setter is often able to roll to the rim without a deterrent This comes as a result of off-ball defenders still attempting to track their assignments, making them unable to help or tag the roll.
When the defense is able to both corall the driving guard, as well as impede the progress of the screen setter to roll freely to the rim, this opens up perimeter players along the arc to be freed up, as 3 defenders have been committed to 2 offensive players in the main pick and roll.
While this can be very effective, the Raptors’ pick and roll attack in transition has more variety than just that, as they diversify the action by utilizing a double drag screen. Examples of this can be seen starting at 2:16.
To get the most use out of this action, the Raptors have one screen setter pop while the other rolls, forcing the defense to make decisions about who has dropping responsibility. If both screen defenders drop into the paint, this leaves a perimeter shooter open. If one drops and the other stays attached to the popped screener, it allows for either the driving guard or rolling big to run to the rim freely. Ultimately this action is a “pick-your-poison” type decision for the defense when run effectively.