In my earliest days in the secondary school era, I didn’t have the faintest idea on why a pick (or screen) was so important. It was highlighted in the legendary basketball manga Slamdunk, when Akagi set screens for Mitsui to shoot his treys during the Sannoh match, but to me that was about it. Stuff you read about in the comic, didn’t seem to apply to reality that time. I was all into shooting, shooting and more shooting. Until I sprained my wrist, and shooting became a bitch for a few years after that.
So time passed, and I still didn’t do much in the way of setting picks in my poly days of basketball. I was more like get the ball, try to get the ball in period. Less shooting, more layups but that was it. Off the ball, try running around to get the ball. Life was simple back then.
And in my NS days, I more or less maintained the same profile, with a bit of post up added into the mix.
It wasn’t until my days of playing in Changkat, that I realised you could actually set an off-the-ball pick, and get your teammates free. Of course, NZ had been preaching about it over the years, and seeing Alan do it in games made me a bit of a believer. At this point, I had totally swapped roles from forward (sortof) into center, and it was a bit of a major transition back then, to have to undergo an entire change of playing style. But I (sortof again) tried to do what I could, and I think I learnt quite a bit about defending big guys under the basket (thanks to all the constant contact with Shaq) as well as getting shots off under the basket.
Along came Melbourne after that, and I was hit with a variety of opponents. It seemed like I was being randomly assigned to guard people of extreme physiques and heights. I had to guard small quick guys (killers!) and at times, big hulking dudes who were under the basket. I also had to learn how to quicken my step, and guard two guys at once if needed. Or run around to get myself open, and run for the rebound. And most of all, I could drop the low post style I had in Singapore, and return to doing what I wanted to do. I learnt how to make cuts, take mid-range shots, improve my drive to the basket, make steals, dribble better, and most of all? I learnt to set picks.
Setting picks when you are off the ball, essentially is one of the most important things you could be doing. You get your teammates off the guard, and let them have a go at getting a shot in.
You get your ball handler off his guard, giving him a second’s delay in driving into the basket or setting up a shot if he wants to, making it a pick and pop. He could pass it back to you, turning it into a pick and roll. Or he could just drive his way in. A variety of options, opened up by one simple move. A pity not everyone realises why his defender left him open for a layup, or worse – why the hell a screen is being set for him, and doesn’t even bother using it.
I reckon you can do a pick in two ways:
- Set a pick perpendicular to your guy’s defender close up. That is a little obvious, but helps you to take the brunt of impact when the defender smashes into you. Takes the wind out of you when you get hit, try it.
- Or, you could set a pick further away, out of the defender’s visual range. The ball handler then drives in your direction, and the defender runs, and smashes into you. Less easily detected, more impact.
Similar, but not exactly the same. It’s funny how I’ve been playing basketball for 13, maybe 14 years now, and these stuff only start to make sense now. Talk about having a very, very slow sense of understanding.