San Antonio Spurs' Options Against Pick and Roll Coverage
It's no secret that one of the oldest plays in basketball has become one of the most frequent plays of basketball's modern age. And while the play is far from new, changes to defensive rules favoring the offensive player, improved 3-point shooting efficiency, and improved analytics have made the play far more potent.
Its increased potency means teams have devised more ways to defend it. The Spurs will need options to counter these various schemes. After all, the team ran 24.8 possessions a game with a ball-handler attacking off the pick and roll and another 6.8 possessions for the roll man moved - 22.2% and 6.2% of the team's offense, respectfully.
Options for Scoring Against Drop Pick and Roll Coverage
Trust me, we're going to talk a lot about the switch coverage that has come to dominate modern NBA pick and roll defense. But first we have to talk about the drop coverage that has even more recently been making a come back. Designed to take away easy scoring opportunities in the paint, more and more teams have been running the drop. Just look at last year's NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks.
The reason I'm starting with this coverage isn't just because it's "in vogue." I'm doing this because it's one I expect the Spurs to see more than the average NBA team. Why, you ask? Because on a team that plans on playing Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl, Thaddeus Young, and other non-floor-spacers, a lot of opponents will just hug the Spurs' shooters and protect the paint.
To get past that, it's going to come down to Dejounte Murray and Derrick White dominating the in-between game. To a lesser extent, it's also going to come down to Jakob Poeltl's finishing, predominantly as a lob and offensive rebounding threat.
Plain and simple; there's no way around it. Part of the reason is that, to some extent, I foresee this scheme targeting lineups with Dejounte, Poeltl, and Thaddeus, playing percentages and protecting the rim while hugging shooters. But the Spurs should be absolutely fine with this, since these three can actually make the defense pay in these scenarios and maybe even make teams abandon this tactic altogether.
Derrick White has always been a crafty player in the in-between area, but Dejounte's massive leap offensively has come from him becoming lethal in the midrange area already. With this potent threat, rim protectors who do start to question their stance and get caught in no man's land challenging White and Dejounte will undoubtedly get burned by Jakob, who ranked third in the NBA among qualifying players last year in offensive rebounds per 48 minutes and finished the year shooting over 61% from the field.