The Mikan Drill

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Duke should run the Pick and Roll using Nolan Smith and Kyle Singler

with 2 comments

Duke was the most efficient team on offense in college basketball last season, with an adjusted efficiency of 123.5, according to KenPom. What is scary is that I did not see them run what I think could be their deadliest play, running the pick and roll with Nolan Smith on the ball and Kyle Singler setting the screen.

Duke does run the pick and roll but last year they used Brian Zoubek and Miles Plumlee to set the screens, with Nolan Smith on the ball. Watch the following two clips:

Zoubek and Plumlee were the two guys that Butler was not afraid of on offense, so they used the screener’s man to hedge on Smith and prevent him from driving the lane. Since neither Zoubek nor Plumlee were threats to shoot a jumper or do anything useful on offense, all the attention could be placed on Smith and stopping him. When you don’t have to worry about one of the players in the pick and roll beating you, it is much easier to defend.

This turned out to be an effective gameplan, as Duke came away empty on both trips. I was confused to why Singler was not the one setting the screens in this situation as I think the combination of those two would be lethal for defenses.

Smith is dangerous at attacking the lane off the dribble but he could be even better if he had a screen to open up the defense or put up against a slower defender. Watch as he goes one on one and gets to the basket without a screen.

Now you may be wondering why he needs a screen if he can just beat the defense off the dribble. While Smith can do that at any time, a pick and roll option will open up the defense more and can get Singler some open looks as well. Why not take some pressure off of him and make it easier for him to get to the basket by setting him a screen with a formidable offensive player who will take some attention away from himself?

Singler shoots well off of screens or spotting up, so he would be perfect to be the screener in a pick and roll with Smith at the helm. See the following clips for proof:

This shows that Singler can control himself for a jumper after being involved in screening action and he can spot up and hit the 3 point shot. Add in the fact that he is big enough and strong enough to get to the rim, he would be perfect to use in the pick and roll.

So Duke fans, is there any reason this duo did not run the pick and roll last season? Did they run it in the regular season (and I forgot about it) and abandon it in the postseason (aka the sample size I had video from)?

The screen and roll is a great play to use in college, as many teams are unprepared for teams that run it well. With Smith (or Kyrie Irving for that matter) on the ball, with Kyle Singler setting the screens, it will be a difficult matchup for any team. If they switch, Smith will be able to drive to the lane against a slower defender or Singler will be able to post up a smaller defender.

If they try to hedge, Singler can slip to the basket, where he is a prolific finisher. If they try to cut Smith off, Singler can pop out for a 3 point shot. The possibilities are endless and Duke could become an even better offensive team than last year, if that is possible.

It is a wrinkle I would love (the term love here is seen from the perspective of a basketball fan, as Duke is not high on teams that I like) to see Coach K and the Duke offense implement this season because I think Duke could be successful running this set time and time again. It would be great to see the two players working off of one another and the plays they make off of this set.

Plus, the pick and roll is a huge part of NBA offense and by proving that they can both run it effectively, that could help their draft stock. The ultimate win-win situation.


Written by Joshua Riddell

September 29, 2010 at 7:59 pm

2 Responses

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  1. Hey,
    I just discovered your website and I really love it. I’m not that good at analyzing basketball but I did watch all of Duke’s games last year. The offense Duke ran last year was a “motion offense” in which Kyle Singler basically moved around the floor freely till he got open. Usually, Zoubek would set a screen on the outside for the ball handler (Nolan or Jon) and Lance would set another screen inside for Singler as he curled. The Bigs worked in the pick and roll not because they were offensive threats but because they were rebounding threats so they would have to be covered. On top of that Nolan and to a lesser extent Jon could create their own shot off the dribble. All added up it was a pretty nasty offense.

    Ricardo K

    October 13, 2010 at 5:07 am

    • Thanks for the comment. These are all great points and Duke did run the pick and roll fairly effectively last season with the rebounders but I think it could be just as deadly (if not more deadly with Singler).

      It’s true about Smith and Scheyer (I have a post on the Duke O today) but why wear them down and make them create their own shot when they could get a screen from Singler and go one on one with a big (who would be easier to beat)?

      It was tough to find something for the Duke offense to improve on but this came to my head one day. I think it could be really effective and it also plays to the strengths of both players and showcases them to NBA scouts.


      October 13, 2010 at 12:07 pm

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