Pick and Roll | Terminology

The key is to have a system in place which you go through in your head every time you run a Pick and Roll

Pick and Roll | Terminology

Ever heard of the ice coverage or Spanish screen? Or, maybe you want to learn how to create an advantage out of each pick and roll?

As we already discussed in this previous post, knowing basketball terminology is essential if you want to play at high levels.

5 Types of Cuts EVERY Basketball Player should know
There is one really important thing that separates the amateur from the high level, and its terminology.

Here you'll read a terminology overview on the pick and roll.

If you want to raise your basketball IQ, pay attention to whether you recognize any of these, the next time you watch high-level basketball.

Terminology Overview (PnR):


  • Sideline - Ballhandler going from wing to middle; Screener setting on the wing, with the back towards the midline.
  • Middle - Screener with the back towards the baseline, in the middle of the floor; Gives the ballhandler options on where to go.
  • Drag - Set by a trailing screener at the wing/slot area, similar to a sideline screen; Often used in transitions / early offense.
  • Step-up - The screener steps up towards the (short) corner and sets a screen with his back facing the baseline. Usually sends the ballhandler downhill. Also often used in early offense/transition.
  • Horns - Simply said two drag screens in the middle of the floor. Gives the ballhandler more options.
  • Spanish screen / Spanish action: The screener gets a screen when rolling downhill after setting a screen himself.

Example for Spain action:


Defense Coverages

  • Blitz or Trap: The on-ball defender and the big are applying a lot of pressure during the screen action, trying to make the ballhandler retreat towards half-court or give up
  • Hedge: On-ball defender forces the ballhandler to take the screen, while the big (hedger) shows hard as the screen is being used, and forces the ballhandler to retreat towards half-court.
  • Zone off/Drop coverage: The on-ball defender forces the ballhandler to use the screen. The big drops and zones the play off. Usually, the on-ball defender goes over the screen.
  • Jam: The big pushes the screener out (towards half-court) and gives the on-ball defender an easy opportunity to go under the screen
  • Ice/Blue (often used in the NBA): The on-ball defender forces the ballhandler to reject the screen and the big jumps to help. Both are trying to keep the ballhandler on one side of the court and eventually trap him.

Ice/Blue coverage example: Watch how the Spurs make Curry reject the screen, stay on one side and force a highly contested shot.


Attacking the screen

  • Turn the corner: Ballhandler uses the screen and drives to the basket
  • Snake: Ballhandler uses the screen but then goes under to the opposite side (Chris Paul does it a lot when he wants to get back to the right side, where he's his strongest).


  • Split: Usually used when attacking the hedge defense. Ballhandler splits in the middle between screener and hedger, therefore advancing towards the rim.
  • Early Split: Split before the screen (between on-ball defender and screener instead of hedger).
  • Re-Screen: Ballhandler uses the screen and then comes back and re-uses it.
  • Reject: Using the screen as a fake and going the opposite side.
  • Advance it: When the ballhandler gets rid of the ball quickly after using the screen. Especially effective against a zone defense.

Passing Options

Following are your passing options out of a P&R as the ballhandler.

The key here is not to try and look for open people but to watch what the defense does and react from there. For example, when you see the help side coming, there'll be an open man on the weak side.
  1. Watch the weak side help defender
  • an open teammate in the corner / another spot on the weak side (if defender leaves)
  • pocket pass to the roll man (if defender stays)
  1. If you get into the paint there'll be teammates open
  • quick passes might be best here (especially against a zone)
  1. Letting the big create (like Bam Adebayo from Miami Heat)

Sometimes you have to be patient - don't rush


Before you go, let's test what you learned today in a quick quiz:

Key Points

  • Knowing basketball terminology is essential if you want to play at high levels.
  • Have a specific system in place which you run through your head each time you're in a pick and roll action.
  • Sometimes you have to be patient - don't rush

I hope you enjoyed this post and could learn something new! Don’t forget to check whether you see some of these actions next time you watch NBA basketball.

If you have any questions/suggestions or just want to talk hoops, don't hesitate to reach out!

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Until next time!