What Is a Pick in Basketball?

By Christopher Michael

The strategy behind winning basketball almost always utilizes the pick, an invaluable offensive tool. A pick creates an obstacle for defenders, generating defensive confusion and space for offensive players. The pick, also known as a screen, is as old as basketball, and for good reason.

Offensive Weapon

An offensive player that does not possess the basketball can set a pick at any time during a game. The player setting the pick must remain stationary, claiming that space on the court. Any other offensive player then runs by the pick-setter as closely as possible. The goal is to get a defender to run into the pick, creating space for the offensive player. The pick-setter must be stationary for a moment before the pick is set and remain still through contact. A moving pick or screen can be called as an offensive foul; a defensive foul can be called if the defender runs over, or knocks down the pick-setter.

Classic Picks

Classic terms like "pick and roll" or "pick and pop" explain simple, age-old plays. The pick-setter can pop away from the play for an open jump shot or roll to the hoop for an often uncontested layup. Picks can neutralize a pesky full-court defender in the open court, create a driving lane or open shot for the ball-handler, or simply free up a player for an inbound pass. Picks can also be used away from the ball-handler, where two players without the ball create open space for a quick pass and a clean shot.

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