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Clipboard: How John Wall Managed the Bucks' And Pacers' Pick-and-Roll Defenses


Editor's Note: Really happy to welcome jkahn15 to the Bullets Forever community. He'll be posting a Clipboard-type breakdown every Thursday going forward. You can find more of his basketball breakdowns at Some Basketball Things and catch him on Twitter at @ayoitsjordan.

With two losses and two 30-percent-shooting nights in a row, things have not looked good for John Wall. However, when viewing the way Wall attacks the defense, we can see that his strategy isn’t as bad as the results would indicate. Let’s take a look at his performance in the pick-and-roll versus Milwaukee and Indiana with the help of

On Monday night versus the Bucks, Wall saw the same defense over and over when he ran the pick-and-roll. Milwaukee decided to have Wall’s defender fight over the top of the screen and the screener’s man play far away from the ball, daring Wall to settle for the jumper. Although Wall didn’t score on a single pick-and-roll all night, his process was good. He didn’t fall into the trap of taking jumpers and instead attacked the help defender with reckless abandon. On his pick-and-roll possessions, only one of his shots was from outside of the lane. His layups didn’t drop this time, but it’s usually good when Wall gets to the hoop. Among point guards, he ranks near the top when it comes to finishing at the rim (62 percent) and drawing fouls (0.45 free throws per shot attempt). The video below shows how Milwaukee defended Wall and the resulting attacking drives.

Because Wall was getting to the basket so often, the other Bucks defenders ended up playing well off their perimeter assignments. Wall did a good job reading the extra help defenders and found his shooters. Again, the shots didn’t fall (Missed Assist Tracker Alert), but Wall’s decision-making was sound. The video below shows how Wall read the Milwaukee help defenders.

Against the Indiana Pacers, Wall was not attacking the defense with the decisiveness that he showed against Milwaukee. A possible reason for this is because the Pacers changed up their pick-and-roll defense a few times. Against the Bucks, Wall knew where his defender and the screener’s defender would be each time. The Pacers usually sent the on-ball defender over the screen and the screener’s man would hedge hard to re-route Wall. However, the Pacers also mixed things up sometimes by going under screens, playing very soft help defense like Milwaukee or even switching assignments. Altogether, it was hard to predict how the Pacers would play each pick-and-roll, which makes it harder for Wall to decide a plan of attack. On the seven pick-and-rolls where Wall either shot or turned the ball over, he only scored once, and that was on a tough fadeaway jumper over Tyler Hansbrough. Wall also had 11 other pick-and-rolls where he didn’t attack via shot or pass and let the offense go elsewhere. This was a big difference from the Bucks game. The video below shows the Pacers’ changing defense and the poor results for Wall.

One thing the Wizards rarely used in the past two games is the pick and pop and/or slip screen. This is partly a personnel issue, as Brian Cook is the only screener that threatens a defense from the perimeter. Against Milwaukee, the screener’s defender was playing so far off the ball that he would struggle to recover if the screener popped out to the three point line instead of rolling to the hoop. Against a team that was more aggressive against the pick-and-roll, such as Indiana, a slip screen would be more ideal. The overaggressive hedging by the defense would get exploited when the screener faked the screen and rolled to the hoop or the three point line. The video below shows the few times the pick-and-pop and slip screen was used this week and the open looks that resulted.

Despite the losses to Milwaukee and Indiana and overall poor play, fans can take some solace in the fact that at least Wall hasn’t settled for jumpers and usually has the willingness to find his open teammates. If Wall can improve on his own play while simultaneously improving the Wizards’ draft position, that is doubly good. Against the Detroit Pistons, keep and eye on how aggressive Greg Monroe and the other Detroit bigs are when facing a pick-and-roll.