Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Building Around the Drummond-Jackson Pick-And-Roll

The Pistons have the makings of a nice core, as Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are all young and developing into quality starters.  The two most important pieces of that, in my eyes, are the franchise cornerstone center and the point guard who was hand-picked by the head coach/president of the organization.  At only 21 and 25 years old respectively, Drummond and Jackson are the two pieces the Pistons have the majority of their chips on.  Drummond will be receiving a max contract extension from the team as soon as this summer, and Jackson cost two picks and two rotational pieces to get, and will take a fairly sizable contract to keep.  Are the Pistons making a smart move by building around the two?  That will likely come down to how they function together running one of basketball's most simple plays: the pick-and-roll (PnR).

Drummond is the prototype of what you want your roll man to look like when designing a good pick-and-roll offense.  At 6'11, 270 pounds with a 7'6 wingspan and impressive mobility and explosive athleticism for his size, Drummond creates defensive problems on the PnR both at the point of contact and at the basket.  Reggie Jackson is built for the pick-and-roll too, with good size as a ball-handler and a respectable mid-range jump shot and variety of floaters.  The two make for an interesting combo that could be very tough to guard and set the base of an improving offense if they can get enough shooting from the SG, SF and PF positions.

Drummond was one of the best roll men in the league this season, ranking 6th in points per possession among roll men (with over 100 PnR possessions), behind Tyson Chandler, DeAndre Jordan, Tristan Thompson, Tyler Zeller and Patrick Patterson.  Along the same parameters, Drummond ranked 4th in eFG%.  For a player his age, Drummond is well ahead of the curve.  Nobody else in the top ten is younger than 25, with the exception of Anthony Davis.  Drummond's also one of the best at creating free throw opportunities, ranking 7th in FT frequency among qualified big men, underscoring the need for him to improve his shooting from the line.  The short story here is, Drummond is elite when it comes to operating as the roll-man in the pick-and-roll.

Jackson is strong in the pick-and-roll himself, as his 0.87 points per PnR possession ranked 11th in the NBA for the 2014-15 season, among players with more than 300 possessions as a ball-handler.  In his 346 Detroit ball-handler possessions, Jackson ranked 4th in and-one frequency, demonstrating his ability to take advantage of late rotations and finish through contact.  Stan Van Gundy clearly saw the advantages that Jackson creates on the PnR, as Detroit ran some variation of the PnR during 61.7% of the possessions in which Jackson used in a Pistons uniform.  Also of note in the PnR frequency list, if you don't restrict the list by possessions used in any way, the three most-used PnR ball-handlers are Pistons: Jackson, DJ Augustin and Spencer Dinwiddie.  John Lucas III ranked 5th and Brandon Jennings ranked 15th.  The pick-and-roll is here to stay, and it's incredibly clear that Stan Van Gundy wants to build his offense around it, specifically utilizing Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond.

Dan Feldman, of PistonsPowered fame, put together a nice YouTube clip of Jackson-to-Drummond alley-oops from this season.  Seven of the fifteen connections featured come out of the pick-and-roll:
You can see just from those 90 YouTube seconds that the Jackson-Drummond PnR is a terrifying thing for defenses.  If Jackson's defender sags back, he's going to get burned by a pull-up jumper or floater.  If he's aggressive and tries to get through the screen, he's got a good chance of getting stuck behind Drummond's wide body and exposing his defense to a series of tough decisions.  If Jackson's defender does the latter, it usually ends like the highlight reel above.

Although it was in a fairly limited sample size, the evidence is there that the Pistons can build a competitive offense around the Jackson-Drummond pick-and-roll.  If he can put shooters in each corner and one on the weakside wing, Stan Van Gundy can mold an offense that forces a defense to pick its poison.  He has his wide-bodied screener and his dynamic ball-handler in Drummond and Jackson, and likely one of the three necessary shooters in KCP.  The main task this offseason is to add the other two shooters to the starting lineup at SF and PF.  If SVG can do that, the Pistons will have the base of an offense that can cause nightmares around the NBA, and it starts and ends with the Jackson-Drummond pick-and-roll.

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