Analyzing what makes the Fred VanVleet-Jakob Poeltl pick and roll successful

Amit Mann discusses why the Fred VanVleet-Jakob Poeltl pick and roll has become a consistent source for quality halfcourt offence, an area the Raptors struggle in.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: The Jakob Poeltl-Fred VanVleet pick and roll has been gaining steam as both players are getting rewarded for their roles in making this an effective method for halfcourt offense for the Toronto Raptors. And boy, do they need it. My name's Amit Mann. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Let's begin.

So for starters, in order to have a dangerous pick and roll combination, you need finishing between the duo from a wide range of distances and spots from the rim. Fred can hit from 3 and pull up from the mid-range area. And while he hasn't done it much this season, his shooting beyond the 3-point line makes screening well above the level another way to stretch defenses and put bigs in no-man's-land. And finishing at the rim hasn't been Fred's strong suit. But he can capitalize on an advantage in front of him or draw a foul, like he did here.

And for Jakob, he's in the 88th percentile as a roll man in 10 games with Toronto. His push shot is balanced and has a rhythmic flow to it. And when he's driving off a short roll, the ball is up. He's bursting into space.

And the footwork is masterful. There's a tempo to his acceleration. Eyes are up, and he's a step ahead of the defense. So from the 3-point line inwards, between the two, you've got a lot covered.

Now, let's talk about the screen itself. Rhythm, timing, and contact are imperative. And both players are doing their jobs.

Fred is brushing off Jakob's shoulder to ensure screen navigators can't get through. And Jakob is holding and finishing the screen to allow Fred to drive through it. Once that happens, you should have a two-on-one in front of you provided Jakob does the roll, and the advantage is yours.

Also, the best PNR combos have this chemistry where it's as if they're tethered together, like they're on a string of constantly providing passing avenues to one another. And Jakob always has his hands up as if to show, hey, I'm right here. I can help.

And Fred maintains their connection by playing with patience, sustaining his dribble, and keeping the over top defender on his back. Fred's passing variants in this action have stood out, too-- one and two-hand dishes over the head, wraparound bounce passes with pop so Poeltl, at 7' 1", can naturally receive it. And it's not always passes going baseline to baseline. These north-south ones where Jakob gets a deep seal and Fred finds him in tight windows presents avenues for play finishing within their pick and roll.

Jakob's touch around the basket, clearly right here, is essential. And then there's the instinctive plays. This is where the connective energy gets highlighted.

When does Fred need to reject a screen and head downhill? When should Jakob flip the screening angle or ghost and run into space? Only those two know at the moment. And their impulses are gradually becoming one and the same.

The pick and roll combo has emerged as Toronto's most advantageous play type in an offense that doesn't have a lot of off-ball movement. Its gravitational pull lowers defenses. And then Toronto can use punctual cuts to achieve layups or kickouts for three-off collapse defenses.

So going forward, the Raptors are going to have to be careful because teams are going to try and stop this. They're going to overload on the pick and roll. They're going to put a defender at the nail.

They're going to trap Fred. They're going to switch him onto a long, rangy guard or a forward type. Or they're going to do the exact same thing to Jakob Poeltl, and they're going to force him to post up and try and get downhill.

All of these things are going to happen. And the Raptors collectively as a unit are going to have to snuff it out and continue to make good offense happen. But at least for a team that has kind of a bland outlook on offense, at least you got something with some spice.

My name's Amit Mann. Subscribe to our YouTube channel. Follow me on Twitter @amit_mann. We'll talk to you soon.