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Abrams: The Pick-and-Roll is In Vogue, and the Orlando Magic Embrace It

Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times just published this explication of the pick-and-roll, which is gaining traction in the NBA; nearly one-in-five offensive plays in the entire league were pick-and-rolls last season, according to Synergy Sports Technology, which Abrams cites in his article.

Orlando Magic fans know why this article is of particular interest, as the Magic have featured it prominently under Stan Van Gundy; last year, they ran it on 23% of their offensive possessions. Jameer Nelson was their most frequent practitioner, with 48.9% of his offense coming out of the pick-and-roll. And then there's this fact:

Nelson, who is currently sidelined for at least a month with a knee injury, was the most effective pick-and-roll player last season, according to Synergy. He averaged 1.15 points in offense generated for either himself or a teammate each time he ran the pick-and-roll during an injury-shortened regular season. [LeBron] James was second at 1.1. [Chris] Paul posted a 1.08. [Steve] Nash had a 1.06.

Van Gundy explains to Abrams what makes the play so effective:

"When it comes down to it, that’s what we’re going to be in when the game’s on the line," Magic Coach Stan Van Gundy said of basketball’s most reliable play. "I say it all the time: I don’t care how good you are, you can’t take away everything."

Van Gundy likes this play so much that he frequently calls on a secondary ballhandler to run it. For the past two seasons, that duty fell to Hedo Turkoglu, who's since moved on to Toronto. Vince Carter will assume these duties this season, which should pay dividends for the Magic's offense. Indeed, Carter proved to be a better pick-and-roll player last year than Turkoglu did. Synergy data obtained by 3QC show Carter to be in the 85th percentile of NBA players when single-covered as the pick-and-roll ballhandler, and in the 75th percentile when double-covered; Turkoglu was in the 82nd and 70th percentiles, respectively.

I strongly recommend reading Abrams' whole piece, which is why I'm devoting an entire post to linking to it, instead of putting a link in a FanShot.

What are your impressions of the article?