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Kentucky Basketball In Depth: The Hand-Off Pick And Roll

Josh Harrellson got a few dunks off the hand-off pick and roll.
Josh Harrellson got a few dunks off the hand-off pick and roll.

One of the most interesting plays that Kentucky runs happened early in the Transylvania exhibition game, and for some reason, we didn't run it much for the rest of that game.  Too bad, too, because it resulted in a spectacular play.

Last year, we saw a lot of the hand-off pick and roll run by Josh Harrellson and Brandon Knight.  The idea behind the hand-off is that the guy delivering the ball acts as a screen, both for the basketball transaction and the recipient's defender. 

Ideally, you want the receiver to be a good penetrator and a good perimeter shooter, and you want the guy handing off the ball to be a big man and a good shooter, just like in any traditional pick and roll situation.  That produces a number of problems for the defense to solve, and in order to properly defend this type of play, you have to be very disciplined on defense and understand not only that the play is coming, but who the help defender is.

So let's take a look at the play.  Here's the setup:


Terrence Jones, the 4, has the ball on the right wing, initiating the offense.  Teague is the 1, Lamb the 2, Miller the 3 and Davis the 5.  The Wilcats are running what looks like a regular motion set, not the Dribble Drive Motion (note Davis on the strong side and non-DDM spacing.


This is the start of the play.  Jones will dribble left, Lamb cuts around the baseline to the right wing and Miller sags to the right block.  Teague drifts under the basket.

But the real action is coming from Davis, as he comes out to the foul line.



Here's where we are after all that motion.  Note the close spacing.  This is not by design, these guys have to learn to space the floor better.


Jones makes a short pass to Davis just beyond the foul line.


Here is where the play succeeds, and this is a failure on the part of the Transy defense.  Teague comes through the lane to receive the ball from Davis.  But Miller and Lamb, suddenly aware of their spacing, drift out away from the on-ball action, pulling their defenders away.  This is what enables the play to develop. 


At this point, the play is all over but the shouting.  Where is the help coming from?  It should be coming from the 3, but he's too far in the corner, worried about Miller receiving a pass for an open three.  Davis spins around his man and runs straight to the hoop, unimpeded.  At 6'10", his single defender is helpless trying to come from behind, and since the three couldn't rotate over to take the charge because he was too close to Miller, there is no help available.


Pass over the top, and slamajamadingdong!  Here's your full animation:

As you may have guessed, in defending this play, you have to pick your poison.  If Miller's man came to help and Lamb was properly spaced, you get a wide-open 3-point look from the corner every time, if the execution is sharp.  The point guard has to read the three and keep a weather eye on Lamb's defender, because if he's good, he cheats to a point in between the 2 and 3 when the 3 defender rotates to stop the dunk. 

Teague would then want to hit Miller, who could shoot if the 2 defender stays home or kick to Lamb when rotated to Miller.  The challenge would com from either Davis' man recovering, or from the 3 defender rotating back out to Lamb, but it would be a good look.

Lesson for Transylvania -- It is always better to give up an open 3 than a two-handed alley-oop dunk.