Two-man games are the foundation of NLL offenses. Pick-and-roll ball handlers have accounted for 24.5 percent of the shots taken in settled, five-on-five scenarios across the league so far this season; roll men have accounted for another 8.1 percent of settled shots.
All of the league’s best offenses are powered by a premier pick-and-roll shooter. The Colorado Mammoth (17.9% shooting by pick-and-roll ball handlers), Toronto Rock (16.0%), Saskatchewan Rush (15.1%) and Georgia Swarm (14.5%) have been successful thanks to Jeremy Noble, Adam Jones, Mark Matthews, Randy Staats and others. What separates the Rush offense from those other few teams is their unparalleled ability to get the roll man involved.
Ben McIntosh (4-for-16 as a pick-and-roll ball handler), Matthews (3-for-13), Curtis Knight (2-for-19) and Robert Church (2-for-9) are threats with the ball in their stick. They frequently draw doubles or traps off the two-man game, which opens up rolling teammates. The pass from the ball handler to the roll man is not always easy though – and the roll may not be open immediately. That’s where two-pass pick-and-rolls come in. Use a third teammate in a “Nations” concept, and you’ll be able to feed the roll man much more easily.
Roll men across the NLL have shot 13.5% when fed by the pick-and-roll operator. When a third teammate serves as the middle man between the operator and the roll, that shooting percentage skyrockets to 25.8%. Those lefty-to-righty-to-lefty passes get the defense’s heads spinning. Sometimes the stickwork is so crisp that the Rush can pull off a Nations concept with three players on the same side, like this Knight-to-Church-to-Dinsdale action.
Nobody runs Nations looks better than the Rush. Of the eight Nations goals we’ve tracked at Moneyball Lacrosse, the Rush have scored four of them. Their passers – especially Matthews and Ryan Keenan – are always looking to feed the roll man. If the picker’s man hesitates for a split second, even just long enough to ensure that the on-ball defender has fought through to stay on his assignment, then that is all it takes for him to fall behind the play. Roll men are diving to the rim with a purpose; the skip passes to them are tough to keep up with on the broadcast. Can you imagine being a goalie and having to move from pipe to pipe to save this?
Nations concepts use a third-party passer for many reasons. That third-party passer often has his hands free – or, at least, more free than the pick-and-roll ball handler does. They also extend the window in which that passer can hit the roll man. Watch how much time this Matthews roll take to develop. The Mammoth defense does a great job sitting on it the entire time, yet even from below goal-line extended, Matthews manages to make himself a shooting threat.
Traditional pick-and-rolls aren’t going anywhere. They put so much pressure on a defense to communicate and improvise. But new wrinkles are constantly being thrown in from pick-and-pops to Spain pick-and-rolls to Nations.