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Jenkins: Pick-and-Roll Video Study Was Key To Blazers G Damian Lillard's NBA Transition

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Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard's transition from Weber State to the NBA was keyed by intense video study of pick-and-roll scenarios.

Steve Dykes-US PRESSWIRE

Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated writes that Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard's transition from Weber State to the NBA was keyed by intense video study of pick-and-roll scenarios.

As a freshman at Weber State, Lillard declared after a practice, "I'm going to the NBA." He laughs at the memory now. "I thought it was all about getting in games and playing great, and for guys at Kentucky, it probably is," Lillard said. "But for me it was all about the work I did outside the game."

After Lillard made his NBA proclamation, assistant coach Phil Beckner told him: "You're clueless. For one thing, you don't know the pick-and-roll." With his ability to shoot, turn the corner and make quick decisions, Lillard possessed all the tools necessary to flourish in the pick-and-roll. But he did not recognize the nuances of the NBA's most popular set.

Beckner presented Lillard with an eight-minute DVD of Steve Nash, Tony Parker and Williams, running 10 pick-and-rolls each. Lillard watched the video five times. "That was the beginning of everything," he said. "I wanted to do what those guys were doing."

I wrote about the preponderance of the pick-and-roll for the NBA preview issue of the magazine and found that most rookies are drafted without any real understanding of the league's pet play. Lillard and Beckner worked together before every practice, focusing almost exclusively on the pick-and-roll, Beckner acting as the defender and a trash can or folding chair as the screener.

"Pick-and-roll is such a big part of the NBA and we knew he had a chance to get there," said Weber State head coach Randy Rahe. "It only made sense to add more of it to our offense." College teams typically run simple brush screens to free dribblers, but Rahe came up with five different pick-and-roll actions for Lillard and called them as many as 15 times per game. "All our analytics told us he was the most effective pick-and-roll player in college basketball," Olshey said. "Then you go to see him and he's running middle pick-and-rolls, side pick-and-rolls, and he's involving others. He had a translatable skill."

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter