What is a Pick and Pop in Basketball? (Full Explanation)


Even the most casual basketball fan basically understands what a pick and roll is.

We've all seen it in occur in enough games to be able to spot one when it happens, and most of us can describe exactly how it works.

But for some teams, rolling after setting a ball screen isn’t the best use of their personnel.

The roll is a great option for a true post who has a size advantage over the defense to be able to score near the basket...

But what if your posts are undersized and not super competent scoring in the paint?

That’s where the pick and pop can be an effective alternative.

What Is a Pick and Pop in Basketball?

The play begins like a normal pick and roll:

The ball handler will wait for a teammate (usually a post player) to come set a ball screen, typically at a wing.

The ball handler will set up the ball screen and then attack the middle of the court into the paint.

After setting the screen, the post “pops” to an open area toward the sideline, typically near where the ball handler started.

The ball handler will have the option of throwing back to the post player for an open perimeter jump shot.


Teaching the Pick and Pop

There are some key teaching points to go over for the pick and pop to be effective.

1. Create space

The ball handler must attack the paint by taking multiple dribbles to the middle of the floor.

This will create too large an area for the post defender to be able to help stop the ball and then recover to the pop in time to contest the shot.

If the ball handler gets in a hurry and throws the ball back too soon, the post defender will be able to close out in time and eliminate the advantage of the pop.

2. Getting ready to shoot

After the ball handler clears the screen, the post needs to immediately arc toward the perimeter for the pop.

As the post is getting to the perimeter, they should be turning their shoulders toward the basket so they are ready to shoot immediately on the catch.

It is important that the screener not only is facing the basket on the catch, but their feet and hands are shot-ready.

3. Making the right read

The ball handler has to make the right read on the attack so the correct person gets the shot.

If the post defender chases the pop right away, then the ball handler probably will have an open lane to the basket or a pull-up jumper in the paint.

If the post defender is more focused on helping stop the ball, then the pop is likely going to be open for a jump shot from the post player.

The guard will need to find a window and throw it back.

Why the "Pop" Instead of the "Roll"?

The pick and pop is definitely more effective against certain defensive coverages than others, and it mainly has to do with the shooting ability of the screener, and also the post defender.

If the defense is playing drop coverage against the ball screen, the post defender is going to stay in a line between the ball and basket and look to take away any layups. So the pop will create an extremely long closeout that the defender will be unlikely to make in time.

If the post defender is more of a large and unathletic player, chances are they are going to spend more time defending the paint than guarding on the perimeter.

A pop forces them out of their comfort zone and creates an advantage for the offense.

Basketball player attempts to pass as they run the pick and pop

Defending the Pick and Pop

The best way to defend the pick and pop is going to largely depend on your personnel and how well your posts are able to guard in space.

If you have a post player who is fairly athletic, then switching the screen is probably the best way to guard this action.

The switch should keep the ball from getting too deep into the paint off the dribble.

The pop is also not going to be able to get very open as the defender who was screened will be right there to switch on to them.

If your post player is less athletic, the hedge and recover might be the best strategy to use.

Your post defender will briefly help stop the ball before recovering to their defensive assignment, the pop.

If you have a post player who is not very athletic at all, your best option might be to play zone defense because a smart offense would make you guard the pick and pop often.


The pick and pop isn’t nearly as popular as the pick and roll. But it has the ability to be every bit as effective if you have the right personnel.

Having a post player who can screen and also shoot from outside can give your offense quite an advantage.

Finding a way to incorporate the pick and roll action into your offense may help you to create mismatches that can help your offense find additional ways to score that you weren’t aware existed.


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