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Jeremy Lin and the Power of Screens

Jeremy Lin is an effective pick and roll point guard. With his return, the Nets may need to make screening a priority going forward for their role players. Lin has a reputation for being an effective pick and roll player, a play that he has excelled at since entering the NBA. Synergy Sports rates him as a “very good” pick and roll player. He’s ranked in the 71st percentile amongst all pick and roll ballhandlers, per Synergy.

Specifically, Lin excels when defenders go under the pick, ranking in the 85th percentile of all ballhandlers. Those are strong numbers. He continues to show a propensity for scoring off the pick and roll. The PNR is one of the easiest, yet most effective plays in basketball. The only area where Lin lags in the pick and roll is the right side pick and roll. Per Synergy Sports, he ranks in the 17th percentile for right side pick and roll.

Regardless, it’s obvious that Lin excels at the pick and roll, and Kenny Atkinson’s offense has been modified with Lin’s return post-All Star Break, focusing on more simple pick and roll two-man action.

The shift to a pick-and-roll oriented offense may need some stronger personnel to set pick and rolls. The art of the screen is an underrated asset in any offense’s repertoire. Strong screens open things up for the point guard, and the team as a whole. Here are a few plays in which some decent screens led to baskets by the Nets.

Good Screens

Out of Bounds Screens

Here, Brook Lopez sets two strong screens. One is an off-ball screen to get Lin open initially on the sideline out of the baseline out of bounds play. Lin gets open on the sideline, receiving the pass from Sean Kilpatrick. Lin dribbles the ball away from the baseline, and Lopez sets another screen – it’s the sideline pick and roll, one of my favorite plays. George Hill absorbs the contact from Lopez, which allows Lin to probe into the lane. Rudy Gobert protects the paint, backing up to prevent a drive. The small sliver of space allows Lin to rise and fire for a rhythm jumper. Jeremy Lin makes the jumper with a lot of space against the Jazz.

Lots of Contact on Defender

Currently, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson at the power forward slot has shown his ability to set screens. Even though RHJ is a little undersized, he can absorb contact well. He sets the screen for Lin, making sure to make contact with Lin’s defender, Yogi Ferrell. Even when Lin gets past the screen, Hollis-Jefferson stands in front of Lin to deter him from catching up. RHJ cuts to the basket and receives the pass from Jeremy Lin for the easy two points.

Poor Screens

No Contact on Screen

As good as those plays were, the Nets have also seen some poor screens as well. Sometimes Nets big men set screens and don’t make contact with the opposing point guard. This works sometimes, but only if the defending big man is slow. Take a look at this play from the Nets game against the Dallas Mavericks…

Above, Acy moves over to set the screen for Jeremy Lin. Yogi Ferrell defends him. Acy slips the screen, not making contact with Ferrell. A strong screen by Acy could easily slow Ferrell down if contact is made off of the screen. Lin does get the step and drives to the rim, but he is met by Dirk Nowitzki and Ferrell, who catches up to Lin to meet him in the paint. Lin is fouled. He could have had an easy layup or set Acy up for a jumper if a stronger screen was set.

Weak Off-Ball Screens

It’s important for screens to be set not only to make contact. A good screen should be able to seal the defender as well. A “seal” is ensuring that the defender does not catch up to the offensive player. Above, Trevor Booker and Quincy Acy set double screens for Sean Kilpatrick off of the out of bounds play. C.J. McCollum, who is not a strong defender by any stretch, easily runs around the screens set by the two big men. He blocks Kilpatrick’s shot from behind. Kilpatrick never saw the block coming. McCollum could have been a non-factor in the play if stronger screens were set.

An Aspect to Develop

Brook Lopez, Quincy Acy, and Trevor Booker are all capable of setting strong screens. They are all effective pick and roll options for Jeremy Lin. However, it seems like there hasn’t been that strong of a focus on big men really making contact and deterring defenders. The ability to screen will be a skill to watch develop as the Nets continue to grow in their steady rebuilding process.

For the screen and cut, screen and roll, or pick and pop, it takes two to make a thing go right. Jeremy Lin is definitely a good player off of the pick and roll. He needs stronger screens to be completely effective. Looking at other teams, George Hill has two of the best screen setters in the league with Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert. Setting the screen, pick, or human traffic cone is a part of the Net offense that has been missing as of late. A good screen seals the defender or creates a mismatch.

In scouting potential players, or in developing their own personnel, setting a proper screen is a useful offensive tool. Becoming a strong screener is more about effort than pure basketball skill. The art of the screen can be taught and developed much quicker than shooting or defense. The art of the screen is not a difficult skill to learn, but it is too often overlooked and has been missed this season. For the Brooklyn Nets, Jeremy Lin, and the team’s other point guards, strong screens could open up the offense for even more scoring opportunities.