Orlando Magic coach Jamahl Mosley has mentioned multiple times that preseason will be used to experiment.
For Paolo Banchero, the No. 1 pick in June’s NBA draft, a part of that means becoming more acclimated with being used in picks in rolls. That process started in the Magic’s Monday preseason-opening loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
“I played out of the pick-and-roll in college, but college is a much different game,” said Banchero, who had 8 points (2-9), 2 rebounds and 2 steals against Memphis. “In the NBA, it’s a pick-and-roll pretty much every possession. It was a lot more reps than I was used to.”
During his 39 games at Duke, Banchero was involved in 64 pick-and-rolls (35 as the ballhandler, 29 as the roll man) that ended with him shooting, making up 9.3% of his play type usage, according to Synergy Sports.
If Monday was any indication, expect that usage to increase.
Banchero was involved in at least 13 pick-and-rolls in 24 minutes against Memphis — including possessions that didn’t end with him passing or shooting — mixing in time as both the ballhandler and roll man.
The results were up and down, which is expected for a rookie.
At times early on, Banchero seemed hesitant to shoot as the ballhandler in a pick-and-roll while he read his options.
Memphis’ defense, which ranked No. 6 in defensive rating last season, does a good job at helping off shooters, disrupting driving lanes and forcing ballhandlers to pick up their dribble — things that happened to Banchero.
This led to Banchero either turning the ball over or kicking out to a teammate after not creating a significant advantage or being slow with his reads.
“In college, a lot of it was isolation, so that’s what I’m used to making a lot of my reads out of, pure isolation,” Banchero said. “I got to get used to making a lot more reads out of the pick-and-roll as the handler and the roller, and speeding that up. I felt like I made my reads a lot slower than usual.”
Banchero started to look more comfortable as a decision-maker in pick-and-rolls as the game went on, especially as a roll man.
“With a lot of the young guys, it tends to be the speed, timing, pace and playing with different teammates,” Mosley said. “Understanding the when and the where. These guys are going to have to continue to play together [to] understand the different reads. Wendell [Carter Jr.] will be a different roller than Mo Bamba. Mo Bamba will be a different roller than Bol. It’s just the timing and getting familiar with your teammates, understanding how you’re making certain passes. And then in different spaces on the floor, you’ve got to feel all those spots. That’ll eliminate a lot of our turnovers.”
Banchero, who mostly finished halfcourt possessions as a spot-up shooter, in isolation or on post ups at Duke, worked on making reads out of pick-and-rolls during Wednesday’s practice.
“Just making [the] simple read every time, trying to make the right read whether it’s hitting the big in the pocket or swinging it one more,” Banchero said. “Or getting to my own shot. That’s something I was a little indecisive on in the first game, just being me, being aggressive. Heading into these next couple of games, reminding myself my shot’s the first look and then making reads after that.
“Watching the film, I didn’t look sped up. I didn’t look like I was super uncomfortable. Knowing I can get to wherever I want to get to is really encouraging. Now I’ve got to make the right decision when I get there.”
Pick-and-rolls are a significant part of any NBA offense, regardless of the team. The Magic weren’t a pick-and-roll heavy team last season compared to the rest of the league, but still finished 23.5% of their possessions with that play type. That doesn’t take into account possessions that involved pick-and-rolls that ended with other play types such as spot-up opportunities.
More pick-and-roll opportunities will come for Banchero, with the Magic playing the Spurs in San Antonio Thursday in their next preseason game before matching up against the Mavericks in Dallas Friday as part of a back-to-back.
“That’s going to be part of it,” Mosley said. “The work we do in practice, he’s got to do that [during] individual drills. The timing of when to make passes, when to get downhill and attack the rim and when to make the pass out of the perimeter. Those are decision-making [processes] he’s going to have to go through we’re asking all these guys to do.
“You talk about what Franz [Wagner] did last year, in some ways he started moving towards that a little bit more. That’s going to be a similar situation with Paolo — be able to make decisions out of the pick-and-roll.”
That learning curve will take time.
“No matter who he’s in the pick-and-roll with, it’s going to take time [to understand] the timing of when he’s making certain passes,” Mosley said. “Is the guy a speed roller or is he rolling into the pocket? Is there a man at the nail or do I need to throw it out to the wing? It’s going to be all of those timing pieces. For the first game, him just being in them is a great thing so he can recognize when and where he needs to do certain things.”