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“The Ball Moves Faster Than The Player”: The Problem of Iso Basketball

Luka Doncic Isolation

To really create an efficient and involved offense, ball movement and good passes are key. Ball movement makes the defenders work harder, and the offensive players job easier. 

However, basketball has trended towards more isolation and pick and roll type offenses. These offensive schemes and playstyles are extremely effective in spurts, but they fail to get everyone involved and engaged offensively.

Every Player needs to be locked in

I would argue that the more engaged offensively a player is, the more locked in they are in the entirety of the game. This can make players hustle more, play better defense, and make better decisions when the ball is touching their hands and they have the ability to score or play make.

The problem is pick and roll, and more likely, isolation basketball, has one or two players involved in the offense. 

Not only that, players that are guarding the pick and roll are doing most of the defensive work, allowing other defensive players to rest on defense.

Why is this a problem?

trae young pick and roll

The more rest a defensive player gets, and the less fatigued they are, the more efficient and better they become on the offensive end.

So in a sense, playing pick and roll and isolation is succession and repetitively may give the other team more efficiency offensively. 

Pick and roll and isolation is also required to have exceptional players and is very predictable.

Need Great Player or Players

To run an isolation with optimum efficiency, you need a player who is an extraordinary offensive threat. That player must be dominant, as he needs to win his one on one matchup a high percentage of the time. 

kevin durant iso

Why does the player need to be so good?

Because the isolation player needs to score to win the game with that strategy. Isolation is asking one specific player or multiple players to draw attention or score on every possession, or at least that’s the intention. 

I think isolation is best when it demands double teams so other players can get involved. However, it can be hard for the non isolation players on the team to get rhythm when double teams can be random and sporadic.

Same thing goes for the pick and roll. To run a pick and roll effectively, you need an effective three level scorer offensive player who can pass and play extremely well. You also need a pretty big player who can set screens and roll and finish well.

Predictable

Pick and roll and isolation basketball can be dominant if you do in fact have great players to play that style. However, the offense can be static and lack dynamic flow to it. If these great players are having problems offensively, and they are not in rhythm or having a good game, the offense suffers.

The other team can game plan for pick and roll and isolation. Isolation players typically get the best defender and have a defensive scheme where help defenders come at random and frequently. Same thing goes for the pick and roll and defenders hedging and playing help side on the rolls.

Basically, game planning and being prepared to guard isolation and pick and roll can be easier than if the ball was moving equally among multiple teammates. There is no scouting report for that level of play because it is a 5 headed monster with 5 players on the court being dangerous.

Final Points

Pick and roll and isolation basketball lack one thing and it is involvement with all 5 players. It puts too much pressure on everyone, from the people with the ball that have to carry the offensive load, to the people who do not touch the ball and expect to make a crucial shot without rhythm.

European and foreign basketball has prioritized the methodology of ball movement and player involvement. However, due to the NBA and its superstar centered league, the philosophy and perception of basketball, particularly in the United States, has been skewed to believe isolation basketball a good offensive strategy and playstyle.  

By no means does this mean that you should not work on your 1v1 skill set to score against your defender, offensive skills like that are extremely important. I just do not think that should be the designated offense every possession or every other possession.

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