Over the past few seasons with the Los Angeles Clippers, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have built a great chemistry and together they are one of the most exciting pick and roll tandems in the entire NBA. A highlight just waiting to happen.
Paul is an elite facilitator and strong as a bull when running the pick and roll, he can get into the lane and keep his dribble while shielding the ball with his body and finding passing angles. Paul changes paces and shrugs off double teams and traps like it’s nothing and find his teammates for lobs. Even as a scorer in the pick and roll he is elite, ranking sixth in the league in points per possession as the finisher in pick and rolls at 0.98. He led the league in assists last year and is an incredible manager of the game, knowing when to be aggressive getting his own shots and when to involve teammates.
Griffin is an elite finisher at the basket, shooting 64.2 percent from eight feet and in last season, one of the best marks in the league. He improved his jumper enough for defenses to have to respect him and has a wonderful feel on whether or not to attack the basket in the pick and roll. Griffin re-screens his man tons of times and is patient about finding openings in the defense.
Together Paul and Griffin are a scary combo, and here’s some of the action they run that makes them so difficult to guard. No matter how you cover it.
For such an athletic and prolific roll man, you’d think that Blake would roll every single time, but the way defenses trap Paul when he comes off the pick and roll and pre-rotate to the middle of the floor in order to stop Griffin’s roll, he often is forced to take mid-range jumpers (shows the value of improving that shot, you can’t roll every time).
These sorts of situations open themselves up for swing passes since the defense is forced to heavily load up on the strong side, where even though Griffin doesn’t necessarily get a box score mention, his presence on the floor is creating all the value. If Griffin sees an opening in the defense he will often take a dribble into the lane and finish hard at the rim.
The part where Paul starts to take over is when the trap doesn’t come or is executed improperly. He will destroy you. Chase him over the screen with the big man containing you are immediately at a disadvantage. Which is exactly the type of action what opens up tons of lobs and finishes at the rim. Paul reads these types of plays beautifully and picking you apart is just way too easy.
Paul can shoot, and if you go under the screen he will either take and make 3-point shots, as shown by his eight 3-pointers made against the Thunder in the playoffs, four of which came off of pick and rolls. He can also use that extra space to get ahead of steam and barrel into the lane. Using his strong body to bully his way to the rim. Paul splits tons of pick and rolls for easy finishes in the lane and is an excellent shooter in the mid-range area off the dribble.
The most devastating part of the Paul-Griffin pick and roll is the side pick and rolls without a man in the strong side corner, leaving the whole side of the floor for Paul and Griffin to work with. Chris Paul is a genius and finds angles to make brilliant pocket passes to Griffin on the roll. If that pass gets through to Griffin on the roll, you are done. There’s nothing left to do.
If you’re late to rotate it’s a dunk. Make it there on time and it’s a pass to DeAndre Jordan and a dunk every time. You don’t even have the time to foul Jordan on those (these are my personal favorites also). Technically you’re supposed to “help the helper,” but it’s pretty much impossible in these side pick and rolls. Griffin and Jordan are too athletic, smart and fast for you to be able to keep up. Griffin is an underrated passer and makes great reads when he catches it off the bounce.
There’s literally no satisfactory way of defending the Paul-Griffin pick and roll. Every option has downsides. Trap and you leave yourself vulnerable to a 4 on 3 that leads to open shots and cutters finding ways to the basket. Contain at the foul line and it’s a lob or a pocket pass. Go under and Paul will shoot open jumpers all day. It’s a pick your poison thing, and as Griffin gets more adept at shooting over the next few seasons, the results will be even more devastating.