A lot of talk about the Spurs and their playoff hopes now that Manu Ginobili is gone for the year. I took in their game last night against the Portland Trailblazers, who look poised to make some noise themselves in the upcoming playoffs. One of the players I really looked at closely was 2nd year (really a rookie) player Greg Oden. A lot has been made about his injury troubles, but I wanted to see how he's adjusting to the NBA game.

I haven't watched that many Blazers games, so as a disclaimer, my opinions here are based on the limited games I've watched. But from what I've seen, I think Oden has struggled with the finer aspects of the pick and roll both offensively and defensively. Specifically, his footwork needs a lot more work. Here are a few sequences I picked out from the first half,

On Offense:

I think in this play Brandon Roy shares some blame, but certainly Oden is slow to roll to the basket, turned the wrong way, and isn't watching for the ball,

On Defense:

Again, just slow on footwork. Instead of a hard hedge, he waits behind the screen, when the dribbler comes off the screen, Oden is caught flat footed and jumps in the air to compensate. Tony Parker is too smart and allows Oden to fall on him for the foul at the end of the quarter,

I included the last sequence because I think that Oden has the potential to be a great PNR player. Most of that play was due to Roy, but when Oden is a little more active with his feet, good things happen.


It's a work in progress. I don't think it is that surprising that he's been slower to develop the PNR skills, because he's never had that role before, and his body type isn't naturally as suited for it, then say an Amare Stoudamire. But I think with more individual skill, he will learn it. If you look at say Dwight Howard, he came into the league as a rebounding dunker, but has learned to play within a PNR game. Oden has to do the same.

To learn more about the PNR for your big men, and how to defend it, take a look at Jeff Van Gundy's DVD on the pick and roll and how to defend it. Van Gundy is a master of the PNR having coached some of the best guard-forward tandems in the NBA. Be sure to check out the X's and O's Basketball Forum to talk about your favorite basketball topics.