Dissecting Chrome’s pick and rolls at X

After a few possessions, the Chrome offense identified a key part of the Archers’ defensive gameplan: switch all big-little picks at X. Jordan Wolf (4A) and Justin Guterding (2G, 2A) are two of the league’s premier initiators. Drawing switches that leave short-stick defensive midfielders on the best Chrome attackmen was an advantage for the offense.

It might seem unnecessary to bring a pick to Wolf; he’s the fastest endline-to-goal-line attackman on the planet. But Archers defenseman Matt McMahon did a great job forcing Wolf to his off-hand in isolation situations; all three shots that Wolf attempted off drives from X were with his left hand. Drawing a switch gives Wolf a better chance to win his matchup to his dominant hand – plus, it makes him a more dangerous feeder.

Teammates have buried 27.6% of Wolf’s passes in isolation scenarios during his pro career. When he’s operating a pick-and-roll, his teammates have finished 45.5%. There’s better spacing above the cage when there are two defenders below goal-line extended. Opening up passing lanes for Wolf allows Ned Crotty, Ty Thompson and others to hunt for stepdowns.

When Wolf was matched up with a short-stick following a pick, he drew an automatic slide. The defensive plan made sense – turn Wolf into a feeder rather than a scorer at all costs. This Archers team projects to have one of the most aggressive help defenses in the PLL, but even the slightest crack in their recovery proved costly against Wolf.

It’s no surprise that the Archers were (and will continue to be) comfortable switching with Dominique Alexander. He’s a physical short-stick who can slide his feet; watch him stick to the gameplan, cut the field in half, and force Wolf to his left. The Archers didn’t need to slide here, but they lost track of Jordan MacIntosh cutting off-ball as they prepared to slide.

It wasn’t only Alexander who was asked to switch onto the Chrome attackmen; the Archers trusted their offensive midfielders to switch, too. Dan Eipp tries to get a piece of Guterding here, but gets blown by. It’s a risk the Archers were willing to take -- Eipp and Schreiber switched onto Wolf and Guterding multiple times -- and it might be a strategy we see around the league. With a 52-second shot clock, there’s less incentive to be matchup conscious. Late in the shot clock, switches should be a guarantee.

(Sidenote: Guterding’s pre-pick footwork is so smooth. Even against future gameplans that attempt to fight through, his defender is going to get clobbered by these picks.)

That stretch of 11 minutes and 39 seconds of gameplay featured three goals and a whistling 2-point attempt by Romar Dennis, all generated by pick-and-rolls at X. Late in the fourth quarter, the Chrome offense strayed from those actions. I counted one pick-and-roll. Guterding swims a short-stick defender, hits a pipe, earns a reset, and extends a possession that ultimately ends with a goal.

Wolf didn’t have any true big-little looks in the fourth quarter. He drew a switch onto long-stick midfielder Scott Ratliff after a two-man game with Romar Dennis, and he rejected a pick with 10 seconds remaining in regulation. The Chrome LC didn’t get the result they wanted, but they found their bread-and-butter action. Next time the game is on the line, they need to turn to the pick game.

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