Film Study: Lyle-Rabil pick-and-rolls

By Joe Keegan

PLL Analyst

Jul 21, 2021

In a must-win scenario in Minnesota, the Cannons put Lyle Thompson and Paul Rabil in the pick-and-roll. Again. And again. And again.

The action is one Lyle and Rabil have discussed and practiced, yet rarely run. It was possible against the Archers with Stephen Rehfuss drawing the pole; and borderline necessary after Rabil came up hobbling on the opening possession.

“[Rabil]’s a smart guy,” said Lyle. “He’s a quick learner. It was nice to be able to have those conversations and for him to adapt.”

The Lyle-Rabil two-man games were truly that: Two-man games. These weren’t picks to produce switches. Lyle drew a few short-stick switches – and asked to run the pick back.

The Cannons have shot 9-for-15 (60.0%) on any shot initiated by a two-man game on the righty wing. They’re less effective initiating with a dodge on the righty wing (1-for-16, 6.3%). Most of those start and/or end with Lyle, who thrives in the two-man game.

“It’s almost easier for the defense if he’s just iso dodging a short-stick,” said offensive coordinator Sean Kirwan. “He doesn’t really care [about matchups]. He’d rather see that indecision.”

Juxtapose the two-man games with this isolation. Adjacent help is available in either direction. Lyle takes a beating to create a 17-yard stepdown against the best goalie in the league.

That gap between isolation and pick-and-roll is consistent across the league. Shooting percentage off two-man games is 34.9% (versus 24.9% off dodges). Assist rate (i.e. the percentage of shots that are assisted) is 49.9% (versus 40.7%).

By bringing a pick to the ball, the offense is pulling a defender out of the middle, stretching slides. Those adjacents are across the crease. Lyle and his picker have the entire righty side of the field to operate.

Passive pick defense won’t win against Lyle and Rabil. There’s no fighting underneath Rabil’s picks and re-picks.

“He’s just a big dude – so he can eat up space,” said Kirwan. “If you’re trying to get around Paul as a defender, that’s the long way to go.”

Ducking underneath gives Lyle momentum. As difficult as it is to defend Lyle posting up, it’s even tougher when a pick creates this much separation.

Lyle is shooting 38.2% off the dodge; second-highest among shooters with 20 or more unassisted shots, behind only … Paul Rabil (45.5%). It’s rare to see an offense put its two best players in a pick-and-roll. Usually, that would be a big-big situation. With Rabil at less than 100%, these actions in the form of big-littles were temporarily possible.

What happens when Rabil draws the pole again? Do the Cannons pick with a pole on him? It might work. Like Kirwan said, Lyle doesn’t want a switch – he wants to force the defense to think. With lefties like Shayne Jackson, Andrew Kew, Rehfuss, and Deemer Class on the weak side of the field, the Lyle-Rabil pick-and-roll could continue to thrive against two poles.

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