Jordan Wolf and Jordan MacIntosh’s Pick-and-Roll Chemistry

By Joe Keegan | Apr 22, 2020

Jordan Wolf explodes from the endline to goal-line extended faster than any attackman on Earth. Even the quickest defenders struggle to contain him one-on-one. By that logic, picking for Wolf might seem unnecessary. It’s like giving a bicycle to a cheetah. So why does Chrome LC bring a pick to Wolf at X so often? This is because the pick has little to do with helping Wolf win on-ball, it’s about helping the rest of the team win off-ball.

Wolf actually shot better in isolations (9-for-32, 28.1%) than he did in pick-and-rolls (5-for-23, 21.7%). However, those isolations rarely led to ball movement. That’s not Wolf’s fault; it’s an issue across the league. Assist rate (i.e. the percentage of shots that are assisted) is only 36.7% in isolation. Bringing a pick to the ball boosts that number up to 47.5%. Explained with fewer numbers: Nearly half of all shots created by two-man games are assisted looks.

Pro defenses can help and recover to isolations in their sleep. Sending help to a dodger requires the defense to zone up against a temporary five-on-four away from the ball. The math favors the defense in that scenario. When a defense sends help to a two-man game though, that off-ball zone is stretched into a four-on-three. The math tilts in favor of the offense in these situations.

Off-ball spacing is a big reason why league-wide assist-to-turnover ratio is 0.45 in isolations, compared to 0.74 in two-man games. For Wolf, that jump is even higher. His assist-to-turnover ratio shoots from 0.46 in isolations to 1.60 in two-man games. Wolf is more efficient passing out of pick-and-rolls than most players are on fast breaks or powerplays.

Switch-y defenses slowed these two-man games down. Both Archers LC and Redwoods LC dared Wolf to reset and dodge a short-stick. He feasted on those short-stick matchups in Week 1 at Gillette Stadium against Archers LC, but the Archers’ gameplan became the blueprint to defend Wolf later in the summer. Wolf didn’t finish many possessions as a pick-and-roll operator against those defenses – only four pick-and-roll shots in three games against the Archers, and zero shots in two games against the Redwoods.

Isolating after switches is settling for a suboptimal form of offense. The Chrome LC offense needs a better plan for attacking matchup-indifferent defenses. Slipping the pick works, especially when you have the league’s best picker, Jordan MacIntosh. When the defense doubles Wolf or is late to recover to the picker, MacIntosh slips into a spot where Wolf can find him for an outlet. From here, MacIntosh is in position to finish – or if the defense sends a slide, he can feed into a four-on-three.

Wolf and MacIntosh have been developing this two-man game chemistry for years. This is lacrosse’s version of a Stephen Curry-Draymond Green pick-and-roll, an unstoppable scorer paired with a high-IQ safety valve. For every defensive strategy, these two have an offensive counter. Push the picker and try to fight through? Wolf will get to the island before you can cross goal-line extended. Switch? MacIntosh will slip to space. Send a third defender? Wolf will pick apart your four-on-three zone. Good luck, defenses.

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