The Big Ten lost several of its best ball screen players from a year ago in D’Angelo Russell, the 2nd pick in the NBA draft, Terran Petteway, who recorded a shot or an assist on an astounding 14.5 pick and rolls per game, and one of our favorite players to watch, Penn State’s DJ Newbill. Despite the high profile losses, there are still several talented returning stars as well. In our first edition of Big Ten’s Best this offseason we breakdown the conference’s top returning pick and roll players as we look ahead to 2015-16.
1. Melo Trimble, Maryland
Melo Trimble is an easy pick for preseason Big Ten Player of the Year in 2016 and his primary weapon is the pick and roll. It should come as no surprise that Trimble gets to the free throw line off the pick and roll more often than anyone on this list. He scored more points for himself off of ball screens than any returning player in the league – and ranked fourth in that metric last year behind Petteway, Newbill and Michigan State’s Travis Trice. With Dez Wells out of the picture, Trimble could become even more pivotal to Maryland’s backcourt, but he’ll have weapons like blue chipper Diamond Stone, transfers Robert Carter and Rasheed Sulaimon and inside-outside four man Jake Layman.
2. Yogi Ferrell, Indiana
Ferrell has been a constant in any discussion of Big Ten pick and roll offense over the last three seasons. He’s consistently efficient and shoulders much of the load offensive for Indiana. He was close to a 50-50 pass-shoot split in the ball screen game last year, down from being a 55-45 shoot-first guard in 2014. Ferrell will have a more traditional pick and roll five man at his disposal this year in five-star recruit Thomas Bryant, but he also has an impressive array of wing targets to distribute to including James Blackmon Jr. and Robert Johnson.
3. Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern
Bryant McIntosh is the least efficient player in our top five, but the fact that Chris Collins dialed up more pick and rolls per game for McIntosh at Northwestern than Yogi Ferrell received at Indiana should tell you how highly he’s regarded in Evanston. McIntosh excels at finding spot-up shooters from residual ball screen action, but he was punished by poor finishing from his big men, who converted only 34.6% of their roll attempts at the basket.
4. Bronson Koenig, Wisconsin
Bronson Koenig’s possessions per game numbers are slightly skewed because his role changed midseason, but he was also lethally efficient. The worry with Koenig is that his numbers were artificially inflated by playing alongside one of the best pick-and-pop or pick-and-roll bigs that the conference has seen for quite a while in Frank Kaminsky. Teaming up with Nigel Hayes this year shouldn’t hurt matters and in true Wisconsin fashion, Koenig leads this list with just a 7% turnover rate in pick-and-roll scenarios.
5. Spike Albrecht, Michigan
Albrecht is one the most pass-happy guard on this list, but by the end of last season he was the most efficient ball screen player in the league that used at least 100 possessions. That’s nothing new for a John Beilein offense, but considering last year’s team’s struggles Albrecht’s efficiency is impressive. He passes the ball on 60% of his ball screens and does a terrific job of setting up his roll man. Michigan’s bigs scored a Big Ten best 1.65 points per possession when they caught the ball from Albrecht – best in the conference.
Watch Out For
Denzel Valentine at Michigan State should see more opportunities without Travis Trice in the backcourt and he has the vision and ball skills to be one of the conference’s best. In Ann Arbor, Spike Albrecht and Zak Irvin were efficient, but Derrick Walton and Caris LeVert will be back — how will the pick and roll opportunities be distributed in 2016? Iowa’s Mike Gessel just missed the cut and could be poised for a breakout season.
Robert Johnson, James Blackmon Jr., Zak Irvin and Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman all tallied some of the best PPP numbers on pass-outs in ball screen situations – a sign that opposing defenses are almost certainly overplaying them to shoot.
Illinois needs more from its ball screen guards as Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate didn’t get the job done despite the Illini ranking third in the Big Ten in percentage of pick and roll offense. Purdue was one of the only teams not to emphasize the pick and roll last season. The Boilermakers ran ball screens on just 8.6% of their possessions last year compared to the leaders Nebraska (32%) and second to last Iowa (16%)