In settled situations, there aren’t many better shots than those produced by pick-and-rolls. Pick-and-roll operators are shooting 13.6% themselves; the shots they create for their teammates (either the roll man or a weak side spot up shooter) are buried 17.5% of the time. For context, that’s better than the league-wide powerplay shooting percentage.
Because of the physicality in box lacrosse, it takes a special type of player to turn a two-man game into an open shot for a teammate. Defenses often double the ball with vicious cross checks. They will drive the lacrosse stick away from his dominant hand, forcing tough passes. Some of the quicker forwards, like Jeremy Noble, can bounce or roll away from the pressure and catch defenses out of position.
Noble leads the NLL with six pick-and-roll assists. Surprisingly, five of those assists have been across the floor to either Ryan Benesch or Eli McLaughlin. It wasn’t until this week, with Stephen Keogh back in the lineup, that Noble assisted a right-handed teammate in the pick-and-roll.
Pick-and-Roll Passers (thru 2/7)
Keogh is a savvy off-ball player. He caught the aggressive Saskatchewan Rush defense sleeping early in the game with this slip pick.
Noble and Jacob Ruest worked that slip pick chemistry as well. Ruest got to the doorstep by picking his own man then slipping first; next, by picking and re-picking against a Rush defense playing with Mark Matthews trapped on the floor.
Noble baits defenders into flooding the ball side, but his footwork keeps him out of trouble. His eyes are always up, too. Watch him go through his progressions like a quarterback here. Both Rush defenders stalk him into the corner, and a third defender evacuates the weak side to tag the roll man, Ruest. Noble doesn’t force the feed to Ruest. Instead, he rolls back, pump fakes to Ruest to freeze the defense, and feeds a cutting Eli McLaughlin, whose man left him for Ruest.
The Rush defense is widely regarded as the best in the league. Their athleticism and chemistry allows them to pressure the ball without leaving shooters open. Pick-and-roll operators have shot 11.0% (third lowest in NLL); roll men have shot 10.0% (also third lowest in NLL). Off-ball players (i.e. cutters, spot up shooters, off-ball screens) are shooting a measly 12.4% against the Rush (lowest in NLL). The shots Noble managed to create against them – although not all were goals – were extremely high quality.
The Western Division seems destined to come down to this matchup: Colorado against Saskatchewan. If these two teams meet again in the playoffs, then the Mammoth’s best chance at an upset might be putting Noble in more pick-and-roll situations.