Language of Basketball. Pick, press and fast break

VTB-League.com presents a new installment of the Language of Basketball, our series on basketball lingo. Videos are included to help illustrate each phrase.

This article focuses on three important basketball concepts: pick, press and fast break.

This is one of the most important elements in the game. It's a blocking movement, executed by a player on offense and intended to cut off a defender from a teammate. Picks are used to get someone an open shot on the perimeter or to provide an opportunity to drive to the basket.

A pick is simple to execute and very effective. It's not surprising, then, that it's used in most plays. Several of the most famous plays in basketball--pick-n-roll and pick-n-pop--even include the word in the title.

In addition to set plays, picks are also used to create mismatches on defense. Shorter players are forced to guard big men and slow centers end up on the perimeter, where they struggle against quicker guards.

This is a type of defense. It's characterized by its aggressiveness, ball pressure and frenetic activity on the part of the defense. A press is usually employed when the other team is inbounding the ball. The defenders try to stop the offense from getting the ball in by double-teaming and other traps.

Pressing takes a lot of energy. Nobody can do it for 40 minutes, but in certain episodes it can be very effective. Ideally, a press forces the other team to make mistakes and waste time on offense. It can also wear down the opposing guards physically and psychologically (especially if the point guard doesn't have a solid back-up).

The final minutes of this game between Enisey and Kalev demonstrated just how effective the press can be. With two minutes left to play, Enisey trailed by more than 10 points. Thanks to the press, they forced several turnovers and got within a basket. 

Fast break
A lightning-quick possession, during which one of more players on offense beat their defenders to the basket or enjoy a numerical advantage. Fast breaks are all about speed. A quick transition from defense to offense makes fast breaks one of the most effective weapons in basketball.

Fast breaks are also very easy to execute. In order to get down the court quickly, all you need is to be in good shape. There aren't any fancy skills or techniques required, unlike halfcourt offense.

Teams with less talent often resort to fast breaks as a way to level the playing field. Last season, Avtodor Saratov was a perfect example. The rookie club managed to reach the postseason and scored several big upsets thanks in part to its ability to exploit the fast break.