On opening night the Blazers will host the Lakers, and then they will travel to Oklahoma City. Lillard will quickly discover that he is not in Ogden anymore. Just as teams are running the pick-and-roll more, they are also devising new ways to stop it. In the first two games of the Western Conference finals the Spurs cleaved the Thunder with their incessant pick-and-rolls. Then Brooks adjusted, switching on screens with flyswatters such as Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Thabo Sefolosha, and the Thunder reeled off four straight victories. The Spurs' production in the pick-and-roll, according to Synergy, fell by more than 16 points per game after Game 2.
While the best offensive pick-and-roll players tend to be explosive guards who are also three-point threats and big men who can shoot midrange jumpers, the desired defenders are long-armed power forwards and centers who can rush out to the perimeter and scramble back to the paint. The Celtics, with Kevin Garnett, and the Bulls, with Joakim Noah, are among the top three in opposing pick-and-roll field goal percentages. "Damian is precocious in NBA terms," says Blazers coach Terry Stotts, "but defenses will make his pick-and-rolls a priority."
The pterodactyls are coming, Ibaka and Garnett in Lillard's chest and under his chin, hedging and harassing 25 feet from the basket. The rookie can't wait. It's how he rolls.