Jerry Sloan was once one of the NBA's best point guards, though sadly, he held the title at a point in history in which it hardly had any meaning. The NBA he played in ran everything through centers, and with giants like Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell roaming the painted area, they could hardly be blamed for that. Plays were designed to create post-ups. Off-ball motion was meant to take advantage of the vision their size granted. Chamberlain even led the league in total assists in the 1967-68 season.
The league continued on that course for another two decades, with Chamberlain and Russell leading into players like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton. Sloan coached one such player in Chicago, Artis Gilmore, but was still fired in 1982. So when he landed in Utah a few years later, he set about creating a different kind of offense, one that could still maximize the imposing size of a big man while taking advantage of the decision-making ability point guards like he relied upon.
And so, I present the pick-and-roll, trademark Jerry Sloan, 1988.
On the surface, it is one of the simplest plays in basketball. A ball-handler, usually John Stockton, awaits a screen from a teammate, usually Karl Malone. That teammate then dives to the basket in the confusion of a defense navigating that screen for, ideally, a dunk. As simple as it is to run, its success relies on variation.
"We have 11 options off just the action of me setting the pick," Malone said in 1998. "That's the beauty of it. For every adjustment defenses make, we have an option that's already worked against it a thousand times."
If, for instance, both defenders swarm Stockton, Malone could leak out for an open jumper.