What is a Basketball Screen?

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Basketball teams use different methods to try to score. Most of these are running a set play, a structured offense called by the coach and players during the game. When the play is called, the players perform a specific sequence of actions to create a good scoring opportunity or easy bucket. A vital ingredient of these plays is called screens. What is a basketball screen? What are the types of screens in basketball

This article will explain what a screen is, how to set screens, when to use them, and how to defend screens.

What is a Screen in Basketball_What is a Screen in Basketball?

When an offensive player legally blocks a defender’s path in order to allow another offensive player to shoot or receive a pass, that action is called a screen. The player essentially uses his body as a barrier to give his teammate more freedom. Setting good screens is essential to winning basketball. Championship teams often incorporate screen-setting in their plays. 

A screen is technically different from a pick. When talking about basketball screen vs pick, the former is used away from the ball handler to initiate movement and provide an opportunity for a teammate to get open without the basketball. On the other hand, the latter is used for the ballhandler. In short, a screen is used away from the ball while a pick is set for the one who has possession of the ball.

However, for the purpose of this article, we may use both terms interchangeably.

Types of Basketball ScreenTypes of Basketball Screen

There are two broad types of screens– on-ball and off-ball. On-ball screens are set up for the player who has possession of the ball. The screener in an on-ball screen stands to the side of the ball handler’s defender, facing the defender.

Types of Basketball Screen (2)

The ballhandler dribbles away from his defender, past the screener. The screen allows the ballhandler more space to shoot, drive to the basket, or pass to a teammate.

Using this simple action, the defenders are forced to make a decision. If the defenders are not communicating, they may leave the screener open for a shot or the ballhandler to go all the way to the bucket. Putting defenders in this predicament is vital to getting open, high-percentage looks.

On-ball screens also have two common types. These types are defined by what the screener does after setting the screen. These are commonly known as the pick and roll and the pick and pop. In the pick and roll, the screener “rolls” or positions himself going toward the basket after the pick is set. A good enough ballhandler could then hit him and stride for a finish around the basket.

For the pick and pop action, the screener positions himself in an open perimeter spot after the screen is set. The ballhandler has the option to pass the ball to him for an open shot. If the screener is a respectable shooter, this play creates a lot of pressure on the defense. 

Off-ball screens also have their own nuances. These screens are run involving two offensive players who do not have possession of the ball. 

The screener in an off-ball screen remains to the side of his teammate’s defender, facing the defender. The teammate circles the screener. The off-ball screen allows the teammate to run to another part of the floor.

Two of the most common types of off-ball screens are the flare screen and the flex screen. Let’s look at both in more detail.

  • Flare Screen. A flare screen is an off-ball screen designed to get shooters open. It occurs when a player receives a screen while cutting away from the ball to create separation for an open jump shot on the perimeter.

Why Do Players Use Screens

  • Flex Screen. Also called a flex cut, a flex screen occurs when a player in the corner receives a screen from a teammate, allowing them to enter the paint and receive a pass for a layup or shot close to the basket. More often than not, the screener is a big man near the low post, and the pass comes from the opposite side.

Why Do Players Use Screens_Why Do Players Use Screens?

The primary purpose of a good ball screen is to create separation from defenders. That means it’s easier to get open when a teammate sets a good screen. This allows the ballhandler to distribute passes, attack the basket, or shoot a jumper, depending on what the defense allows him to do.

The majority of screens take place between two teammates who are not handling the ball at the time of the screen. One teammate positions his body to block a defender, and the other teammate moves into the space created by this screen.

When done correctly, it leads to confusion from the defense or a mismatch if the defense attempts to catch up by switching. In any case, screens are an integral part of a successful offense.

Since no offense could ever be rolling without screens, players must know how to correctly set one. Setting screens should not just be for big men; guards must also master this art so that it becomes second nature.

Here are some tips on how to play as a screener:

  • When setting a screen, it’s important to widen your stance. This allows you to have a strong foundation in case you come in contact with an opposing player. A wide-set screen also takes up space, which gives the ballhandler more room to operate.
  • Set your feet and refrain from moving until the ballhandler has already “taken” the screen. Moving too early may result in a moving or illegal screen, which is an offensive foul. (What is an illegal screen in basketball? In basketball, an illegal screen occurs when the screener moves to make contact so he can gain an advantage.)
  • Protect your sensitive areas in case the defender makes contact. Elbows should be tucked into the body, or an offensive foul could be called.
  • Sprint into the area where you set the screen. This gives you separation from your defender and increases the chance of a mistake.  
  • Be balanced and square your body to the defender. Make sure that your chest is facing the defender’s shoulders

How to Set a Proper Screen

How to Set a Proper Screen_How to Set a Proper Screen?

Since no offense could ever be rolling without screens, players must know how to correctly set one. Setting screens should not just be for big men; guards must also master this art so that it becomes second nature.

Here are some tips on how to play as a screener:

  • When setting a screen, it’s important to widen your stance. This allows you to have a strong foundation in case you come in contact with an opposing player. A wide-set screen also takes up space, which gives the ballhandler more room to operate.
  • Set your feet and refrain from moving until the ballhandler has already “taken” the screen. Moving too early may result in a moving or illegal screen, which is an offensive foul. (What is an illegal screen in basketball? In basketball, an illegal screen occurs when the screener moves to make contact so he can gain an advantage.) 
  • Protect your sensitive areas in case the defender makes contact. Elbows should be tucked into the body, or an offensive foul could be called.
  • Sprint into the area where you set the screen. This gives you separation from your defender and increases the chance of a mistake.  
  • Be balanced and square your body to the defender. Make sure that your chest is facing the defender’s shoulders.

Here is how you can play the screen as a cutter or ballhandler:

  • If you’re the ballhandler, you can direct traffic and dictate where the screener should stand. 
  • Be patient and wait for the screener to be set. Often, the ballhandler gets into the action too quickly, which results in a moving screen
  • When “taking the screen,” make sure to be level or in contact with the screener so that the defender cannot shoot the gap or go in between. 
  • Fake one direction and go the other way. Whatever you do after this should be explosive and decisive. Keep your eyes up so you can determine if a pass or a shot is the correct play to make.

When to Use a Screen_When to Use a Screen?

The screens are most effective against aggressive man-to-man defenses, but they can also be used against the zone or combo defenses. It is also particularly effective in out-of-bounds plays. Furthermore, we can set screens for players who are not in possession of the ball (more commonly known as ball screens) or for players who have the ball (pick-and-roll).

9 Defensive Tips for Stopping Basketball Screens

9 Defensive Tips for Stopping Basketball Screens

9 Defensive Tips for Stopping Basketball Screens

Since screens are an integral part of a successful offense, knowing how to defend them should also be necessary for all defenses. Basically, there are three general ways to defend ball screens. You may (1) go over the screen (sometimes referred to as “fighting through the screen,” (2) go under, or (3) switch. “Hedging” is also an effective way to stop pick and rolls, but not everyone is good enough to pull it off.

Based on these tactics, here are some proven defensive tips for stopping screens:

1. When trying to fight or go over the screen, be smart. If you get too aggressive, you may hit the ballhandler or screener, prompting the refs to call a foul. Use anticipation and feel with your hands to sense where the screens are coming from.

2. Whether that’s trying to stop a pick and roll or just simple rotations, communication cannot be stated enough. Shout out potential screens if you’re watching the play develop. If you’re the one guarding the ballhandler, listen to your teammates’ verbal cues and warnings.

3. When you’re picked, try to get your foot and ankle in the gap, then your leg and hip, and finally your entire body over the top of the pick by arching your back and squeezing through. More often than not, you’d turn into a contortionist fighting through screens. Once you’ve passed the screen, keep that aggressiveness. Use your outstretched arms to deflect the shot or pass. If you keep your hands up, the ballhandler is forced to pass over you, and that’s a more difficult play to complete.

4. The players involved in defending ball screen actions must have perfect timing. If the screener’s defender shows early, the ballhandler could split the double team and drive all the way to the hole. The same thing happens when the ballhandler’s defender lags far behind on a screen. 

5. Always be in a good position as far as angles are concerned. Take away the favorite lanes of the ballhandler and force him to do things he’s not comfortable doing.

6. Do not give up easily, even when there are breakdowns. Sometimes, heart and fighting spirit cannot be taught. However, it can be developed and instilled.

7. Pay attention to the scouting report. Some players may not have a good outside shot, so you can go under screens. Consequently, respectable shooters must be hedged, switched, and fought over screens.

8. Off-ball defenders must always be in a ready-to-help position. If the ballhandler can see that the other defenders not involved in the play are engaged, that limits his driving or passing options.

9. As a coach, it may not be necessary to cram all of these strategies into the players. Pick one or two things you feel are very important in your defensive system and aim to be very good at it.

What is a Dribble Handoff and is it Considered a Screen_What is a Dribble Handoff and is it Considered a Screen?

Yes, a dribble handoff is a screening action where the screener hands off the ball and simultaneously sets a screen. Since the screener in this action starts with the ball, officials may give him a little leeway in his movement. Therefore, you rarely see moving screens called on a dribble handoff.

When doing the dribble handoff, think of it as a ball screen. Thus, get close to the screener so they can block your defender’s path. When you come out of the screen, use your opposite shoulder to shield the ball from your defender as you finish at the rim or prepare to shoot from further out.

The dribble handoff is a constant feature of most offenses today. It is effective in this guard-heavy era because it can be used to release the pressure of the defender that is guarding the player who would receive the handoff.

Furthermore, the dribble handoff may provide opportunities for the player receiving the ball to shoot an open jump shot or attack the basket with dribble drive action. 

Wrapping Things Up: What is a Basketball Screen?

Watch any basketball game, and you’d readily see screens as a regular fixture of most offenses. A screen is when a player essentially uses his body as a barrier to give his teammate more freedom. The screener (the one setting the screen) blocks his teammate’s defender, rendering the defense in a precarious situation.

Screening actions are effective because it puts the defense in a predicament. If the players involved in defending screens are not in sync, the offense gets a high-quality shot. Of course, the offense doing the screen actions must follow basketball screen rules so they won’t get called for illegal or moving screens.

There are two general types of screens in basketball— on-ball and off-ball. On-ball screens are set up for the player who has possession of the ball, while off-ball screens involve offensive players away from the ball. On-ball and off-ball screens further branch out into types, but the goal is similar: Get your teammates open so that we can get quality shots.

On the other end of the spectrum, defending ball screens should be integral to any defense. There are many Xs and Os about that, but the keys are communication, a defensive mindset, and aggressiveness. Combine these three, and the defense has a chance to consistently stop basketball screens.

As a young player, it is important to ask questions such as,” What is a basketball screen?” Basketball relies heavily on screens. It’s adaptable and difficult to defend. Setting screens is the foundation of entire offensive schemes. If you want to become successful, be sure to understand the nuances on either side of the ball.

We hope you enjoyed this post! If you did, be sure to check out our other basketball FAQ articles here.

You might also be interested in our posts about:

> What is a Basketball Foul?

> What is a Crossover in Basketball?

> What is a Slasher in Basketball?

> What is Cherry Picking in Baskeball?

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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