How to Defend Ball Screens in Basketball

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Ball screens are a very useful offensive tool that many teams utilize on the offensive end of the court. Many coaches and players would take any advice on how to guard against ball screens properly. We understand that ball screens are a nuisance for players on the defensive end because they allow teams to score quite easily or, at the very least, break down even the best-organized defense.

Over the years, coaches have been trying a multitude of defensive techniques to stop ball screens or contain players involved in ball screens. Some of these techniques are effective, while others aren’t. In our article today, we are going to be reviewing some of the best methods used to stop or contain the offense when they utilize ball screens.

First Things First What is a Ball Screen in BasketballFirst Things First: What is a Ball Screen in Basketball?

A screen in basketball is pretty much a barrier that players create between defenders and their offensive teammates. This barrier is created with the player’s bodies. If you are new to the game of basketball, this may sound like a bizarre concept.

Basically, how it works is one or more players will sacrifice their bodies by standing firmly in the path of a defender, essentially blocking him out from chasing the player on the offensive team. This barrier, when done right, will allow the offensive player to get room to operate freely. These barriers are called picks or screens.

This type of play requires communication and unselfish players that are willing to do what is necessary for their team to win. Communication is essential because players sometimes need to tell their teammates when and where to set the screens if they are not already embedded in plays. Teammates need to be willing to put their bodies on the line as screens often draw a fair amount of contact.

They are set in the path of the defenders, so it is expected that defenders will collide into them from time to time, so some players aren’t willing to set them. In basketball, there are two types of screens. You have the off-the-ball screen and the on the ball screen.

As the name suggests, an off-the-ball screen is a screen that is set off the ball, meaning it is set away from the ball handler. This is not the screen we are working on today. Today we are discussing screens that are set for the ball-handler. These are on the ball screens or ball screens. An on the ball screen is set for a variety of reasons. Many of us are familiar with the popular offensive play, the pick-and-roll.

The pick-and-roll is one on the ball screen play that is very effective as it creates mismatches and lots of open shots. Another play but that can be done out of the ball screen is the pick-and-pop. The pic and the pop have the screener popping out to the parameter for an open shot. In today’s basketball game, where more bigs are able to shoot the long ball, we see the pick-and-pop being utilized more.

How Do You Set Up a ScreenHow Do You Set Up a Screen?

For ball screens to be effective, they needed to be set in the right place, at the right time and in the proper manner. Some coaches design please that incorporate the ball screen. When these plays are being run on the court, prayers know when and where to set the pick. This is one way for coaches to promote the use of this very useful offensive tool.

If the pick is not incorporated into the specific play, it will be up to the players on the court to determine when and where to set the screen. For players to do this right, they need some amount of offensive chemistry to know when their teammates would like to be assisted with a pick.

Some players will use different tactics, such as hand signals or foot signals to call for ball picks. There are requirements for a pic to be deemed as legal. The player setting the pick should not be leaning forward nor extending body parts to grab or hold on to the defensive player.

Since the pic is intended to be a barrier between the ball handler and his defender, the player setting the pick should always firm up to make sure that the pic is effective. You do not want to be setting a pick that is wobbly.

How Do You Set Up a Screen

A firm pick is best because this will prevent the defender from reaching the ball handler or moving the pic into the path of the ball handler if there is an accidental collision. When the pick is being set outside the defender’s vision, remember that you need to set the pick at least one step away from the defensive player.

When you are placing a pick, you should not make contact with the player being screened. If the player defending the ball handler is moving, the pic should be set at a reasonable distance away from him so that he can see the pic in time and either stop or change direction. A player setting a pick can move in the defender’s path but not laterally towards the defender.

Can You Push Through a Screen in BasketballCan You Push Through a Screen in Basketball?

The short answer to the question, “Can I run through a ball screen that is set on me?” is no. The rules allow for the defender to have a visual on the screen before he collides into the screen. Sometimes this does not happen, but most times it does.

One of the reasons why the rules stipulate this is that the defender should be able to change direction or stop upon seeing the screen. The official rule states that “A player may not use the arms, hands, hips or shoulders to force his/her way through a screen or to hold the screener and then push the screener aside in order to maintain a guarding position on an opponent.” If this rule is violated, the defensive player will be charged with a personal foul.

Is it Hard to Defend Ball ScreensIs it Hard to Defend Ball Screens?

Even for the best defense, defending ball screens can be quite difficult if they are correctly executed. Basketball is such a dynamic game, and picks are not exempted from this. Every screen and every play leading up to a screen can be done in a new or different way.

The dynamic aspect of ball screening adds to the difficulty of defending them. Communication is critical, it is difficult but not impossible to defend ball screens. There are multiple tactics employed by coaches to defend ball screens, so more effective than others. Let’s take a look at a few of these.

1. Hard hedge ball screen defense

Hedging a screen involves the screener’s defender stepping into the path of the ball handler. This is done to force the ball handler coming off the screen to change direction or disrupt the offense’s play.

Players who want to hedge should remain connected to the screen setter to ensure that he is in place and on time with the hedge. If not, the hedge will fail, and the defense can break down at that point.

2. Switching

Often when we see the pick being set on the ball, the most common type of defensive action taken is a simple switch. The switch may be the easiest way to defend the pick, but it is not always effective.
Some teams will set the pic with the sole purpose of getting the switch. With this in mind, teams on the defensive end need to ensure that they can match up properly after the switch before they employ it.

3. Blitz double team the ball-handler

When a screen is set, the screener’s defender is often in the play. This provides an opportunity for a double team from that defender. This double team aims to force the ball out of the ball handles hand while at the same time making the pass difficult. Trapping ball screens could result in a steal or at the very least, disruption of the offense’s game plan.

What is an Illegal Pick in BasketballWhat is an Illegal Pick in Basketball?

An illegal screen is a screen that is set outside of the rules of the game. There are several reasons why a screen can be deemed as illegal. If a screen is set outside of the defender’s vision, the screen needs to be at least one step away from the defender.

If the screen is placed closer than this, it can be seen as an illegal screen. If the defender is moving, the screen must be set at a distance that allows the defender enough time to see the screen and avoid it. If this does not happen, this is also an illegal screen.

While setting the screen, if the defender is held by the player setting the screen, the screen is illegal as the screener cannot hold, push or lean into the defender while setting the screen. The screener should also ensure that their legs are not wider than shoulder-width when setting the screen. Otherwise, it can be seen as illegal.

Helpful Videos on Ways to Defend Ball ScreensHelpful Videos on Ways to Defend Ball Screens

We have a few videos show how to defend ball screens in basketball.

Here we have successful hedges being completed.

Next, we have the ball handler being double-teamed.


Wrapping Things Up: Defending Ball Screens

Even though it is difficult, Ball screens can be defended. Teams should work on different techniques in training to defend these picks and also work on their defensive chemistry. Until next time ballers, keep talking on them screens.

Did you find this helpful? Then also check out other basketball FAQ articles here

> What are the Basic Rules of Basketball?

> What is a Defensive Three-Second Violation in Basketball?

> What is a Heat Check in Basketball?

> What is a Loose Ball Foul?

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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