What is an Illegal Screen in Basketball? Basketball 101

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Many basketball players do not understand what is an illegal screen in basketball. We may be playing games and hear opponents complaining about the screens that we set. They may be good screens, and the opponents think otherwise. They can also be bad screens because we don’t know how to set them correctly.

We understand that there can be some confusion on how to set a proper screen in basketball. A screen is an essential offensive tool that is sometimes underutilized at some levels of the sport. At the higher levels, such as the pro level, it is very utilized, often over 200 times per game. We would like you to get all the necessary information about pics so that you can set them correctly. The referees can call improper screens, and you will be tagged with a foul and a turnover. These two stats can be detrimental to your team. In this piece, we are going to cover screens comprehensively.

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

So, what is a screen in basketball? Good question. Because some players don’t understand the concept of the screen, it can be challenging to get them to willingly put their bodies on the line and set a screen.

The primary purpose of a screen is to create space for a teammate, while on offense, by using your body as a barrier. This barrier creates separation for your teammate from his defender. Different players have different ways in which they call for screens or advise their teammates that they are giving them one. You can discuss with your teammates how to signal for a screen in basketball games. You can agree on a variety of signals.

A screen can be set for the player who has the ball. This type of screen is called an on-the-ball screen. An on-the-ball screen can be utilized by the ball handler to get enough space to dribble penetrate, take an open shot, or get into space to make an easy pass.

Even though an on-ball screen is set to create space for the ball handler, for it to be most effective, the ball handler needs to make contact with the screener while he goes around the screen. This prevents the defender from penetrating the pic easily.

Multiple plays can be developed out of an on-ball screen. As we mentioned, it opens up a lot for the ball handler, but it also allows for the screener to get into scoring positions as well. One of the most common plays in basketball is the pick and roll. This is when the screener rolls to the basket after he sets the screen for an open pass and often an open layup or short.

First Things First What is a Screen in Basketball

If a screener is a capable shooter, he can also pop out to the perimeter for a shot after the ball handler uses the screen. This play is known as a pick-and-pop. These are two of the primary offensive plays that the screen can be used to create. Many others are utilized by different coaches and players.

The pic can also be set off the ball; this is known as an off-the-ball screen. Off-the-ball screens have the same basic concept as an on-the-ball screen. They are used to create separation for one player and his defender. When the screen is set, the player who the screen is set for should run and the rub shoulders with the screener to close out the defender.

After setting the screen, the screener has multiple options. He can open outwards for a shot, he can move on to set another screen, or he can also roll to the rim. These are just a few examples. There is a myriad of other plays that can be done from this. Due to the multiple options opened up by a screen, it is an extremely useful tool that players and coaches should take full advantage of in games.

One fundamental of the screen is to create contact with the defender so some players may be unwilling to put their bodies on the line for this. Pics also mean that you may not be the first option for the next pass or shot. Because many players want to take the next shot, they could also be reluctant to set the screen. Coaches often find these two challenges difficult to overcome when trying to get younger players to be willing to set pics.

You need to know that a screen does not have to be set by one person, multiple persons can set a screen, or multiple pics can be set at the same time. Even though numerous persons can set a screen, it is illegal for them to interlock arms or legs while setting the screen.

Why Do Players Set a Screen in Basketball Why Do Players Set a Screen in Basketball?

There are multiple reasons why players set screens in basketball. The reasons for the screens will depend on the plays that the coaches want the team to execute. It could also be dependent on the culture of the team while on the court.

Some teams play with the natural instinct of getting each other open. The best way to do this is to set a screen. If you play on a team with this culture, you know what we are talking about. You and your teammates would always be setting screens to free up yourself and each other for open passes, shots, and dribbles.

Coaches often create plays that require screens to get one or multiple players open for shots or layups. A player can set an on-the-ball screen for numerous reasons. An on-the-ball screen can create space for the ball handler to shoot, pass easily or dribble to the rim. A player can also set an on the ball screen to force the defenders to switch. Switching could then create a mismatch for either the ball handler or the screener.
Another reason why an on-the-ball screen can be set is to allow for the screener to get an open shot or an open layup after they role or pop. Players can set off-the-ball pics to get their teammates free, create mismatches when the defense switches, or to get themselves open if both defenders follow their teammates.

Whatever the reason why a screen is set, if the defense does not react in time and appropriately, the offense will often get a basket. One essential thing that’ coaches try to do to make sure that their team is not severely affected by the screen is to put players on the court that are capable and versatile defenders. This tactic allows for the team to switch easily whenever a screen is set.

How Do Players Set a Screen in Basketball How Do Players Set a Screen in Basketball?

You must know how to set a screen correctly in basketball. If a screen is set illegally, it will result in a turnover once the referee makes the call. There may be different ways that players set pics, but the basic concept is the same.

How Do Players Set a Screen in Basketball

To set a screen, a player should use their body to form a blockade in the path a defender would take to keep up with their teammates. When the player sets the screen, it should be set so their legs are shoulder-width apart, and they should not be leaning forward.

In most cases, there will be contact between the screener and the defender, so prepare for the contact by protecting areas of your torso and your groin that could get hurt. The space between the screener and the defender is also vital.

The general rule of thumb is, if the defender cannot see you, you should be at least one step away from the defender. This can be closer if the screen is placed in the defender’s field of vision and could be further if the defender is moving.

What Does Illegal Screen Mean in Basketball What Does Illegal Screen Mean in Basketball?

Coaches should work with their players, so they learn how to set screens properly. There are multiple ways that players set illegal screens. A screen can be considered as an illegal screen if it is set too close to the defender when they are not aware of its presence or if the screener sets the screen with his legs too far apart or leans forward while setting the screen.

If a screener moves in a way that will affect the uncomming defender’s speed, quickness, rhythm, or balance, then the screen will also be considered to be illegal. If the screener grabs or holds the defender, the screen is illegal.

What is the Difference Betweena Pick and a Screen in Basketball What is the Difference Between a Pick and a Screen in Basketball?

A screen and a pic are both the same thing. The words can be used interchangeably.

What are the Rules of Basketball Screens What are the Rules of Basketball Screens?

These are the rules that players need to know when setting a screen:

1. Set the screen with enough space for the defender to see it and adjust their speed and direction.
2. Set your legs shoulder-width apart and do not lean over.
3. Do not use your hands to impede the defender’s movement.
4. Do not initiate contact with the defender.
5. Movement is allowed only if it is laterally in line with the defender’s movement (NBA)

Wrapping Things Up: Illegal Screen in Basketball

An illegal screen is a screen that is set too close to the defender (blind spot), a screen that is set with the screener leaning forward or has their legs too far apart. A pic can be considered to be illegal if the screener uses their hands to hold or grab the defender or if the screener readjusts the screen to affect the defender’s speed, quickness, rhythm or balance.

Until next time ballers, keep them legal, keep screening.

Did you find this post helpful? Then you may also like our post on how to defend ball screens in basketball here.

More engaging basketball FAQ articles here:

> What is an Assist in Basketball?

> What is a Steal in Basketball?

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

> What is the Five Second Rule in Basketball?

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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