‌What is a Screen in Basketball?

what is a screen in basketball

Last updated on July 7th, 2022 at 11:24 am

A basketball screen occurs away from the basketball to set up an offense play. A pick (on-ball screen) occurs when offensive players block a defender guarding the ball to open up a play for the ball handler. The offensive ball handler can either move to the side of the screen to take a shot, pass the ball to a teammate, or dribble.


So how do you position yourself as the screener during a game? What is a moving screen, a double screen, and how can the defense counter this strategy? Here is the entire breakdown of a screen in basketball.


What is the Purpose of a Screen/Pick in Basketball?

What is the Purpose of a Screen Pick in Basketball

Setting screens in basketball creates confusion for the defensive team on who to defend. Sometimes, two defenders will guard one player out of the chaos, leaving another player open for a pass and shot attempt. Other times, the defense won’t follow the ball handler, allowing an easy shot.


Setting up a screen or pick can create favorable offensive matchups. Some teams guard against the screen by having a different defender block the ball handler, which could play into the hands of the offense. For example, your best shooter might have the ball now against a defender who isn’t that good, which can be favorable for the offense.


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

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

Both a pick and a screen have the same concept of blocking a defender to set up a play for the offense. However, the primary difference is via on vs. off-ball screening. For example, a pick occurs when an offensive player blocks a defender guarding the ball handler while a screen blocks a defender not guarding the ball.


What is a Pick and Roll Play in Basketball?

what is a pick and roll play in basketball

A screen against the defender guarding the ball is a pick. The pick and roll represent what the ball handler wants to do after the screen. They can either roll off to the side via a dribble, pass the ball to a teammate, or take a shot.


The ball handler’s job is to survey the court to see who is open after the pick and make the best play for their team. The ball handler can also reset the entire play if there is no favorable matchup via a new pick.


What is a Pick and Pop Play in Basketball?

A pick-and-pop play is similar to the pick-and-roll in basketball. The ball handler drives towards the hoop during a pick-and-pop play, but they pass the ball to the screener to shoot at the last second. A pick and pop is a good offensive play when a defense over-commits on one player and leaves one teammate open for a pass.


How to Position Yourself as the Screener

How to Position Yourself as the Screener


As the screener, you want to run towards the ball defender, get a good angle, and set yourself permanently in one spot next to them. Next, you want to have your feet slightly apart via shoulder-width, knees bent, and have your arms protecting your body. Finally, you can’t move after you set because that will cause a foul.


What is a Moving Screen?

what is a moving screen

In basketball, a moving screen (illegal screen) occurs when the screener moves with the defender to block them. The offensive basketball player must have their feet firmly planted to set up a screen. Sometimes players don’t get to their teammate’s defender in time, so they move a bit to set up a screen. However, if a player moves during the screen and blocks the defender, they will foul via an illegal screen.


If you get an illegal screen penalty, the referee blows their whistle and signals this offensive foul, which stops the clock. Your team losses possession of the basketball, and a personal foul occurs. If your basketball team no longer has fouls to give in a quarter, the foul moves to a free throw for the other team.


What is a Double Screen?

A double screen in basketball involves two offensive teammates setting a screen on each side of one defensive player or setting up a block in the same area. A double screen is a good idea to get the ball to a shooter and take an open jump shot or three-point shot. The three-point shot is available due to the double screen causing a bit of a traffic jam on the court.


If the play doesn’t favor the post player’s clear shot, they usually dribble a bit to set up a different type of screen. Sometimes, they will pass the ball to a perimeter player to set the same play up again to see if that works.


What is an Off-Ball Screen?

An off-ball screen in basketball occurs on a defender who is not guarding the ball. Common reasons for an off-ball screen are setting up a shot on the low post, high post, or three-point line. The concept of the screen is to exploit defensive assignments that are on the court, so setting up a screen further away from the ball can open up a new scoring opportunity.

What are Different Types of Screen Plays?

What are Different Types of Screen Plays

  • Double Screens: A double screen occurs when two offensive teammates set a screen against the same defender or defending space.
  • Backscreens: A screen on the high post allows a path for a player to drive towards the hoop to shoot or dunk.
  • Cross Screens: This is a screen on a defender to allow a center to get the ball on a pass to shoot, layup, or dunk
  • Flare Screens: A screen at the top of the free-throw line that creates enough space for a jump shot for another player
  • Down Screens: A player beyond the three-point line runs towards the hoop and blocks a defender guarding a different player, which gives that offensive player a moment to shoot a three-point shot


What are Ways the Defense Can Counter an Offensive Screen?

what are ways the defense can counter an offensive screen

A defense can counter a screen in a few ways. First, communication between teammates will be critical when a screen is forming. If a teammate can alert a player that a screen is developing, they can move around the defender if they have time to guard their opponent still.


Second, communication is vital as to who should guard a particular player. For example, sometimes a teammate’s defender will yell out “switch” during a screen or pick, telling the other defender to defend their player. A switch, in theory, keeps a defender always on the offensive player, which helps stop the screen from developing into a scoring opportunity.


Third, defenses can run zone-type defense plays if they get beat by the offensive scheme. Playing man to man might cause more instances of getting beat on screens. To counter that, teams might run a 2-3 defense to keep players in particular court area instead.


Conclusion: What is a Screen in Basketball?

In summary, a screen in basketball is a popular way to create open shooting opportunities for your team. A defense team’s confusion on the court can create an opportunity for a player to get a shot uncontested. However, screeners need to be careful to not create a foul during their screen.


While the screen is an offensive type of play, the defense can counter this scheme. Clear communication between teammates will be critical to ensure someone is guarding the ball handler. Clear communication can also ensure you don’t double team one offensive player.


When watching your next basketball game, check out the player’s movement on the court. You will see plenty of off-ball screens setting up away from the ball to set up passing plays. Likewise, pick and rolls are a popular offensive play, leaving an offensive player wide open. Once you watch enough basketball, you will realize why it looks like someone is left open for a shot. Chances are they are open because of a screen.


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