What Is A Screen In Basketball? (Full Guide)

In basketball, one of the best ways to get open is to set up a screen.

But what is it and how does it work?

A screen in basketball is where a teammate (screener) blocks the defender so that the ball hander can pass through. Screens are used in almost every play since it allows teams to get open.

But setting a screen requires perfect coordination between teammates. Plus, there are ways to defend against it. What are they? Let’s find out.

What is a Screen in Basketball?

The screen is one of the most basic yet important plays in basketball. It’s essentially the foundation for every play that a team may create.

Plus, you may hear the term screen all the time from announcers, players, coaches, and fans.

So, what does it truly mean?

In basketball, a screen is a play where a player without the ball blocks the opponent using his body so his teammate can break free.

Once the teammate who has the ball breaks free, he either can:

  • Drive
  • Shoot the ball
  • Pass the ball
  • Or create another play

So essentially, the purpose of a screen is to provide a player with enough space to create an offensive push.

Because when you think about it, you can’t really get open in basketball unless you crossover an opponent or force your way to the basket.

Which is why a screen is important since it allows players to create space easily without the need to force their way through.

Plus, screens are the foundations to almost every play in the book. Once you know how to screen, you can set multiple plays that will scatter or confuse the opponents.

Types of Screens in Basketball

A screen is the most basic play you can make in basketball. It’s the foundation for many more complicated plays.

As such, there are a ton of plays that center around screens. The most common ones are:

  • Double screen
  • Down screen
  • Cross screen
  • Ball screen
  • Back screen
  • Elevator screen
  • Drag screen
  • Flex screen
  • Flat screen
  • Flare screen
  • Hammer screen
  • Floppy screen
  • Ram screen
  • Horns screen
  • Step up screen
  • Staggered screen

There are many more screens out there that are unique to each team. They may have variations of a common screen or created an entirely new play.

The point is, there will always be new types of plays being created so teams can win with increasing competition.

Tips for Successful Screens

We know that a screen is the foundation for essentially every play in basketball. So, it’s important that you know how to set and use them perfectly.

To help you get ahead, here are the best tips:

1. Know and practice your plays

As a player, it’s your job to know your team’s plays by heart.

But when you’re on the court with all eyes on you, it can easily get overwhelming.

The key is to familiarize and practice the plays as much as you can. To the point that you can run the play in your sleep. That’s easier said than done but it’s what’s necessary for a successful play.

2. Go past as close to the screener as possible

As the ball handler, it’s your job to go past the screener to get open.

The best way to do this is to stay as close to your teammate as possible as you go past him. This is so that there’s no space that the defender can slip through.

You’ll know that a screen was effective if the defender trails behind the ball handler.

3. Be observant as you go past the screener

After you go past your teammate, you can decide to either pass the ball or go for the score.

Do this by slowing down a bit and quickly observing everyone’s position. Then, you should be able to make a smart decision after observing.

The most important thing is to not let your defender out of your sight. This is especially true when he’s on your back.

4. Be as firm as possible

It’s the ball handler’s job to go past the screener. But the screener is responsible for directing where and when to screen.

When it comes to screens, he should also be able to keep his body as firm as possible.

You don’t necessarily need to keep your body straight but having your elbows slightly bent will give allow you to stay planted more.

5. Improvise or adjust when an opportunity arises

Finally, plays aren’t final, especially when you’re on the court.

It’s important to have the ability to adjust or improvise as the team needs to.

For instance, you (screener) plan to set up a hand-off screen for a teammate. The ball handler passes you the ball as you go for the screen. Then your teammate runs towards you for a screen.

But instead of handing off the ball, you immediately run to the basket for an easy score.

This is one of the favorite plays of Draymond Green. Although it can’t be done each game, it works especially well because of the gravity of Steph Curry.

But the point is you should seize any opportunity you can get immediately. A surprise tactic works well occasionally.

Tips to Defend Against Screens

It’s one thing to know how to perform successful screens. But you also need to know how to defend against one.

After all, basketball involves both defense and offense. So, you’ll need to have these mastered if you want to stop opponents from successfully implementing their plays.

1. Be familiar with the opponent’s plays

It’s not easy to familiarize yourself with your team’s plays as well as your opponents. But if you want to go the extra mile, then you’ll need to at least try.

Although there’s no chance that you’ll get your hands on that juicy info regarding your opposing team’s plays; you can get used to it.

There’s a huge chance that a team will be known for a few of their plays especially if they like to run it every game. So, take up your homework and familiarize yourself with them.

It also helps that a team will probably run the same play multiple times throughout a game. So, you should be able to recognize it when the time comes.

2. Read like crazy

The secret to defending against screens is to anticipate, anticipate, and anticipate. Again, this is easier if you’re at least a bit familiar with or used to the plays of the opponents.

But the point is to not just go with the motion – they want you to do that. Instead, try to stick with your man.

For instance, if you see the ball handler signaling something, there’s a huge chance it’s a play that involves a screen. Since you know this, you should glance back quickly to know where the screen is coming from.

Then, you can quickly slide around the screener to avoid it. This is easier said than done but the more you practice, the easier it becomes.

3. Recover quickly

If things don’t go well and they will, you must be able to recover quickly. Unless of course, you get hit by a brick wall.

But if you can recover from a screen, there’s still a chance to cover one of the players. This will not let the enemy team score from the open man.

Instead of just lying behind, even if you lag behind your man, you can still position yourself optimally to go for the rebound.

Or you can even intercept a pass. The ball handler will not shoot when he’s defended tightly so focus your sights on the open man.

What is an Illegal Screen?

A screen is the most basic move in basketball that’s the foundation of many plays.

This is why every team will incorporate them in their plays one way or another.

But to avoid teams overexploiting this play, they have an illegal screen rule in place. But what is it?

An illegal screen is when the screener moves his feet, extends or leans the body, illegal use of arms, and not giving enough space for the defender.

For more on this, check out – What is an Illegal Screen in Basketball? Explanation + Tips

Final Words

The screen is the foundation of most plays in basketball. It’s so basic yet it opens a whole new avenue to score.

But it’s not perfect since there are ways to defend against it. In the end, it all comes down to who executes it the best.

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