The 5 Ways to Defend a Ball Screen

Here are 5 ways in which your team can defend against a ball screen depending on your personnel and the game situation.

A ball screen is one of the most popular and effective offensive actions that is used in basketball. It creates an advantage for the offense by forcing the defense to communicate and help each other guard the ball handler, who will use the screen to get open and make a play.

Ball Screen

There are five main ways in which two teammates can defend against a ball screen, however the first and most important factor in each method is that the defenders communicate.

Communication

No matter which type of ball screen defense is used, the two defenders involved in the screen must talk through the screen being set and decide how they will guard it and recover.

Successfully defending a ball screen starts with the player who is guarding the person setting the pick. In this position your first step is to tell your teammate guarding the ball that a pick is coming and whether it is going to be on the left, right or directly behind your teammate.

You must then communicate how you plan to defend the screen. It is your job to either call out the type of ball screen defense that your coach has told you to use or read the situation, and before the screen is set, decide and communicate how you both will play the screen.

Then depending on the nature of the defense you will continue to communicate until you both recover to your man or switch and get reset defensively.

The decision of which way to guard the screen can be made based on the advantages and disadvantages of each of these five defensive techniques, and how they would apply to the offensive players and the game situation.

Notes:

  • The player originally guarding the ball handler will be referred to as the first defender, and the player originally guarding the screener will be referred to as the second defender.
  • We will also assume that in each case the screen is defended against properly.

Hard Hedge

When using a hard hedge, the second defender will slide out aggressively to stop the ball handler from driving. After they have stopped the progress of the ball and their teammate has recovered, they will sprint back and recover to their original man with high hands to block passing lanes. The first defender will fight through the screen to recover to his man.

Advantages

  • Stops ball handler briefly and helps prevent driving to basket
  • Prevents ball handler from shooting a quick pull-up jump shot
  • Makes passing to the roll man difficult

Disadvantages

  • Susceptible to being split and allowing a drive to the basket
  • The roll man will be briefly left open
  • Makes it difficult to recover and defend against pick and pop

Soft Hedge

defend a ball screen

When using the soft hedge, the second defender will slide out at a flatter angle and show themselves just to prevent an easy drive to the basket before recovering to their man. The first defender will, again, fight through the screen to recover to their man.

Advantages

  • Packs the paint and makes it difficult for ball handler to drive
  • Forces ball handlers who are not good shooters off the dribble to take pull-ups
  • Makes it easier to recover to roll man, prevent roll pass, and prevent the screener from slipping the screen

Disadvantages

  • Gives ball handler an open jump shot after dribbling off the screen
  • Makes it difficult to recover and defend against pick and pop
  • Can briefly leave second defender one on one with ball handler who can attack them

Switch

defend a ball screen

When switching a ball screen, the two defenders will simply switch their defensive assignments and guard the other player for the rest of that possession. So, as the ball handler dribbles off the screen the second defender will pick them up, and the first defender will stay with the player who set the screen.

Advantages

  • Takes away direct looks and scoring options
  • Makes defending screen simple if the defenders are comparable in ability because there is no recovery

Disadvantages

  • Can create potential mismatch for ball handler and screener
  • Might leave a less mobile big man on a quicker guard on the perimeter, or leave a smaller player guarding a big man after rolling to the post
  • Difficult to defend against screener slipping the screen and cutting to the basket

Blitz/Double Team

defend a ball screen

When blitzing or double-teaming the screen, the second defender will hedge the screen aggressively to stop the ball handler from driving to the basket but they will continue to guard the ball handler and try to drive them back or up the court instead of recovering to their man. The first defender will fight through the screen back to the ball handler and then they both will be guarding or trapping the ball while the defense rotates to defend the screener who is now open and tries to create a turnover.

Advantages

  • Completely eliminates ball handler's ability to shoot or drive
  • Pressures the ball handler and makes passing and dribbling difficult

Disadvantages

  • Leaves screener completely open to roll or pop
  • Susceptible to defensive break down if guard can pass over top or make quick pass around the blitz
  • If ball is passed or dribbled out of the trap, there are open players and the defense will have to quickly rotate to guard them

Ice/Down

defend a ball screen

When icing or downing a screen the first defender will overplay the ball handler in the direction away from the screen, forcing them to reject it and completely preventing them from dribbling off the screen.

Advantages

  • Can force ball handler to use weak hand
  • Prevents screen from happening
  • Works well on wing/sideline ball screens forcing ball into baseline

Disadvantages

  • Can give the ball handler an open drive to the basket or an open pull-up
  • Puts the first defender on an island
  • If second defender helps prevent a drive the screener will be left open for a shot

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Topics: BASKETBALL TRAINING | BASKETBALL DEFENSE