When executed the right way, an off-ball screen can create enough space for an offensive player to get an open shot or layup, making it a very effective offensive tool. There are a few different ways in which the defense can guard an off-ball screen so it is important that you use the screen effectively and make the right read.
Below are four basic reads that can be made when using an off-ball screen in order to put yourself in a scoring position in each of them. When using a screen away from the ball you do not always have to shoot; however, in this article, the focus will be on how you can create scoring opportunities for yourself.
It is important to mention that most plays involving a screen will have a designated way for you to run off of it, but should you not have specific direction as to how to use the screen, these basic reads will help you be a more effective off-ball player.
Setting Up the Screen
To get yourself open using a screen you must set it up. This means that you cannot simply run straight toward and around the screen and still get a good shot for yourself. To set up an off-ball screen you must use misdirection and some physical contact with your defender. So to start setting up the screen you want to “get into your defender;” essentially you want to be as close to them as possible before you make your move.
Approach the screen and make a fake cut by taking a hard step or two into your defender or away from the direction you want to run off of the screen and then change directions to use the screen. The close proximity between you and the defender will force them to respect and move with the fake cut, and the contact you initiate can throw them further off balance.
Curl around the screen if your defender is directly behind you or on your back hip when you come around the screen. If your defender is trailing you in this position, the curl toward the ball or basket will help you stay open and cut off the defender’s angle to intercept or deflect the pass. Make sure to come off tight to the screen and wrap around your teammate into space for a jump shot or all the way to the basket for a layup.
Run off of the screen in a straight line if, after you have set up your defender, they get caught and stuck by the screen. Coming off in a straight line will allow you to create the most space from your defender who will be trying to fight through your teammate setting the pick. Make sure to come off of the screen prepared and looking to shoot the ball and use the footwork for your jump shot (either the 1-2 step or the hop) to be ready on the catch.
Fade off of the screen if your defender tries to cheat the play by going around the screen on the opposite side of you and beating you to the spot. After setting up the screen if you notice your defender tries to cheat it, instead of curling around it or running straight off, backpedal or shuffle in the opposite direction, away from where the ball is being passed and from the defender. This will create separation between you and your defender and allow your teammate to throw the ball over the screen to you for an open shot.
Use a back cut if your defender tries to cheat the screen by overplaying you and attempting to beat you through the screen while staying on the same side. If you notice that your defender is overplaying the screen and is going to try to get through the screen before you, set up the screen and use a hard fake cut before actually cutting in the opposite direction toward the basket and away from your defender for an open layup or shot.