Setting a good basketball screen or “pick” is a critical, but often overlooked fundamental skill. A screen occurs when an offensive player attempts to use their body to block or separate a defensive player from the person they are guarding.
The screen is an important and common offensive tool employed by teams to free up players to make shots or create plays for others. Setting a good screen requires you to sacrifice your body to help your team, and this effort will not show up on any stat sheet.
Ball Screens vs. Off-Ball Screens
A screen will either be set on the player defending the ball handler or on a player defending someone away from the ball.
In a ball screen you will set a pick for the ball handler, after which the ball handler will try to use the space made by the pick to create a scoring opportunity for themselves, for you or for a teammate.
In a down screen you will usually set a pick facing the basket or baseline in order for a teammate to run off of the screen into the midrange or perimeter area for an open shot.
In a flare screen or back screen you will set a pick facing away from the basket or toward a sideline to make contact with the defender’s blindside or back side. This type of screen will allow your teammate to run off the screen toward the basket for an open layup or to the perimeter for an open jump shot.
Follow these steps to set effective screens:
- Sprint to the spot: The timing for when the screen is set is very important in determining the effectiveness of the screen. Sprinting to the spot is the first step in setting a good pick because it will make sure you are there on time to make contact with the defender.
- Set your feet: For a screen to be legal your feet cannot be moving prior to when contact is made with the defender you are screening. Setting your feet is the most important part of a screen because it is necessary for a screen to be legal and will prevent a turnover due to a “moving screen” offensive foul.
- Have a wide and grounded stance: When you are getting your feet set for your screen you want to spread your feet a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart with a slight bend at the knees. This stance will let you take up more space on your screen and be prepared to embrace the impact from the defender.
- Use your arms to protect yourself: Once you are set in the proper position for an effective legal screen, use your arms to cover your torso and midsection and protect yourself from the defender who will be running into you.
- After: After you have made contact with the defender and your screen has been set you can roll or slip to the basket for a possible layup, pop to the perimeter for a possible shot, or get into your next position or action to continue the offensive set.
Setting a good screen is all about getting your teammates open. It is a very selfless yet unheralded act that is vital for breaking down the defense and scoring points. Following these steps will help you become a better screener, a better teammate, and thus help your team win.