Setting the Perfect Screen

September 10th, 2014:

With the Patriot’s season already done after losing to Miami, we might as well focus on some basketball. Most fans understand the basic concept of the screen on offense: the ball handler waits for a teammate to block the path of the defender of the ball handler. Once the teammate is in place and not moving, the ball handler moves towards his or her teammate. The defender attempts to follow when instead, the ‘wall’ created by the teammate impedes his or her movement.

The above link (all rights to the video are that of Training Zone) does a great job of illustrating what I described above. The purpose of this article, however, isn’t to just explain how the play is run. The purpose is to explain how to push limits of the screen and get the most bang for your buck.

First off, to know how to cheat the system, you need to know what the system is. The system says that the screener’s feet must be shoulder width apart, and that before the defender makes contact with the screener, the screener’s feet must be set. If the defender starts to move around the screen and the screener moves his feet, an illegal screen is called and the ball is turned over to the opposing team. If the screener throws his or her shoulder at the defender, basically becoming an ‘active’ wall, if you will, the ball is also turned over.

With this in mind, I’ll let you in on two tricks you can employ. There are more, but those are staying in the back pocket. First off, the problem with the screener having to be set before the defender gets ‘there’ is that the defender should then, in theory, know exactly where the screen is. Usually, the screener comes in from the side at the last second, but still, peripherally, the defender can see the screen coming. The trick is for the screener to come at the last second from the blind spot of the defender. Simultaneously, the ball handler needs to dribble directly to the screener such that their shoulders will rub. If timed correctly, after gauging how the referee calls the game, the offense can get away with moving screens on these executions. The second trick is for the screener, after contact is made, to push off the defender subtly to create distance and allow room for the pick and roll to take place, a play that I’ll get into in another post. For now, as long as the defender pushes after a solid screen is established, an illegal screen most likely won’t be called. These two tricks can create easy points at critical junctures.