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Basketball Fundamentals:
Setting Good Screens

Some basketball fundamentals are individual - skills like shooting, dribbling, passing, and rebounding are skills that a player hones so that he can execute them on his own. Other basketball fundamentals are team-focused, skills that players use not on their own, but with his teammates.

The ability to set screens is a team-focused skill that is absolutely essential for any team-oriented offense. After all, basketball is a team sport - the goals of any team cannot be accomplished if the team can't work together. There are plenty of examples from the NBA of teams with superstar players but no trophies, because those superstar players may know how to shoot or dribble or dunk, but do not know how to play as a team. No matter how good a player is, he's not going to win many games playing 1 on 5. To win games, you play as a team.

A major part of teamwork is getting your teammates open to receive passes, to drive to the hoop, to take the shot. To accomplish this, good basketball players understand an essential basketball fundamental skill: how to set good, solid screens that help their teammates shake their defensive men.

To set a good screen, there are a few rules to follow:

Coaching Basketball Fundamentals:
How to Set Solid Screens

  1. A good screen requires good teamwork - both the player setting the screen (the screener) and the player being screened for (the cutter) must work together.
    • The cutter needs to wait for the screener to set his screen - if the cutter moves too early, he risks running the defender into the screener while the screener is moving - a foul for the screener.
    • But the cutter can't wait too long, because when the screen is set, it will only take a moment for the defender to realize it and start to prepare to get around it.
    • The cutter needs to see the screen coming, wait until the screener is just set up, and then cut hard past the screen, as close to his teammate as he can - rubbing shoulders if possible. The closer the cutter passes next to his screener, the less likely it will be that the defender will be able to squeeze through.

  2. Contact must be made between the screener and defensive player.
    • Plenty of times a screen doesn't work because the screener is too far from the defender or the screener rolls away before the defender runs into him.
    • The screener needs to set the screen against the defender's shoulder, so that the defender has no choice but to run into the screener when the cutter begins to move.
    • If the timing is right, the defender shouldn't have the time to prepare for the screen.

  3. The screener must drop his body weight so that he is solidly planted.
    • There will be contact (if the pick is done properly) and you don't want the screener to be tossed to the floor - you want the screener to stop the defender in his tracks.
    • You also don't want the screener to be called for a moving pick - i.e., moving into a defender is a foul, but if the screener is set (feet are no longer moving) when the contact comes, there is no foul.

  4. Arms are raised and crossed in front of the screener's chest.
    • Not on the chest, but out so that the elbows make about a ninety degree angle with the forearms parallel to the screener's chest.
    • It is important that the screener doesn't push into the defender with his arms (that's a foul), but that his back is straight and he lets the defender run into him.
    • Having his arms in this position allows the screener to protect himself from the hit and also to set himself up to:

  5. Roll after the contact is made.
    • This is the roll aspect of the pick and roll play. Once the contact is made and the defender is stopped (but not before the contact is made), the screener pivots, opening his body to the ball, raising the arm closest to the hoop while keeping the other forearm against the defender, so that the screener remains in between the basket and the defender.

  6. Get the angle right.
    • When the cutter comes off the screen, he needs to drive the defender into the screener.

  • If the screener is too far away, or the cutter cuts too wide, the defender can slip in between the two offensive players.

  • If the screener is too far up on the side of the defender, the defender can roll around the screener and catch the cutter.

  • The screen must be set at about a 45 degree angle, on the defender's shoulder, and the cutter must drive the defender into the screen.

To get free and get the ball, players need to be able to use a couple of essential basketball fundamental skills: jabs and cuts - to shake their defensive men on their own; and screens, so they can work with teammates to help each other get free of their defensive men.

The better versed your players are in basic basketball fundamentals, the easier it will be for them to get free, get the ball, and get to the hoop. Being able to execute one of the fundamental skills listed above is good; knowing how to do both is essential to getting free and getting the ball consistently.

More skills and drills for Coaching Basketball Fundamentals here

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"One man can be a crucial ingredient on a team, but one man cannot make a team."
- Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

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