Sport Rulebook

The Art of Setting and Defending Screens in Basketball

Basketball is a fantastic sport that requires immense skill and strategy. Players must master a variety of techniques to be able to outmaneuver their opponents and score points.

One key skill in basketball is setting screens. Screeners are players who position themselves in such a way as to block the defender of their teammate with the ball.

This article will detail the different types of screens, how to set one properly, and what constitutes an illegal or moving screen.

Types of Screens

Screens can be categorized into two main types: on-ball screens and off-ball screens.

On-Ball Screens

An on-ball screen is when a player positions themselves alongside the ball-handler’s defender to create a clear path for dribbling, passing, or shooting. The most common types of on-ball screens are the pick and roll and the pick and pop.

Pick and Roll

The pick and roll is a basic strategy that is used to create a two-man game between the ball-handler and the screener. The ball-handler starts dribbling towards the basket while the screener moves towards the ball-handler’s defender.

The screener then stops and sets a solid screen, blocking the defender from advancing. The ball-handler then has the option to either pass the ball to the screener or drive to the basket.

A well-executed pick and roll can open up a lot of scoring opportunities. The teammate setting the screen must choose the right moment to move towards the defender so that they do not accidentally cause an offensive foul.

The screener must also be ready to receive the ball if the ball-handler decides to pass.

Pick and Pop

The pick and pop is similar to the pick and roll, with the main difference being that the screener does not roll towards the basket after setting the screen. Instead, they pop out to the perimeter, usually leaving their defender behind.

The pick and pop can be a powerful tool in the arsenal of a team with a skilled big man. If the defender does not switch to cover the screener, they may have an easy opportunity to score a three-pointer.

Off-Ball Screens

Off-ball screens refer to the screens set by teammates who do not have the ball. These screens can create open areas on the court for the ball-handler to pass or drive through.

Golden State Warriors superstar Klay Thompson is famous for his excellent off-ball screens. In one game, he set a record for the most three-pointers made in a playoff game, and many of them were due to his ability to navigate around defenders using screens set by his teammates.

How to Set a Screen

To set an effective screen, there are a few key things to keep in mind. Firstly, the screener must communicate with their teammate.

The ball-handler must know when the screen is coming so that they can make use of it. The screener must also communicate with any other teammates who may be affected by the screen.

Secondly, the screener must establish a sturdy base. This means planting both feet firmly on the ground and bracing themselves for the contact of the defender.

The screener should also make themselves as big as possible, using their shoulders and hips to block the defender. Thirdly, the screener must make contact with the defender.

This requires good timing and positioning. The screener must run towards the defender at the right time so that they block the defender without committing a foul.

The screener must also make sure not to step in front of the defender, which would be a moving screen and result in a turnover.

Illegal Screen

One common mistake made by screeners is committing an illegal screen. This occurs when the screener makes illegal contact with the defender, such as pushing, grabbing, or tripping them.

The result is a turnover, and the team loses possession of the ball.

Moving Screen

Another punishable offense is the moving screen. This happens when the screener does not establish a stable base and moves while setting the screen, usually by shuffling their feet.

A moving screen can also result in a turnover and loss of possession for the team. In conclusion, setting screens in basketball is a key skill that players need to master.

Screens can make a huge difference in opening up scoring opportunities for their team. If done correctly, a well-executed screen can result in easy baskets or three-pointers.

However, screeners must be careful not to commit an illegal or moving screen, which can have serious consequences for their team. By following the tips outlined in this article, players can learn how to set effective screens and help their team to victory.

Defending Screens in Basketball

Setting screens in basketball can create major problems for defenders. Screeners can create a clear path for their teammates to pass, shoot, or drive.

Defenders must master several strategies to defend against screens effectively. Strategies for Defending

On-Ball Screens

There are several strategies that defenders can use to defend against on-ball screens.

Going Over the Screen

Going over the screen means that the defender stays close to the screener and attempts to prevent a jump shot by the ball-handler. This strategy is effective against players who are skilled at shooting from mid to long range.

The defender must be agile and quick to change direction if necessary.

Going Under the Screen

Going under the screen means that the defender drops back and prevents the ball-handler from driving to the basket. This strategy is useful against players who are aggressive drivers but not skilled shooters.

The defender must be careful not to give the ball-handler too much space to shoot.


Switching involves one defender taking over the assignment of another. This strategy is useful when the screener is a big man and the ball-handler is a smaller player.

This way, the smaller player is not left isolated against a big, strong defender. However, switching can create matchup problems if the slow center is left to defend a smaller, faster player.


Hedging involves a secondary defender coming to provide help to the primary defender. This allows the primary defender to recover and catch up with the ball-handler.

This strategy works effectively against skilled ball-handlers but can leave other players open for an easy shot. Disadvantages of


While switching can be an effective strategy, it can create matchup problems for the defense.

If the slow center is left to defend a smaller, faster player, the offensive team can take advantage of this mismatch.

Best Screeners in the NBA

Screen assists are not always recognized as a separate statistic in the NBA, but they can make a significant difference in a team’s performance. Here are some of the best screeners in the NBA.

Portland Trail Blazers – Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum

Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum are two of the top guards in the league, and they owe much of their success to their excellent teamwork. Both players are skilled at setting screens for each other.

Lillard, in particular, is effective at using the pick-and-roll to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Utah Jazz – Rudy Gobert

Rudy Gobert is a skilled big man who is known for his defensive prowess. He is also an excellent screener, and his screens often result in open shots for his teammates.

In the 2019-2020 season, Gobert led the league in screen assists, averaging 5.3 per game. He also had a True Shooting percentage of 69.3, indicating his effectiveness in scoring points.

Tom Izzo, Michigan State

Tom Izzo is not an NBA player, but his expertise in coaching provided him with a reputation as one of the best screen setters in basketball history. Under his leadership, Michigan State consistently ranks near the top of the nation in screen assists.

Izzo’s success is due in part to his emphasis on decision making and post play.


Defending against screens is essential to playing effective basketball defense. There are several strategies that defenders can use to defend against screens, including going over or under the screen, switching, and hedging.

However, there are also disadvantages to some strategies, such as matching problems in switching defense. The best screeners in the NBA can make a huge impact on their team’s performance, creating open shots for their teammates and scoring points through teamwork.

In conclusion, setting screens and defending them are crucial skills for basketball players to master. On-ball screens and off-ball screens require different techniques, including pick and roll, pick and pop, switching, and hedging, among others.

The best screeners in the NBA, including players like Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, and Rudy Gobert, can make a significant impact on the court. However, defending against screens is equally important, and defenders must consider multiple strategies, such as going over or under the screen, switching, and hedging.

The key takeaway from this article is that working effectively as a team is essential in basketball, and setting screens and defending against them can provide the necessary support for teamwork and success on the court.


Q: What is the most common on-ball screen used in basketball?

A: The pick and roll is the most common on-ball screen used in basketball. Q: What is an illegal screen, and what are the consequences?

A: An illegal screen occurs when the screener makes illegal contact with the defender, resulting in a turnover and loss of possession. Q: Who are some of the best screeners in the NBA?

A: Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers, and Rudy Gobert of the Utah Jazz are considered some of the best screeners in the NBA. Q: What are the different strategies for defending screens?

A: Strategies for defending screens include going over or under the screen, switching, and hedging. Q: What are the disadvantages of switching on defense?

A: Matchup problems can occur when switching on defense, where a slower center may be left to defend a smaller, faster player.

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