Saturday, September 29, 2012

Deciding How to Defend Ball Screens

Everyone has different philosophies on defending a ball screen. The pick and roll may be the most successful two man action in basketball because of that. If there was only one way to stop it and it worked, we'd all have probably said goodbye to the Pick and Roll. The different approaches to defending it is what allows the offense to continue to flourish. Sometimes you have too many options. You can do them all but the odds of you doing the all well are very low. Changing the way you defend the ball screen is a great way to disrupt your opponents offensive rhythm but the fact is you have to find one way to stop it. I wrote an earlier post on Defending Screens and this goes along with that. Here are my 3 favorite ways to defend ball screens.

#1 "Screen the Screener" Bump and Go Under

The key to defending any screen is to be early. When playing versus a team that utilizes ball screens to attack the basket this is a great method of defending them. Most of us teach our ball handler to come off the screen tight. That is why so many teams hedge hard; to force a wider path. Try this. The defender on the screen will "screen" the screener. This is done by placing hands together low and pressing up against the screener. Think of a T. The screener has his shoulders turned to set the screen and the defender on the screen has his back to the basket. He calls out the screen and the on ball defender goes underneath the "T". Here's a great point on this. As the ball-handler is going over the top, bump his own man into him with a subtle nudge. This method also takes away the roll by the screener because of the defensive positioning. The negative to this is a guard who can stop and pop from behind the screen. (pretty rare on the HS level though)

#2 Trap and Kill

I struggle to think of any team that runs an on ball screen with another guard.(email me at if you know of one) Another way to discourage and disrupt ball screen situations is with a hard trap. Most of us wait for the ball handler to dribble into the hedge to trap. One way of trapping is to go before the screen. Show a hard hedge then go. This requires great rotation on the backside to do this. Occasionally you'll get a situation where the screener slips and can hit a mid range jumper. This is a very aggressive way to defend it and takes breakdown drills to master.

#3 Turn Away

The best way to defend a ball screen is to not have to defend a ball screen. Force the offensive player to go away from the screen . This allows you to keep help toward the basket and not toward half court. Make them drive. See how robotic their offense is. Is the guard willing to take the driving lane provided or will he force himself over the screen. If you divide the floors into thirds, this fits into your philosophy. Rarely is the screen set from the baseline side.

This is just a couple of thoughts on defending ball screens. The most important thing is you find the method that fits your team and stops your opponent.