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Attack Ball Screens – Complete Guide

The ball screen is undoubtedly the most used offensive move in all levels of basketball.

This movement usually appears at the beginning of a play, at the end of the play, or as a sequence/continuity of a set play.

As the level of play progresses, offensive and defensive solutions will become more collective and less individual.

What is a ball screen and why use it?

The ball screen is a screen made to the defender of the player with the ball, to delay or prevent him from being able to defend the player with the ball.

This screen has some rules that need to be followed or they will be penalized with offensive fouls.

The use of an on-ball screen increases as it is a simple movement to perform and requires little time to “assemble”. Also, it is a movement that can cause major defensive imbalances.

Prerequisites for playing ball screens

The main prerequisites are mastering the basic fundamentals, knowing how to dribble, pass, shooting, etc.

As I have already mentioned in other articles, there is nothing in basketball that you can do if you do not know the basic fundamentals well.

A key requirement is to be able to master the 1×1 good, being able to create a basket situation or an assist.

Fundamentals of on-ball screens

Often a situation of a ball screen fails without the defense trying too hard, there are at least seven reasons why this offensive movement is unsuccessful.

              1. The screen has not been installed in the correct position in the field

              2. Wrong screen assembly

              3. The screen has not been held long enough

              4. Player with the ball did not put the defender on the screen

              5. The screener did not roll or did not open correctly

              6. The pass has been intercepted or deflected

              7. The screener or the baller did not take advantage of the advantage offered by the defense

The screen has not been installed in the correct position in the field

If the screen is not set on an appropriate location in the field, the defense can easily adjust or be useful or need to adjust anything. Especially if the screener is removed to space where everything is very congested.

Wrong set on the screen

Most of the time that a screen is not successful it is for this reason, the screen is not done properly. The legs of the screener must be open with the knees bent. The feet must be a little wider than the shoulders, to force the defender of the ball to have difficulties in passing through the screen.

The fact that the feet are a little wider than the shoulders will allow the first step of the screener to be longer and thus prevent the defender from placing himself in front of him.

The screen was not held long enough

The screen must be held long enough so that the defender of the player with the ball is out of play. This does not mean that the screener pushes the defender out, not because it is a foul.

The screener can only undo or open when the player with the ball has passed the block. That is when the player is out of his peripheral vision.

The player with the ball did not put the defender on the screen

The success or failure of the pick and roll often depends on the player with the ball. Well, this is the person responsible for putting the defender in the block.

This step is so important because if it is not done, the defender can easily pass over the screen. If executed well, the defender can only go under, change the defense or chase the player with the ball.

The screener did not undo or did not open correctly

The decision to screen is very important, to be able to read the defense and decide between undoing the basket or opening out of the 3 points. In addition to decision-making, the way you do it can make a difference.

The undo technique for the basket should always be open for the ball and not forwards. When opening to the ball, you do not lose a second of sight of the ball. It is always attentive to it.

When the decision is to open out of the 3 points, the technique should be the same of not turning your back on the ball, but this time with the inside foot opening outwards.

The pass was intercepted by the deflected

Something that irritates the coaches a lot is when the pick and roll do not work because the pass was badly done. It is essential to realize that the pass in the pick and roll, is either a bounce pass or a high and tense pass.

The screener or the baller did not take advantage of the advantage offered by the defense

Finally, a mistake that is quite common in pick and roll is not knowing how to attack the different defenses of the ball screen.

When this happens it is usually because you have not been the practice, what to do and how to do it when the defense presents us with different types of defense.

In the same way that the principles of offensive transition are defined at the beginning of the season, it must be defined what to attack and how to attack in pick and rolls.

Below, I will present several solutions for each type of problem that the defense presents.

Attack the different defenses of the ball screen

As the level of the game progresses, the defense will have better and more aggressive defensive solutions. However, the attack must know what to do with the defensive choice of the team.

Normally, sometimes the offensive solutions to the problems created by the defense are to add one or more other players to the equation. Thus, a situation that initially would be 2×2, will become a situation of 3×2, 3×3, 4×3, and so on.

Offensive solutions for when the defense ices the screen

The defense to deny the screen is when the defender of the ball clearly prevents the ball player from going to the screen. As we can see in the first image, this is what defender 1 is doing.

Throwback and pindown

One way to attack this type of defense is to call a third man into the equation.

The player with the ball dribbles to the end line creating space to pass to the screener.

When the ball enters the blocker, it continues the play, and immediately afterward it will screen the “base”.

Change the screen angle

Another possible solution is to change the angle of the screen for the player to attack the end line and the screener to attack the space in the free space.

Change the angle of the lock and snake

This situation is similar to the previous one, but attacking the player with the ball winds around the blocker looking like a snake while the blocker attacks the space of the end line.

Hand Off

Finally, the solution would be to use a handoff to attack the middle.

Offensive solutions for when the defense hedge.

The hedge is a more aggressive variant of the show but not as intense and as aggressive as a 2×1. 

In this defense, the defender of the ball sends the player with the ball to the block, so that the defender of the blocker can suddenly appear in front of the player with the ball.

When the defender of the screener appears, some teams will only press there and others that intensify the pressure on the player with the ball.

Split defense

The screener’s defense when it appears, in front of the player with the ball, leaves a small space between the screener and him. The player with the ball can take advantage of this space to “get rid” of pressure and be able to attack the basket.

Pass on the short roll

Another solution will be to assist the roller when it unravels into the basket, only this time it does not unravel long but rather short so that it can make a decision.

Attack the tagger

Finally, it would be to assist the player who went to defend the screener that he undid for the basket. You will probably be alone for an easy shot.

Offensive solutions for when the defense goes under the screen

The defense goes under the pick and roll is when the defender decides to anticipate the attacking movement of penetration to the basket.

Attack faster than the defender

This type of attack only results from the player who is attacking being actually faster than his defender.

It consists of the moment when the attacker passes under, the player with the ball changes speed and attacks the basket.

Re pick

This type of attack is widely used by teams when their ballplayers are not pitchers.

It includes two screens, the first screen that it was not possible to take advantage of. One second to take advantage of the weak defensive positioning of the ball’s defender to use the block, but this time for the final line.

Shoot the ball

This situation is perhaps the best known to use against this type of defense.

The moment the defender tries to anticipate the attacking movement, the player with the ball shoots into the basket.

Offensive solutions for when the defense ” drops ” in the screen

The drop defense is when the screener’s defense remains “inside” the paint.


The first solution to this type of defense is for the screener to open out of 3 points.

Given this, the roller has enough space to be able to launch without pressure.

It is a very good solution for those who have indoor players who shoot well.

Attack the drop

Another solution is for the ball player to attack the roller’s defense.

This way you can stop to throw, like finishing under the basket.

Offensive solutions for when the defense switch in the pick and roll

The defense changes, it exists when the defense switches its defensive combinations. That is, the defender of the player with the ball starts to defend the roller, and in turn, the roller starts to defend the player with the ball.


The solution to attack this type of defense will be the mismatch by height (marked in red) and the mismatch by speed (marked in yellow).

Theoretically, the player with the ball will be faster than his direct opponent, and the player who is in the post position will be taller than his direct opponent, theoretically.

Exercises to work the pick and roll

To work with a ball screen, it is essential first that the fundamentals described above are well understood. Otherwise, there will be more failures than successes.

Consequently, the training of these fundamentals must initially be without defense. Subsequently, they must be put to the test with the addition of defense.

Drill without defense

2×0 Ball Screen

The exercise starts with two columns, one in the final line with the ball and the other in the extreme position.

The player on the final line goes to the end and blocks.

After the blockade, the player finishes with what the coach has specified here.

Drill - 2on0

3×0 Ball Screen – Shoots

The exercise begins with three columns, as shown in the figure.

Two columns with the ball and one without the ball. Player 3 passes to player 1 and goes to block. Player 1 takes advantage of the block and finishes under the basket.

Player 3 after the first block again blocks it, but now player 2. Undoes it to the basket and finishes.

In this exercise, it is important to first work on the fundamentals and then work on the different types of attacks.

Dril l- 3on0
Drill - 3x0

Drill with live defenders

2×1 – Ball Screen

The exercise begins with two columns, one in the bottom line and the other in the extreme.

The first graph consists of a 2×1 situation in which the defender can pass under or chase the player with the ball. Through the defense that the player without the ball makes, the player with the ball makes his decision.

In the 2nd graph, the dynamics are the same. Only this time it is the defender of the blocker who decides what to defend and the player with the ball to make the decision.

Note: The coach may be in the semi-circle area to provide defensive assistance.

Drill - 2x1
Drill - 2on1

2×2 / 3×3 – Ball Screen

The exercise begins with two columns, one on top and one on the end line. The first of each column defends the second.

The Player of the final line comes to block and to go from that situation 2×2 game.


– Coach can designate the defense at first but then give a free defensive choice.

– Add attackers and defenders as the readings and defenses evolve.

Drill - 2on2

Ready to take advantage of pick and roll?

Learning the pick and roll is simple, but it takes time to be well learned. Especially if the level of play and defense is evolving.

The key to having a good ball screen attack is undoubtedly having a good defense.

Notice in training your attack and your defense is always in competition. In this way, your attack evolves due to the problems that your defense poses in training.

Do not forget that the primordial are its foundations and only afterward the readings of the blocks.

I hope you enjoyed it, if you liked it tell me in the comments below what you liked!


Coach Afonso

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