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Learn how to Attack the off-ball screen

An off-ball screen is between two players in which neither player has the ball in their hands and one player blocks the other player. The purpose of an off-ball screen is to free a player to be alone, sometimes the player who uses the screen is not always the player who will be alone, something I will explain in the course of the article.

This type of action is often used by teams to release players who have a phenomenal ability to finish either close to or farther from the basket. This type of action always involves three players, a player with the ball who is responsible for making the pass, a player without the ball who is responsible for screening, and finally another player without the ball who is responsible for freeing himself to receive the ball. However, it is very common for both players without the ball to switch responsibilities at the last moment.

Types of off-ball screen

There are several types of off-ball screens locks, which would give you to write an entire book dedicated to the types of indirect locks that exist. In this article, I will address the most common ones. I divide off-ball screens into two, front screens and back screens.

Front screens are all blocks that are made from the front of the defender, while back screens are the screens made from the back of the defenders. I’ll start with the front screens.

 

Exit Screen

Exit Screens on off-ball screen
Exit Screens on off-ball screen

This type of off-ball screen is probably the most common in the game of basketball. As shown in the picture below, the objective is to free a player 1, usually a player with great finishing skills.

Pindown Screen

Pindown Screen on off-ball screen
Pindown Screen on off-ball screen

This screen is also a very used off-ball screen, it turns out to be the same as the previous one, the only difference is that it is not positioned diagonally, but vertically.

Iverson Screen

Iverson Screen on off-ball screen
Iverson Screen on off-ball screen

This screen is less used compared to the previous ones, but as the name implies, the screen will be done horizontally.

Regarding back screens, the choice of options is also wide, usually, this type of screen is to look for advantages and finishing opportunities close to the basket.

 

UCLA Screen

UCLA screen on off-ball screens
UCLA screen on off-ball screens

This screen is quite famous by UCLA university and was created by famous coach John Wooden. It is a vertical screen, but it is the player closest to the basket that screens the player farther from the basket.

Cross pick screen

Cross Pick on off-ball screens
Cross Pick on off-ball screens

The cross pick screen is a screen in which two post players are present and is made between a block and another block.

Prerequisites to play off-ball screen?

Not just any player is capable of playing off-ball screens, as explained above, there are three players involved in this action. First, the player with the ball, as he is the one who is responsible for making the pass, then the screener who is responsible for the screen the defender of the player who wants to free himself and finally the “shooter” who wants to free himself to receive the ball. The last player does not necessarily need to be a fantastic shooter, many of these actions can be of continuity and gain some small advantage to the defense.

When I talk about small advantage, I mean leaving the defense behind so that it is not able to put too much pressure on the player who was using the screen.

Which are the main prerequisites?

Regarding the prerequisites for playing off-ball screens, it is necessary to understand if all the players involved in this action can minimally dominate the fundamentals of the game. For example, the player with the ball needs to know how to pass the ball well, so if there is a player who does not have the quality to pass the ball, unfortunately, he will not be able to perform this function because the most likely will be to lose the ball.

Footwork, shooting, passing, and dribbling are the fundamentals you need to master in this situation. These fundamentals are nothing more and nothing less than the fundamentals of the game. So, with this saying and making an analogy, we can’t teach a kid to do math equations if he doesn’t know how to multiply or divide.

The screener appears to have a slightly easier function, but it is not as easy as it seems. This player also needs to have a good screening technique, as he cannot simply go against the defender, otherwise, it will be an offensive foul.

Off-ball screen technique

Making off-ball screens also requires your technique. I will describe the key points of each actor in this action.

Screener:

  • Bend your knees and feet a little wider than your shoulders
  • Do not move when the defender is passing, so as not to provoke an offensive foul
  • Looking over your shoulder to see where the defense is to attack

“Shooter”:

  • Slowing down and speeding up when taking advantage of the block, you can even interrupt the race and give the defender a little bump and then get out of the screen.
  • Pass shoulder to shoulder with the screener to not allow the defender to pass between the two
  • Looking over your shoulder to see where the defense is to attack

Passer:

  • Protect the ball, with your body, from your direct defender so you don’t lose it
  • If the pass is made after the dribble, the last dribble before the pass must be strong
  • Look at both the screener and the “shooter” to see which of the two will be left alone, so as not to miss the timing of the pass.

Off-ball screen reads

There are several ways to defend the off-ball screen, and the attack has to be able to read and attack the different types of defense.

Trail Defense

Trail Defense on off-ball screens
Trail Defense on off-ball screens

This type of defense is when player 1’s defender chases the player so that he cannot shoot from afar. So, the only space where player 1 can attack is going to be the middle.

Then player 1 rolls into the basket and player 2 open in the corner. If player 2’s defender helps defend player 1, player 2 will be alone to shoot or attack the basket.

Cheat defense in off-ball screen

Cheat defense on off-ball screens
Cheat defense on off-ball screens

This type of defense is when player 1’s defender tries to anticipate your move and goes around the screen.

So player 1’s free space is to attack the corner and player 2 to attack the middle.

The defender got stuck in the off-ball screen

This reading ends up rarely happening unless it is poorly defended, if player 1’s defender hits and gets stuck in the block, player 1 will be alone to shoot.

Switch defense in off-ball screen

Attacking this defense is only effective if there is a screen between a big, strong player and a shorter, less physically strong player.

In that case, switching defenses, either player 1 or player 2 will have an advantage either in height, in the case of player 2, or speed in the case of player 1.

Drills to improve off-ball screen

The best way to work on off-ball screens first is to work in no-defense situations and create routines and then with defenses.

1st Drill: 2×0 Exit Screens

1st Drill: 2x0 Exit Screens
1st Drill: 2×0 Exit Screens

This exercise aims to work the shooting with the readings we saw earlier.

It starts with two columns, one in the point guard position and one at the bottom of the basket. Cones are used to simulate off-ball screens. The player who shoots gets his rebound and goes to the end of the line to pass the ball.

2nd Drill: 3×0 Exit Screens with a Coach

2nd Drill: 3x0 Exit Screens
2nd Drill: 3×0 Exit Screens

The exercise consists of 3 variants, and the variants are the readings of the exit screen. All variants start with player 2 passing the ball to the coach and then the variant starts.

1st graph corresponds to the reading of the defender trailing the attacking player. So player 3 rolls for the basket and receives the coach’s pass, in turn, player 2 will open the corner as soon as player 3 passes him, receives the pass from player 1.

2nd graph corresponds to the reading of the defender anticipating the attacker’s movement. So, player 3 opens to the corner and receives the pass from player 1. Player 2 as soon as he realizes that player 3 is going to open to the corner, ducks in the defender and receives a pass from the coach.

3rd graph corresponds to the reading of the defender getting stuck in the block. So player 3 came out to shoot and receives a pass from player 1 while player 2 ducks in his defender and receives a pass from the coach.

3th Drill: 3×3 per blocks

3th Drill: 3x3 per blocks
3th Drill: 3×3 per blocks

The objective of this exercise is to put into practice everything that has been worked on in a 3×0 situation.

It’s a continuous 3×3 game, the team in black attacks the team in red. After a basket is scored by the black team or the ball recovered by the red team, the red team attacks the blue team. And always so on.

As the intention is to work on the indirect block, it is necessary to ask the players for the “disposition” in which they want to start the attack.

Ready to improve your off-ball screen offense?

In short, an off-ball screen is an action between three players, one with the ball and two without the ball. All the fundamentals of the game are necessary to successfully attack the off-ball screen and you cannot skip “steps” ahead if you want the players to succeed.

The off-ball screen has several defenses and players must know what to do in front of each defense.

I hope you enjoyed and understood the article. So, I invite you to leave your feedback in the comments box below, because your opinion matters to me.

Best regards and keep up the good training!

Coach Afonso

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