Proper Execution of On-Ball Screens

On Ball Screen

On-Ball screens being run on all levels - youth to professional. On-Ball screens are basically two player isolations involving the ballhandler and a screener. An array of quick hitting options make them very difficult to defend. Most On-Ball screens are set midcourt, near the top of the free throw circle or on a wing. However, they can take place anywhere on the court. On-Ball screens are a favorite to use to create a good shot as the shot or game clock runs down.

On-Ball Screen Graphic

The keys to the success of the On-Ball screens is in proper execution and coordination. The ballhandler and screener both have to think and function as one unit. This requires proper footwork, timing, non-verbal communication, and experience. This also means having a working knowledge of various defensive reads and counters.

Basic Skills & Techniques

THE SCREENER: Setting a Solid Screen

THE BALLHANDLER: Setting Up and Using the Screen

VARIATIONS: Mid, Side and Horns Alignments

 


Five Stars

Screener Graphic

Screener's Actions

Caution: It is the responsibility of the ballhandler, not the screener's, to run the defender into the screen.

The Ballhandler Actions - Off Ball Screens

Setting a Solid Screen

Screen and Roll

The Screener Action - Off Ball Screens

After setting a solid On-Ball screen, the screener should be alert to counter the defensive actions. The majority of times, the screener will seal off the defender by executing a reverse pivot and roll to the basket for shot or rebound.

Screen and Pop

However, if the screeners are good outside shooters, they have the option of popping out for ball reversal pass and a spot up shot.


Screener's Reads & Counters

In basketball, it is the defense that dictates offensive options, not the offense. Therefore, the ability to read and counter defensive actions is paramount to any offensive success. In addition, on On-Ball screens, it is just as important for the screener to read and counter defensive deployment as it is for the ballhandler.

Defensive Reads: What if the . . . .

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  1. The defender CHASES OVER the Screen?  Counter

  2. The ballhandler's defender GOES UNDER the screen? Counter
  3. The defenders SWITCH on the screen.  Counter

    Smaller Defender is MISMATCHED INSIDE on switch? Counter

  4. The screener's defender steps out and SHOWS EARLY on screen? Counter

  5. The defenders SHOW & RECOVER on screen? Counter
  6. The screener's Defender the DENIES SCREENCounter


The Screener Reads & Counters

First Read - Rebound

Screen - Rebound

Read: Defender chases the ballhandler OVER the screen and the ballhandler drives to the basket.

Counter: the screener must roll and rebound!

The Screener Reads & Counters

Second Read

Read: On-ball defender goes UNDER the screen and the ball handler pulls up for an open jump shot.

Counter: the screener assumes that the shot will be missed and rebounds.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Second Read

Screen - Roll

Read: Defenders SWITCH against the On-Ball screen.

Counter: Screener seals off the dribbler's initial defender and rolls to basket for shot or post up.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Strong Post Up

Read: Screen has a mismatch advantage over a smaller defender.

Counter: Screener posts up strong, looking for a feed from any of the perimeter players.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Fourth Read

Slip the Screen

Read: the screener's defender steps out and "Shows" on the screen.

Counter: Screener immediately "Slips" the screen and cuts away to the basket for feed the from ballhandler.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Fifth Read

The screener's defender steps out and "Shows" on the screen.

Counter: When the screener is a good outside shooter, he/she has the option of "Popping Out" for an outside shot rather than slipping the screen. By poping out, it not only creates an open shot, but also eliminates any helpside support.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Sixth Read

Roll Opposite for Lob Pass

The screener's defender over-plays and denies the passing lane.

Counter: The screener immediately breaks off the screen and cuts away to the basket for shot.

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BallHandler Graphic

Ballhandler' Actions

It is the sole responsibility of the ballhandler to set up the defender and use a screen properly.

Setting Up the Screen

The Ballhandler Actions - Off Ball Screens

In setting a solid On-Ball screen, the ballhandler must have patience and allow the screener to get set. In executing the On-Ball screen, the ballhander starts with a move toward the basket. If the defender does not react, the ballhandler should continue and dribble penetrate to the basket for shot. When defender does react, the ballhandler should then make a strong drive over the On-Ball screen to the basket.

Centering the Screen

The Screener Action - Off Ball Screens

With a head and eyes up dribble, "Center" the screen by stepping toward the middle of the screener with the inside foot and then stepping over the screen with outside foot. This will force the defender into either chasing over or going under the screen.

Utilizing the Screen

 

Ballhandler's Reads & Counters

In basketball, it is the defense that dictates offensive options, not the offense. Therefore, the ability to read and counter defensive actions is paramount to any offensive success. In executing On-Ball screens, it takes a coordinated effort by both the screener and ballhandler to counter the defensive actions being used against them.

Defensive Reads: What if the . . . .

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Click on the desired read to view illustrated counter option

  1. Defender CHASES OVER the screen.

    Baseline Defender HELPS OUT on drive.

    Weakside Defender SAGS OFF wing to help on drive.

  2. Defender GOES UNDER the screen.

  3. Defense SWITCHES on the screen.

    Bigger defender MISMATCHED OUTSIDE against quicker ball handler.

  4. Defense SHOWS and RECOVERS on screen.

  5. Defender CHEATS OVER the screen early.


The Screener Reads & Counters

First Read - Drive

Drive

Read: Defender chases the ballhandler OVER the screen.

Counter: The ballhandler drives hard to the basket.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Drop Option

Read: Baseline defender helps out against drive.

Counter: Ballhandler makes a drop pass for easy basket.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Kick Option

Read: Wing defender sags off to help out on drive.

Counter: The ballhander makes a kick out pass for wide open, spot up three.

Pull Up Jumper

Second Read

Pull Up Jumper

Read: Defender goes UNDER the On-Ball screen.

Counter: Ballhandler pulls up for an open jump shot.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Third Read

Screen - Roll

Read: Defenders SWITCH against the On-Ball screen.

Counter: Screener seals off the receiver's defender and rolls to basket for shot or strong post up.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Mismatch Isolation

Read: Ballhandler has a mismatch advantage over a bigger defender.

Counter: Ballhandler isolates and goes one-on-one against the bigger, less agile defender. The ballhandler can string out and take the defender further away from the basket by taking a dribble backwards. This will also allow the screener time to clear. If the bigger defender does not react to the back dribble it creates and open shot for the ballhandler.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Forth Read

Slip the Screen

Read: the screener's defender steps out and "Shows" on the screen.

Counter: Screener immediately "Slips" the screen and cuts away to the basket for feed the from ballhandler.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Pop Option

the screener's defender steps out and "Shows" on the screen.

Counter: When the screener is a good outside shooter, they have the option of "Popping Out" rather than slipping the screen.

The Screener Reads & Counters

Fifth Read

Drive Opposite

The screener's defender anticipates screen and CHEATS OVER early.

Counter: The ballhandler drives opposite to the basket. In changing direction to drive opposite, the ball handler can use a front crossover, a reverse pivot (spin) dribble, a behind the back, or a reverse between the legs dribble.

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On-Ball Screens Variations

The basic option of On-Ball screens is for the ballhandler to drive hard to the basket off the screen. The screener, usually a power forward or post, sets the On-Ball screen ("Big" screening for "Small"). The ballhandler has the option of turning the corner for a drive to the basket or executing a pull up jumper if the defense goes below the screen. The ballhandler also has options of a drop pass to the post, or kick out passes to the shooters spotting up on the wings. If the defense switches on the screen, then the screen-and-roll becomes a viable option.

Click on the specific screen below to view illustrated execution details.

Mid Screen
MID SCREEN

Side Screen
SIDE SCREEN

Horns
HORNS

 


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Mid Screen

On-Ball Mid Screens are used on every level for a very good reason. Since the action takes place in the center of the floor, it takes away any helpside support making it very difficult to defend. In addition, the on-ball screen provides for an array of quick hitting options. However, to be successful, these options must be recognized and executed properly.

Mid Screen

Basic Reads and Counters. What if . . .

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1. The defender CHASES & TRAILS over the screen?   Counter
2. The defender GOES UNDERthe screen?   Counter
3. The defenders SWITCH against the screen?    Counter
4. The defenders SHOW & RECOVER on screen?    Counter
5. The defender goes CHEATS OVER the screen early?   Counter
6. The defenders TRAP against the screen?     Counter

 


Read: Defenders CHASES OVER the screen.

Drive Option

Drive

When the defender CHASES OVER the side screen, the ballhandler drives hard to the basket.

Drop Option

Drop

When the weakside post's defender DROPS OFF to help out against the drive, the ballhandler simply makes a drop pass for an easier shot.

Kick Option

Kick

If the wing defender SAGS OFF to help out on the drive, the ballhandler makes a kick out pass for a wide open, spot up shot.


Read: Defender CHEATS UNDER the screen.

Screen & Roll Option

Pull Up Jumper

When the defender goes UNDER the screen, the ballhandler pulls up for an open jump shot.


Read: Defenders SWITCH on the mid-screen.

Screen & Roll Option

Screen & Roll

When the defenders SWITCH on the mid-screen, the screener seals off the defender, and rolls to the basket for shot.

Post Iso Option

Post Isolation

When defenders SWITCH, the screener posts up strong to exploit smaller defender. The ballhandler can either feed post directly or pass to any of the perimeter players for the post feed.

Wing Iso

Wing Isolation

When the defensive players SWITCH, the screener clears out to weakside, isolating the ballhandler one-on-one against bigger less agile defender. The ballhandler should string out and take the defender further away from the basket by taking a dribble backwards. This will also allow the screener time to clear. If the bigger defender does not react to the back dribble it creates and open shot for the ballhandler.


Read: Defenders SHOW & RECOVER against the mid-screen.

Post Iso Option

Slip the Screen

When the screener's defender steps out and "SHOWS" on the mid screen, the screener can slip the screen and cut away to the basket.

Wing Iso

Pop Out

If the screener is a good outside shooter, they have the option of "Popping Out" for open, spot up shot.


Read: Defender CHEATS OVER the screen.

Post Iso Option

Drive Opposite

When the On-Ball defender anticipates the side screen and CHEATS OVER early, the ballhandler should drive opposite to the basket. In changing direction to drive opposite, the ball handler can use a front crossover, a reverse pivot (spin) dribble, a behind the back dribble, or a reverse between the legs dribble.

Wing Iso

Lob Pass

If the screener's defender overplays to deny or disrupt the screen, the screener back cuts to the basket looking for a lob pass.


Read: Defenders DOUBLE TEAM or TRAP against the on-ball screen.

Fade Option

Post Roll

Back Cut

Post Pop

When the defenders trap or double team, the ballhandler should immediately string out the defenders by backing out the dribble. The screener can either roll to the basket or pop out to create a 2-1-2 alignment. The low post goes opposite the screener. The ballhandler looks to feed the screener rolling to the basket or low post back cutting to the basket. If the post feeds are not available, the 2-1-2 alignment allows for quick ball movement.

Learn More Cat Spread Offense vs. Double Team

Note: The ballhandler can also beat the double team by splitting the defenders using a reverse between the legs dribble.

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Side Screen

The Side Screen Offense is a two player screen and roll isolation. Although the Side Screen is a fairly simple looking play, it incorporates a magnitude of quick hitting options, which make it so lethal. However, to be success, these options must be recognized and executed properly.

Side Screen Left

Side Screen Right

Side Screen action can also be used for continuity when an offensive play breaks down or to create a good shot as the game or shot clock winds down.

Basic Reads and Counters. What if . . .

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1. Defender CHASES & TRAILS over the screen?   Counter
2. Defender goes UNDER the screen?   Counter
3. Defenders SWITCH against the screen?   Counter
4. Defenders SHOW & RECOVER on screen?    Counter
5. Defender goes CHEATS OVER the screen?   Counter
6. Defenders TRAP against the screen?   Counter

Caution: Players must learn to execute side screens using both the right and left sides of the court.


Read: Defenders CHASES OVER the screen.

Screen & Roll Option

Drive

When the defender CHASES OVER the side screen, the ballhandler drives hard to the basket.

Post Iso Option

Drop

When the weakside post's defender DROPS OFF to help out against the drive, the ballhandler simply makes a drop pass for an easier shot.

Wing Iso

Kick

If either wing defenders SAG OFF to help out on the drive, the ballhandler makes a kick out pass for a wide open, spot up shot.


Read: Defender goes UNDER the screen.

Screen & Roll Option

Pull Up Jumper

When the defender goes UNDER the screen, the ballhandler pulls up for an open jump shot.


Read: Defenders SWITCH on the Down-Screen.

Screen & Roll Option

Screen & Roll

When the defenders SWITCH on the side screen, the screener "Seals" the ballhandler's initial defender, and rolls to the basket for shot.

Post Iso Option

Post Isolation

When defenders SWITCH, the screener posts up strong to exploit smaller defender. The ballhandler can either feed post directly or pass to any of the perimeter players for the post feed.

Wing Iso

Point Isolation

When the defensive players SWITCH, the screener clears out to weakside, isolating the ballhandler one-on-one against bigger less agile defender. The ballhandler should string out and take the defender further away from the basket by taking a dribble backwards. This will also allow the screener time to clear. If the bigger defender does not react to the back dribble it creates and open shot for the ballhandler.

If the ballhandler's shot is not available, the post can then dive to the basket to exploit smaller defender.


Read: Defenders SHOW & RECOVER against the down screen.

Slip Option

Slip the Screen

When the screener's defender steps out and "SHOWS" on the side screen, the screener can slip the screen and cut away to the basket.

Pop Option

Pop Out

The screener also has the option of "Popping Out" to the corner for open shot eliminating any helpside defensive support.


Read: Defender anticipates and CHEATS OVER the screen.

Drive Opposite Option

Drive Opposite

When the On-Ball defender anticipates the side screen and CHEATS OVER early, the ballhandler should drive opposite to the basket. In changing direction to drive opposite, the ball handler can use a front crossover, a behind the back, or a reverse between the legs dribble.

Wing Iso

Lob Pass

If the screener's defender anticipates the side screen and over plays to deny or disrupt the screen, the screener back cuts to the basket looking for a lob pass.


Read: Defenders DOUBLE TEAM or TRAP against the on-ball screen.

Trap Option

String Out

When the defenders TRAP, the ballhandler should string out the defenders by backing out the dribble. The screener rolls to the basket as weakside post flashes into the middle. The ballhandler looks to feed the post flashing who in turn looks to feed the screener or weakside wing back cutting to the basket. If the back cuts are not available the 2-1-2 alignment allows for quick ball movement.

Learn More Cat Spread Offense vs. Double Team

Note: The ballhandler can also beat the double team by splitting the defenders using a reverse between the legs dribble.

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"Horns" (Double Mid Screens)

By deploying a second high post screener, it allows the ballhandler the option of driving off a screen in either direction. Since screens are available on both sides, unlike a Mid Screen, the Horns offense cannot be disrupted by simply influencing the ball handler away from the screen. Having both screeners high, also, clears out any baseline defensive help against dribble penetration along with creating open shot opportunities for good spot up, outside shooters.

Horns- Double High Screens

In the Horns' double high post alignment, the posts work opposite. When one rolls the other pops. Although, it is preferableto execute the Horns' screen to the side of the stronger offensive screener, players must learn how to execute the various options going both right and left.

Basic Reads and Counters. What if . . .

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1. Defender CHASES & TRAILS over the screen?   Counter
2. Defender goes UNDER the screen?   Counter
3. Defenders SWITCH against the screen?  Counter
4. Defenders SHOW & RECOVER on screen?    Counter
5. Defender goes CHEATS OVER the screen?   Counter
6. Defenders TRAP against the screen?  Counter

 


Read: Defenders CHASES OVER the screen.

Drive Option

Drive

When the defender CHASES OVER the screen, the ballhandler drives hard to the basket.

Drop Option

Kick

If the wing's defender SAGS OFF to help out on the drive, the ballhandler makes a kick out pass for a wide open, spot up shot. The wing also has the option of back cutting to the basket for a drop pass and lay-up.


Read: Defender CHEATS UNDER the screen.

Screen & Roll Option

Pull Up Jumper

When the defender goes UNDER the screen, the ballhandler pulls up for an open jump shot.


Read: Defenders SWITCH on the Down-Screen.

Screen & Roll Option

Screen & Roll

When the defenders SWITCH on the screen, the screener "Seals" off the initial ballhandler's defender, and rolls to the basket for shot.

Post Iso Option

Post Isolation

When defenders SWITCH, the screener posts up strong to exploit smaller defender. The ballhandler can either feed post directly or pass to any of the peripheral players for the post feed.

Wing Iso

Wing Isolation

When the defensive players SWITCH, the screener clears out to weakside, isolating the ballhandler one-on-one against bigger less agile defender. The ballhandler should string out and take the defender further away from the basket by taking a dribble backwards. This will also allow the screener time to clear. If the bigger defender does not react to the back dribble it creates and open shot for the ballhandler.

If the ballhandler's shot is not available, the post can then dive to the basket to exploit the smaller defnder.


Read: Defenders SHOW & RECOVER against the horn screen.

Post Iso Option

Slip the Screen

When the screener's defender steps out and "SHOWS" on the screen, the screener can slip the screen and cut away to the basket.

Wing Iso

Pop Out

If the screener is a good outside shooter, he/she has the option of "Popping Out" for open, spot up shot.


Read: Defender CHEATS OVER the screen.

Post Iso Option

Drive Opposite

When the On-Ball defender anticipates the side screen and CHEATS OVER early, the ballhandler should drive opposite to the basket. In changing direction to drive opposite, the ball handler can use a front crossover, a behind the back, or a reverse between the legs dribble.

In reversing direction, the ballhandler also has the option of driving off the weakside screener rather than to the baske.

Wing Iso

Lob Pass

If either screener's defender overplays to deny or disrupt the screen, the screener back cuts to the basket looking for a lob pass.


Read: Defenders DOUBLE TEAM or TRAP against the on-ball screen.

Fade Option

Post Roll

Back Cut

Post Pop

When the defenders trap, the ballhandler should immediately string out the defenders by backing out the dribble. The screener can either roll to the basket or pop out to create a 2-1-2 alignment. The ballhandler looks to feed the screener rolling to the basket. If the post feed is not available, the 2-1-2 alignment allows for quick ball movement against the double team.

Learn More Cat Spread Offense vs. Double Team

Note: The ballhandler can also beat the double team by splitting the defenders using a reverse between the legs dribble.

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