Screen Defense Basketball – 6 Tips you should know

An offensive strategy that is commonly used in basketball is the ball screen. It works by making the defense cooperate and help each other guard the ball handler so that the ball handler can make an open play.

There are five main methods of defending a ball screen, with the first and most important factor being that both defenders communicate.

Communication

There are some common ball screen defenses, but they all require the two defenders involved in the screen to talk through the screen for determining how to handle it and recover it.

A player’s first step in successfully defending a ball screen starts with the person guarding whoever sets the pick. In this position, you need to let your teammate guarding the ball know a pick is coming and whether it will go left, right, or directly behind your teammate.

To successfully defend a ball screen, it is your responsibility to either call out the type of defense that your coach wants you to utilize, or read the situation, and before the screen is set, you must decide and communicate how both of you will play the screen.

Then, depending on the nature of the defense, you will continue communicating until either you or your man will recover to their original position or switch as appropriate and be reset defensively.

The decision on which defensive technique to rely on depends on the advantages and disadvantages of each of these defensive techniques, together with how each of them would apply to what the offensive players are doing and the game situation.

Notes:

  • As a rule, the first defender is the player originally guarding the ball handler and the second defender is the player originally guarding the screener.
  • It will also be assumed that if the screen is properly secured, it can be struck again.

Hard Hedge

When blocking in one-on-one situations, the second defender will use hard hedge tackles in order to prevent the ball handler from driving forward. Once an opponent has recovered from the ball turnover, they will sprint back and recover to their original man with high hands to block passing lanes.

Advantages

  • Stops the ball handler’s forward motion, preventing delivery to the basket.
  • Ball handler prevents shooter from pulling-up jump shots
  • Making it difficult to pass to the roll man

Disadvantages

  • Susceptible to being split, possibly resulting in a shot to the basket
  • A brief opening will be left on the roll man.
  • Making it hard to recover when playing against pick and pop

Soft Hedge

While using the soft wedge, the second defender will slide out at a flatter angle and show their body to prevent the shot from being a quick dunk. The first defender, meanwhile, will fight through the screen to recover to his or her man.

Advantages

  • The ball handler is unable to drive the ball due to the paint being packed.
  • The ball handler who is not good at shooting off the dribble is forced to do pull-ups.
  • Makes it much easier to recover from a roll man, to prevent him from sliding a screen, or to prevent him from slipping the screen.

Disadvantages

Gives the ball handler a clean jump shot after dribbling back through the screen

  • Economies of scale make it hard to defend against picks and pops.
  • A second defender can briefly leave a ball-handler one on one who can attack the second defender

Switch

When the ball screen is changed, the two defenders just switch offensive assignments and guard the other player. Within the possession, the ball handler dribbles off the screen, and the second defender takes possession of the ball.

Advantages

  • Takes away scoring options and direct looks
  • Makes defending a screen simple if both defenders have similar abilities because one cannot recover

Disadvantages

  • A screener and ball handler can potentially mismatch each other.
  • A player with less mobility might be forced to guard a faster guard on the perimeter, or a smaller player might be left to guard a big man who rolled into the post.
  • The screener slips through and cuts to the basket making it difficult for a defense.

Blitz/Double Team

The second defender, when blitzing or double-teaming the screen, will hedge the screen aggressively to keep the ball handler from driving to the basket while also keeping guard on the ball handler and trying to drive them back or up the court instead of returning to their man.

In the case of a screen, the first defender will fight through the screen to the ball handler, followed by him guarding or trapping the ball while the defense rotates to block the screener who has found his way open and tries to make a turnover.

Advantages

  • Completely obstructs ball handlers’ ability to shoot or drive
  • Passing and dribbling are difficult when that pressure is applied to the ball handler.

Disadvantages

  • Leaving the screener completely open for rolling/popping
  • It’s more vulnerable to a defensive breakdown if a guard passes over the top or makes a quick pass around the blitz.
  • If the ball is passed or dribbled outside the defense, there are open players and the defense must quickly switch to guard them.

Ice/Down

While icing or downing a screen, the first defender will force the ball handler to block the screen from dribbling off, forcing him to reject it and completely stopping him from dribbling off.

Advantages

  • The ball handler can be forced to use weak hands
  • Prevents the screen from showing
  • Working well on ball screens on the wing/sideline forcing the ball to the baseline

Disadvantages

  • Provides the ball handler with an open drive to the basket, or it can be used to pull-up.
  • Puts an island underneath the first defender
  • By preventing a drive, the second defender leaves the screener open for a shot.

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