A basketball screen is naturally an effort by an offensive player who is without the ball to prevent the path of a defender in order to free his teammate. There are two kinds of screens, the ones that are set for the ball handler, and we call those On-Ball Screens, and the ones that are set for a player that is without the ball, the Off-Ball Screens, a topic that we are going to cover in this article.
Off-Ball screens are crucial for any kind of offense and they have multiple uses for the team that is using them:
They create an advantage for the player that is receiving the screen
They create opportunities for a mismatch - a smaller player guarding a bigger player and a slower player guarding a faster player
Even if there is no advantage created, the defense has to move so they can't play good help defense on the ball (we are talking about the off-ball screen action).
There are four fundamental ways to guarding off ball screens:
Lock and Trail
LOCK AND TRAIL
The defender guarding the offensive player that is about to receive the screen needs to establish the "arm bar" contact with him and to try and force the cutter to use the screen. The defender needs to try and be nearby or to trail shortly behind as he can.
If the offensive player sees and recognizes that the player is going to Lock and Trail, then he is going to do a Curl Cut in order to get open. Now, what the screener defender needs to do is to try and bump/step on the line just to try and to make the offensive player run wider around the screen and not to allow them to curl around the screen and have their defenders stay behind.
In order to defend this the right way, the defender has to angle his hips right in order to get past the screen. People usually tell their players to get Skinny on the screen. Any leaning forward when getting past the screen will result in getting caught on the screen and the cutter will have some open space to operate.
Here are two good examples of how a defender should evade being hit by the screener.
Once again, the player that is guarding a cutter is going to start low and is going to force the cutter to use the screen. Then, the defender needs to go on the other side of the screen which is different than the cutter's path, all in order to catch his player on the other side of the screen. The player that is guarding the screener needs to shove the screener a bit which will result in creating more space and a better path for the player that is guarding a cutter.
In this video, we can see a good defense of Kley done by Jonson. He went under the screen and on the passing lane so the Point Guard decided to go to Steph on the other side of the offense.
In this situation, a player that is guarding a screener is going to fight for the position a bit but in the time his teammate is coming chasing the cutter, he is going to separate himself from the screener and to create space for the run-through.
Yes, the player guarding the cutter did not go through the screen, but the point of the whole defense is that the space was created and he should have taken the path through the "green door".
Let's take a look at some diagrams.
Switching on defense means that two players are exchanging players that they are guarding. As we can see in today's game, this is the most common way to guard both on and off-ball screens. As this is a demand, we as coaches just have to pay more attention to the development of our big man mobility and footwork because we want them to be able to slow down much faster players than they are.
If you take a look at this defensive sequence by the Huston Rockets, we are going to see all kinds of switches both on and off the ball. The principle is the same in both actions.
If you want to learn more about defending screens, go rent a DVD by clicking on the link below: