Ball Screens can be an effective offensive tactic. Teams who are well prepared for this screening tactic can cause considerable difficulty for teams who rely on ball screens for a major portion of their offense. Here are three defensive strategies to combat on ball screens.
Trapping Ball Screens
Trapping ball screens is an effective method of negating ball screens. For this tactic to be effective, it must be executed with assertiveness and no hesitation by the two defensive players executing the trap and depending on the scouting report on the offense, a third defensive player may be needed to rotate to cover the screener if the offense responds to the trap by slipping the screener for a quick pass and scoring opportunity.
In Diagram One the offense is setting a screen on the ball on the wing. As soon as X5 realizes #5 is going to set a ball screen X5 warns X1 with a verbal for a ball screen and immediately begins to provide early help in the form of a trap on the ball handler. X1 still gets into the cutter and X5 arrives before the screener does. The trap must be set before the screen arrives and all angles of escape via the dribble taken away.
Show on Ball Screens
Defending ball screens without trapping the ball can be done effectively by “showing” early on the ball screen with early help from the defensive player guarding the screener (Diagram Two).
X3 recognizes #3 is going to set a ball screen for #1 and calls the verbal “ball screen right.” X3 immediately “turns the corner” and plays at a right angle to X1 BEFORE #3 can arrive to set the screen. This tactic resembles a trap and encourages #1 to dribble wide and around the “show” by X3. On hearing the verbal warning a ball screen is coming, X1 should have “gotten into” the cutter and can skinny up and fight over #3’s ball screen if #1 has not already left to avoid the apparent trap.
X3 only shows long enough to force #1 wide then recovers to a denial position on #3. X1 must recover to proper on the ball positioning as quickly as possible. X3 must also take care to not impeded X1’s recovery to on the ball defense, granting X1 the clearest path to #1.
Force the Ball to Be Picked Up
The pick and roll has long been a staple in the game of basketball, particularly in the NBA. In recent years it has enjoyed resurgence in the college and high school game. It is an effective offensive tactic, forcing the defense to react to a screen and to cover a cutter.
One of the best strategies to defend the pick and roll is to proactively force the ball handler to pick up the dribble. This eliminates the threat of dribble penetration, allowing the on the ball defender to pressure the ball without fear. The defender of the screener can now totally focus on covering the cut, usually to the goal, being made by the screener.
There are several methods that can be used to encourage the ball handler to pick up the dribble. The easiest is to simply have both the on the ball defender and the screener’s defender trap the ball handler. This method will require that a third teammate cover the screener/cutter.
A second method requires the defender of the screener to show help early, possibly faking a trap, to discourage the use of the screen. With this method, the object is to encourage the ball handler to believe a trap is coming or that the second defender has committed, leaving the screener open to slip the screen for a pass.
For this method to be successful, the second defender must be adept at both faking the trap/showing early help, and anticipating the slip screen by the screener. If the second defender can take away the pass on the slipped screen, the ball handler has no immediate passing opportunity and the pick and roll has been defeated.
The third method is the most difficult but is the safest. The second defender calls screen to alert the on the ball defender to the fact that a pick and roll screen is about to be set. The on the ball defender “gets into the ball handler” by getting as close as possible.
As the screener approaches, the second defender shows early help in an effort to cause the ball handler to hesitate. The on the ball defender “skinnies up” by stepping through and over the screener, using both a leg and an arm to establish position in a gap between the ball handler and the screener. This tactic neutralizes the screen and will force the ball handler to drive in a wider than desired path.
By crowding the ball handler through the screen and forcing the dribble penetration into a wider than desired path, it is hoped that the ball handler will pick up the dribble. The second defender recovers to a denial position as quickly as possible, preventing a pass to the screener/cutter.
Despite the difficulty of this method, it is the safest as the screener/cutter is always covered and there is no need for a third defensive player to rotate to cover an open cutter.
The above information was excerpted from Fine Tuning Your Man-to-Man Defense, available from Amazon.