Back Screen: Points of Emphasis

This entry is part 10 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

Setting back screens in the Read & React can be very effective, but it takes practice for players to execute this next best action correctly.  There are a number of points of emphasis that we like to talk about when it comes to setting back screens. Careful coordination and timing between the ball handler, the screener and cutter will create scoring opportunities for all three players involved in this action.

Waiting for the Screen
In many cases, we talk about the cutter waiting for the screen.  While this is still the case, it is most likely that the ball handler is the player who will need to be most patient.  Since movement in the R&R is predicated on ball movement, the other perimeter players probably aren’t going to be moving if the ball isn’t moving. The biggest exception to this would be a player making a Read Line cut.  This action fits right in with the back screen.  In the R&R, the ball handler must learn to see the back screen developing.  If they make an action too quickly, it could negate the effectiveness of the back screen.  While a ball handler should never pass up an opportunity to attack, they should give a back screen the chance to develop if they see a teammate going to set one.

Sprinting to the Screen
It’s important that the screener sprint to the screen.  The R&R is a fast paced offense.  There’s not a lot of standing around.  If the screener doesn’t sprint to the screen, the opportunity for the screen to be effective may be lost.  This also forces the defense to work harder and can make the screen more difficult to guard. Jogging to the screen will likely result in poor spacing and offensive confusion. It also minimizes the amount of time that the ball handler has to hold the ball to wait for an action to occur.

So far in teaching the R&R, we have been highly focused on the actions of the ball. If the ball does this, the other players do that.  This is the first action in the offense that requires the offensive players without the ball to be cognizant of something other than the ball.

We want the players without the ball to always be ready to react to the ball. As a result, any time someone is setting a back screen, they must call the player’s name to gain their attention and let them know a screen is being set for them. This is the responsibility of the screener.  Otherwise, the player may be so focused on the ball that they don’t see their teammate trying to screen for them and the opportunity is lost.  We don’t worry about the defense knowing that the screen is coming.  By the time they recognize it, we should be moving on to the next action.

Screening Angle
The angle at which is the screen is set is as important as you want to make it.  Typically, a back screen is set so that the cutter is directed to the basket.  This works and is a good way to teach the back screen to young players.  However, for older more experienced players, the angle of this screen can change. This could be more of a flare screen or a shuffle cut screen.  It all depends on the angle of the screen. This decision could be made by the coach or the coach could give the freedom to the player.  In most cases, the angle of the screen should send the cutter to the basket.

Using the Screen
We’ve  sprinted to set the screen.  We’ve let our teammate know that we’re setting the screen. We’ve set the angle appropriately.  Now the cutter has to use the screen.  The cutter can either sprint to the basket, or they can take more time to set up the screen and then make their cut.  If the defender is caught off guard, a sprint to the rim may be most effective.  If the defender is aware of the screen, the cutter should take more time to set up the screen before they cut.

Shaping Up
One of the best ways to get open is to set someone else a screen.  The screener must remember this fact and be ready to be open.  Once the cutter clears the screen, but not too early, they must get their feet and body in a position to receive a pass and become a scoring threat. This is a great option for a good shooter to free themselves for an open shot.  However, they must be ready to get their feet set after the screen has been set.  Otherwise, it will be a poor shot or a lost scoring opportunity.


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