Ball Screen: Description

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

A ball screen is simply described as a screen set on the defender who is guarding the ball.  This  remains the same in the R&R.  Ball screens can be very useful in creating offensive advantages.  They can create mismatches or a numbers advantage.  The bigger questions become when and where can ball screens be set as well as who sets them.  As with anything else in this offense, the answer is whenever you want and wherever you want.

By this point, you should have expected this.  The offense creates a lot of freedom for the coaches and players who are in it.  Let’s break this down a little and explore some different options.

In the “pure” version of the R&R, the “default” time to set a ball screen is when the ball handler takes a dribble backwards. We don’t use this rule for a couple of reasons.  As a general rule, we don’t want our ball handlers dribbling away from the basket. The only time where this might be encouraged is to avoid a trap or to run more time off the clock in an end of half or end of game situation. Likewise, if a ball handler dribbles backwards, we may not want a ball screen to be set at that time.  We don’t want our players to have to decide if it’s a good time to set a ball screen in that situation.

So instead of talking about when NOT to set a ball screen, let’s talk about when to set one. You may come up with others. This list is not meant to be exclusive. Coaches can have players set a ball screen when…
1.  Player X has the ball. The cutter or post player must go set a ball screen for that player wherever they are.
2.  Player X cuts.  Every time Player X cuts they must set a ball screen.
3.  The ball is caught in a certain spot by a designated player or by the player in a designated spot.
4.  It is “easy” to do. In other words, the screener doesn’t have to go out of their way to set the screen.
5.  A player sets an off ball screen.
6.  The possession begins.
7.  The possession ends.
8.  Player X calls for a ball screen.
9.  Following a specific action

This was alluded to in the last section.  Who should be the player to set the ball screen?  The primary determination in this decision should be based off of personnel.  Who is your best screen setter?  Which player is going to make the ball screen most difficult to defend?  Who is in the best position to set a good screen?  This is going to partially depend on the alignment that you’re playing out of.  Are you 5 out?  Are you 4 out 1 in?  Are you 3 out 2 in?  If you’re playing with a post player or post players, where are they located?

The location of the screen can also be wherever the coach prefers it to be set. The screen can be set on the wing, in the corner, at the top of the key, or even closer to the basket.  I am a big fan of the ball screen around the elbow area. A “dumb drive” can turn into a surprise ball screen that can be pretty tough to defend.

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In the above diagrams, it could be said that 2’s drive to the middle is “dumb”.  It would be better if 2 went baseline right?  Well maybe.  But maybe 2 prefers going right.  Maybe 2 doesn’t feel comfortable throwing that left handed pass to the 1 on the baseline drive.

2’s drive to the middle can turn into a ball screen that’s pretty tough to defend.  In this case, the screen is set by a post player instead of a cutter, but it’s all the same idea.


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