Pin Screen: Offensive Fundamentals

The pin screen by itself is a not a difficult skill to execute. However, there are a number of offensive fundamentals that are required to successfully complete this action.

The Screen

This is the easiest screen in the game of basketball for players to set.  The chances for players to get called for a moving pin screen are minimal.  The likelihood of the screen being a good one are high.  All they have to do is find a helpside defender and screen them. Ideally, they keep them from closing out to their player.  Most likely, the screener slows the defender down enough to make it difficult for them to closeout.

The Recognition

Three different people must read the situation to make a pin screen effective.  This starts with a screener.  Without someone to set the pin screen the action obviously can’t happen.

It is easiest to teach post players to set this screen. They are in and around the lane and have the shortest distance to travel to set the screen.  Post players are also not required to move as much in this style of offense.  They can stay on one side of the floor and when the ball goes away from them they can find a help defender and screen them easily.

Cutters are also able to set pin screens. However, teaching them to sprint their cut and then stop to find a help side defender can be tough. Many times they are focused on cutting and filling and they aren’t thinking about setting a pin screen.  Of course you could make a call that makes them think about setting pin screens, but then everyone is looking to set them and there may not be anyone on the perimeter to set them for.

Weakside perimeter players are also potential screening candidates.  However, this is even more difficult to teach because they are so focused on being ready to react to the ball that they aren’t programmed to think about sitting pin screens.

The second person who must recognize the pin screen is the person who the screen is set for.  They must read the screen and put themselves in position to make the most effective use of the screen.  They must line themselves up with the ball so that their defender must go around the screen instead of just closing out straight to them.

The final person who must see this action develop is the person with the ball. They must widen their vision and see the screen being set and determine if they can make a good skip pass to the open player.

The recognition for the ball handler and the perimeter player being screened for are triggered by the screener’s call. Offensive players may say that they don’t want to call the screen because they don’t want the defense to know it’s coming. It’s much more important for the offense to be on the same page instead of the defense to know it’s coming. Also, just because the defense knows it’s coming, doesn’t mean they can stop it. In fact, in the pressure of the game situation, the defense may over compensate to the call and then something else will be available.

The Pass and Catch

The ability to make a solid skip pass is critical to make the pin screen work well.  The pass must be thrown strongly, quickly, and on a line over the top of the defense.  Passes that aren’t high enough will easily be deflected.  Passes that are too high will give the defense time to closeout and possibly intercept the pass.  The receiver must have ready hands and feet to be able to take advantage of the defender who should be out of position.

The Seal

Once the screen is set and the pass is thrown, the screener should look to seal the next level defender in the lane.  If the receiver’s defender closes out well, the screener should be open close to the basket. Of course, this requires another effective pass.

Here are some video clips of pin screens.  We don’t score on all of them, but the pin screen is well executed in each instance. The first clip is of a high pin screen against the top of the 2-3 zone.  The receiver does a good job of using the screen.  A well thrown pass leads to an open shot.

When offense is being played like this, it’s pretty hard to guard.

Here’s a clip against a 1-3-1 zone.  This is a heady play by the screener. The post player’s seal serves as a sort of screen as well.

This one might have been a little bit illegal, but again this could easily be considered a post up  by the post player.  In any case, it created an open opportunity.

We turn the ball over, but the kick out to the open shooter shouldn’t have been a difficult play. It was all created by a well executed pin screen.

Keeping Things Simple

This entry is part 3 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

A recent opponent played a true matchup zone against us. These defenses can give teams problems. Zone offenses tend to be less effective because the defenders aren’t assigned to a certain area. Man to man offenses tend to not work as well because defenders aren’t assigned to certain players either.

Here’s a simple set of actions that we used for a few consecutive possessions in the second half which helped us create a number of good scoring opportunities.  Of course players had to make plays, but as coaches we have to put them in position to do so.

We drew up the first three frames in a time out. The fourth frame was not part of what we did, but it would be one way to simultaneously create two 3 point shots on either side of the court.

The lesson learned here is that sometimes simple is better.  The trick is not the complication of the action.  The trick is putting players in places where they can be successful while creating ball movement and player movement with good spacing. These actions were created based specifically on the skills of the personnel on the floor.

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There are a few interesting things to notice.  The alignment changes in a very simple way from 4 out to 3 out with an even front. Notice how the defense defends the same action differently all three times.

The tandem alignment is designed to take away the middle of the floor.  By starting in a 4 out alignment, it brings out the middle person of the tandem.  This along with the denial of the low post player opens up the high post and causes the defense problems.  The entry to the high post causes confusion.  Now it just takes one attack dribble to hold the low wing defender to create the open 3 point shot.

 

In the second clip, the person in the middle of the zone is worried about that weak side post player.  She remembers in the previous possession how that player flashed to the high post and compromised their defense.  That little bit of attention draws her away from the cutting post player.  A good post entry and a good individual play lead to a layup.  Notice also in this clip how the weak side post player could have sealed the backside defensive player to prevent their rotation to help.  It worked out anyway, but posting on the weakside can be a huge benefit to the team even if they don’t receive the ball.

This is just a tough individual play.  But notice after scoring the first time how the defense reacts.  They decide to double team that player which obviously opens up other players who react well to the openings it creates.

After this they started fouling and we didn’t run the action again.  We didn’t have to.  It’s amazing how such simple actions can lead to productive offense.

Setting Priorities for Post Players

This entry is part 11 of 11 in the series Post Play

Have you ever thought about keeping your post players stationary in your half court offense? What is the quote?  “Movement is the enemy of the defense?”  Trust me, I still think that is true.  However, I think this is one time that less movement may actually be better.

Post play is more about positioning than it is movement.  A good post player knows how to get position whether it’s on the offensive or defensive end.  I’ve found that the more post players move, the less they get position. Getting position and keeping position requires contact.  Movement reduces the amount of contact that a post player can have.

Let’s think about how we teach a secondary break.  We want our posts to run to the rim right?  Do we want them to go the ball side block if they can bury their defender under the rim?  Of course not.  If they post up at the rim, they catch the ball and shoot a lay-up.  If they post up on the block, they have to make a move to score.  This is all about gaining position. It has nothing to do with moving to a certain spot.

That’s one small example.  Half court offense provides numerous examples of how we should emphasize positioning for our post players over movement. This thought process was inspired by observations playing in a 4 out 1 in alignment.  However, I think there are advantages to minimizing the movement of post players in a 3 out 2 in alignment as well.

In a 4 out alignment, the post player can start anywhere you want them to.  Let’s look at how ball movement and player movement create opportunities for a post player to impact the game without them having to move.

If they are on the ball side, they can be a primary receiver. In other words, they can be option number one for the next pass. They can set a number of screens: ball screens, back screens, flex screens, and down screens.  They can occupy one or more help defenders. Of course, they are a strong side rebounding option. Depending on their location, they can stand in one spot and execute many of these actions at one time.

If they are on the weak side, they can still be a receiver.  They can still post up.  They can flash to the ball.  They can set pin screens and they can still sprint to a ball screen. They can use screens set by other players for them. Moreover, it’s the best place to rebound.  Being on the weak side opens up the ball side block, which creates driving lanes.  It creates interesting defensive rotations. Who helps?  Who doesn’t?  The more I think about it, the more I want to look at this more in depth.

So there are advantages to being on the ball side and on the weak side.  Since the post player can be effective on either side, think how much variety it offers offense if they learn to play on both sides.  The less they move, the more they can evaluate defense and either gain position for themselves or create openings for others.  Instead of chasing the ball as it moves around the perimeter, they can chase rebounds when they come off the rim.

Having 4 perimeter players moving all over the court creates so much movement that it may be better to keep your post stationary. It makes it easier for guards to know where this player is.  They don’t have to wait for the post player to get position.  The post player should be gaining position ahead of time.  It is incumbent on the post player to take advantage of the defense and use their position against them.  There’s no way a post defender can guard all 4 sides of an offensive post player at one time.  If the offensive player knows how to position themselves, they will always be able to make the defense uncomfortable and use it to their team’s advantage. If we teach them position first, before we teach them movement, we may find that they have to move less to be successful because they are achieving better position.

5 on 5 Attack

This entry is part 1 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

5 on 5 attack

We want our teams to play aggressively.  We want them to look to attack gaps in the defense.  We want them to get in the lane.  We want to them to draw help defenders.  We want them to get fouled.  We want them to take shots in and around the lane.

However, we want them to do this intelligently.  We want them to take good shots. We don’t want them getting in the lane and just throwing it up and hoping it goes in. We want them making effective straight line attacks.  We want them making good decisions and good passes when defense helps.  We want them to take advantage of situations.  We never want to pass up on a good situation to put the defense at a disadvantage.

We also want to put an emphasis on defending the ball.  We want to teach how to help, when to help, and when not to help.  We want to teach rotations and recoveries.  Here’s a drill that you might find useful to teach all these different things.

I would recommend running this drill 2 on 2 or 3 on 3 and build it up to 5 on 5.  This drill is best run with everyone on the perimeter.  It could be run with permanent post players though I think this is less than optimal.  The defense in these diagrams is based on helping on the ball from 1 pass away.  If your help defense concepts state that you don’t help 1 pass away, then the defense would look different, which would in turn make the offense look different.  It doesn’t matter what you teach, the drill will still challenge your players on both sides of the ball.

Here’s how it works.  The player with the ball only has two options.  They can shoot or attack.  If the first ball handler has an open shot, then your defense isn’t very good.  The only option that the first player should have is to attack.  The defense knows they are going to attack.  The question is can they make a good enough 1 on 1 move to get into the lane or make the defense help.  If the ball handler can score off the dribble, they should, but let’s assume for a second that your defense is good enough to stop the first drive. The other offensive players should be following their circle movement rules.  If the defense can stop the drive without help. They win the possession.  But again for the sake of argument, let’s assume that a defender helps.  The ball handler would kick out to the open player.  This player has a choice, shoot or drive.  That’s it.  If they don’t shoot then the first ball handler and their defender are off the court and the drill continues until it’s 1 on 1. Can you get a stop for your team when you’re on an island and tired?

If at any point a player shoots, it turns into a rebounding drill with the players that are on the court.  You can score the drill in a few different ways.  You can count the times the offense gets two feet in the lane.  You can count how many times they score.  You can count how many offensive rebounds they get.  You can count defensive stops.  You can count steals, defensive rebounds, good close-outs, good rotations, times that help was not necessary, and any number of other things.

If you want to challenge the defense more, you could have all of the defensive players on the baseline.  You can throw the ball to a random player which forces them to identify their proper defensive positions on the fly, closeout and defend.  Remember offensive players without the ball will need to execute circle movement, as well as the baseline drive adjustment and post slides.

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Send me your comments, questions, thoughts….

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.

WHEN:
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

WHO:
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?

WHERE:
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.

 

Pin Screen: Points of Emphasis

This entry is part 11 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

Pin Screens are unique to the screening family. The points of emphasis are the same as for any other screen. However, they must be executed in a different way because of the uniqueness of the pin screen.

Waiting for the Screen
While there is not a “cutter” on a pin screen, we will still refer to the person that the screen is being set for as the cutter.  Most of the time, these cutters are players who are 2 or more passes away from the ball.  In other words, they are on the weak side of the floor. In order to set up a pin screen, they must be patient when filling up to the next spot.
Remember: Only spots 1 pass away must be filled.
Spots that are more than 1 pass away do not have to be filled immediately.  While there is certainly nothing wrong with filling all the open spots, waiting to fill a spot provides an easy opportunity to set a pin screen.  It keeps the defender stationary and in a help side position.  It also helps make it easier on the screener to find the defender. Ball handlers must also learn to wait for this screen to be set as well.
 While a ball handler should never pass up an opportunity to attack, they should give a pin 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.

Communication
As with other screens, it is important to communicate that the screen is being set. With back screens (and most screens), the communication is primarily for the cutter and secondarily for the ball handler.  With a pin screen, these priorities are reversed.  With a pin screen, the cutter has very little work to do. A pin screen could be set for them, without them knowing, and it could still be effective.  Likewise, since they are away from the ball, they are likely to see the pin screen being set for them in their line of vision to the ball.

As a result, the communication in the pin screen situation is primarily for the ball handler. The ball handler is likely evaluating their options on the ball side of the court first. This is what they should do. However, a pin screen attacks the weak side of the defense.  A screeners’ communication that a pin screen is being set helps draw the attention from the ball handler to the weak side of the floor. This doesn’t mean that the offensive player will be open or that the pass should be thrown, but merely, that the screen is being set. It is still up to the ball handler to make a good decision.

Screening Angle
The screening angle for a pin screen is pretty straightforward.  The screen should be set on the defender to keep them in help side position for as long as possible.  In most cases, the backside of the screener will face the sideline, although if the ball is at the top, the screener’s angle may be more toward the baseline or the corner.

Using the Screen
This screen is probably the easiest screen to use for a cutter.  All they have to do is line up with the screener and the ball. In some situations, even this isn’t necessary.  It’s possible that the screener has done a great job of setting the screen and the offensive player doesn’t have to move at all.

Shaping Up
While a back screen can open opportunities for a player to get an open outside shot, the pin screen can create opportunities to get the ball inside. Primarily this occurs when the skip pass is made and the screener opens up to the ball.  As the defense chases out to closeout on the pass, the screener almost always has an advantage to post position on any defender.  It is just a matter of them finding a body and owning that position.  Post position can also be achieved before the pass is made if the weak side defender tries to anticipate the screen.  The screener can seal this defender out of the lane and look for the ball.

 

Post Defense: Fundamentals

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series Post Play

Playing post defense is very similar to playing post offense.  At it’s most basic level, it’s a fight for position.  The player with the best position usually wins.  Defining “best position” is a little more tricky.  The best position for a player like Brittney Griner is going to be different than the best position for a 5’8″ post player.  The best position may also be different based on team’s defensive strategy.  The best position may also vary based on the type of post players an opponent has.

Coaches must determine and define the best position for their players. Whatever that best position is, there are some fundamentals that players must be able to execute to be successful.

First Post Down
The earlier a post player begins to work for position, the higher likelihood that the player will be able to get the best position.  Defensive post play begins in transition.  The defensive post player must work to beat their offensive teammate down the court.  It’s not enough to arrive at the same time.  This inevitably gives the offensive player an advantage.

First Post to the Spot
Assuming the defensive player wins the race down the court, they must beat the offensive post to where they want to go. This could be to a post position.  This could be to a screen.  A defensive player who can get to the spot first can disrupt the timing of the offense.  They may not be able to keep the player from getting to where they want to go, but they can throw off the timing which helps their teammates immensely.

Team Defense
Good post defense requires a team effort.  There’s no way one person can guard a good post player alone.  The two clips below show that you can’t keep a post player from catching the ball alone.  A good post player will take advantage of the defensive position of their opponent.  There must be good ball pressure to make it hard to see open post players and to disrupt the timing of the play.

Clip 1

Clip 2

On the Catch
Inevitably the ball is going to get inside.  So then what.  It’s important for the defensive post to get between the offensive player and the basket on the catch. Then this player must remain low and ready to move.  Many post players stand up to try to be tall in the post instead of staying low and being ready to move.  Post players must not go for ball fakes.  This gives the offensive player an easy opportunity to make a basket and get fouled.

On the Shot
If the offensive post takes a shot, the defensive post is once again in a battle for position.  The defensive post must work to get good rebounding position so that they can get the rebond in case the shot attempt is missed.