Pin Screen: Combining actions

This entry is part 5 of 5 in the series Combining Actions

The pin screen may or may not result directly in a scoring opportunity. As a result, teams must be able to combine actions with the pin screen to maximize on the opportunity.  The pin screen can quickly shift the defense and create opportunities for the ball handler, perimeter cutter or post player take advantage of the defense if it did not react appropriately. The pin screen must be followed by actions and proper reactions to fully take advantage of any defensive breakdowns.

So what could happen next following a pin screen if the receiver doesn’t shoot (but maybe even if they do)?

  1.  They could drive. If the receiver’s defender closes out poorly, they should look to attack. They can attack either baseline or middle. On either drive, the other four players should react to the drive appropriately.
  2. If the receiver doesn’t have an opportunity to attack, the player who screened could be open if they have sealed their defender well.  If the pin screener is a good post option, this is a great way to get the ball inside.
  3. Remember the rule on any skip pass is that the player who is one pass away from the receiver becomes the cutter.  It is possible that there are no players 1 pass away, in which case there would not be a cutter.  However, if there is a cutter, there is a good chance this player will be open.

4. What if the screener is not a good post up option? The coach may decide to have the screener go to the other side of the floor. This creates more space for the drive, potential cutters as well as another pin screen opportunity. Having this player on the weak side also provides a weak side rebounder on any shot attempt.

Below is one example of a possession that combines actions in different ways.  This possession starts with a pin screen and incorporates a total of 4 pin screens.  Each one will be explained as we progress through the possession.
Page 366

The possession starts with the post player on the weak side. The post player finds 4’s defender in help and pins her in.  4 hears the pin screen call and slides down to line up with 1 and 5. This helps set up the pin screen and increases the closeout time for 4’s defender.







Page 367When the screen is set, 1 skips the ball to 4. In this situation, 5 isn’t going to be a good post option.  Maybe they didn’t have good position or maybe they thought 4 might shoot it so they wanted to be ready for the weak side rebound.  In this situation, 3 decided not to cut since they weren’t exactly one pass away from 4 when the pass was made.  It wouldn’t be wrong for 3 to cut. In fact they would probably be open, but let’s just say for now that they didn’t.  Instead 1 and 3 just fall in their spots.  Notice that 2 does not fill in. It would not be wrong for 2 to fill, but since 2 is more than 2 passes away, this is acceptable (and probably preferred).

5 decides to set another pin screen on their way to the other side of the floor, because 2’s defender sprinted hard to the midline into help position.



Page 368


So now on 5’s second pin screen 2 lines up with 4 and 5. 4 recognizes the pin screen call and skips the ball to 2. Again in this instance, 2 doesn’t have a good shot or drive opportunity.  Again there is no player 1 pass away from 2 so there is no cutter. If 1 wanted to cut that would not be wrong.  But let’s say again that 1 and 3 just fill.


Against man to man defense, it’s very likely that something would have happened by now, but let’s assume the defense is closing out really well and the offense has to work some more.



Page 369
5 again slides to the other side of the lane and find 4’s defender again.







Page 370
Again the pin call is made and 2 skips the ball to 4.







Page 371

Now something a little different is about to happen. 3 is definitely one pass away this time so that is an automatic basket cut.  If 5 can recognize it quickly enough, maybe they can set a back screen for them as they go by.  1 fill in but again 2 stays because the one pass away spot is already filled.






Page 372


3 finds 2’s defender helping on the action in the lane and pins that player again. 2 lines up with 3 and 4 and readies for the skip pass.








Page 373
Maybe 3 has a mismatch in the post and so 3 decides to stay in the post and seal after the skip pass.  1 fills again back to the other side of the floor.






Page 3742 realizes that the defender doesn’t closeout well this time and attacks baseline.  4 becomes the pitch option. 1 becomes the safety option. 3 and 5 fill the 90 and 45 degree windows.







Is it normal to set 4 pin screens in a possession?  That depends on the defense and how you coach your team. Is it likely that each of these 4 options will in some way, shape or form occur over the course of a game? Definitely.

The pin screen is an excellent tool to create offense for your team. Can your players throw a good skip pass?

32 Split Low

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

32 Split Low is the next call that we will explore.

“32” specifies a 3 out 2 in alignment.

“Split” specifies that the post players must be opposite of one another at all times.

“Low” specifies that the ball side post player should be in the low post.

***Side note: Remember the post spots are the Short Corner, Mid Post and Elbow. While the short corner is “lower” than the mid post, I’m referring to the mid post.

Remember these diagrams are not actions that are set in stone.  These are just possibilities. Your players will come up with more if you let them. I had fun with this one. I would like to see what other people come up with.


Page 636


The point passes to the wing. Boring right? You’re right it is, but I had to start somewhere. The screen for 2 from 4 is optional because 2 can just fill, but while 4 is there, they can make themselves useful. This could turn into a back screen or fade screen as well. For now we will keep it simple and have 2 fill the top spot while 1 fills out to the opposite side. Later, you’ll see what happens when this player fills to the ball side.








Page 637Of course, 5 is posting up and looking for the ball. If 1’s defender stops in help, like they are probably taught, 5 may not be open. That’s ok, because 1’s defender just set themselves up to get screened. If 1’s defender follows them out of the lane then 5 should be open for a post entry.  Of course if 4’s defender is helping off on the post then they should be open in the high post.

In this situation, let’s just say 1’s defender is in help side on 5. 4 can pin in 1’s defender. 1 lines up with 4 and 3 throws the skip pass. 2 cuts because they were skipped. In this case, they fill to the ball side. Since 5 is now opposite the ball, they fill the high post while 4 fills the low post.

4 may not be able to receive a pass off of a seal from the pin screen, but 4’s defender is going to have to make a choice.  Little do they know that behind them the other post player is moving to the high post and taking away help side defense.  3 is filling the top spot which brings the last help side defender 1 pass away. If 4’s defender plays behind, we should be able to get 4 the ball. If not, the lob should be available.



Page 638
If you’re Phil Jackson, this might look familiar. There’s a strong side triangle on the left side of the floor. We could have had this alignment on the first pass if 1 had cut to the ball side corner. Of course there are dozens of actions in the triangle that start from this alignment.

For the sake of continuing the offense, let’s say 4’s defender plays behind and we’re able to get the ball to 4.  1’s responsibility is to Laker Cut. Now they could Laker Cut and screen for 2, 3, or 5, but for now we’ll say they just fill out. Notice how turning the Laker Cut into an X-cut or into a back screen as a NBA would make things interesting.

Again 1’s defender should stay in help, which sets them up for a nice little pin screen from 5. 2 fills up from the corner. Of course 5 may be open on a dive to the basket, but that probably turns into a lay-up so let’s keep going.



Page 639
Notice if 4 puts the ball on the floor to the baseline side, 1 would fill the corner spot following the Baseline Drive principles.  If 4 drove middle, everyone would circle move. The question might be what about 5. I would encourage them to circle move to the right and be available around the low post/short corner.

However, 4 doesn’t feel comfortable trying to score or put the ball on the floor so they decide to kick it out to 2. They could kick it to 1 or 3 as well. The best option is the open option, and for now we’re going to say 2 is the open player.

4 could repost.  They could sprint into a ball screen, but in this diagram they screen away for the other post player. 5 knows their job is to go low since they are on the ball side.  4 has to stay high.  Notice we look a lot like we did in the second diagram.



Page 640This time instead of a skip pass, 2 passes to the top to 3 and cuts to the basket.  5 steps up and back screens 2’s defender on the cut. As 2 exits the lane, 4 back screens 1’s defender as 1 cuts to the basket.  Then 5 sets the second screen for 1 to either flare to the wing or curl to the lane. You might be thinking, there’s no way I could get my players to do all this.

I say, why not? Let’s keep moving. I will address that in a minute.










Page 641
1 and 2 have basically switched sides of the court. However, these actions were not predicated. Who knows what kind of match-ups we have right now. It’s quite possible that the defenders have switched at some point along the way or that a defender has gotten themselves out of position.  However, let’s say they’ve played great defense on actions that they couldn’t foresee, because our own players aren’t following a prescribed set of actions.

Now 3 decides to dribble-at 1 for a dribble handoff. 2 fills just as they would if it were a dribble-at.  4 and 5 wait patiently and prepare for the next action.






Page 642
As 1 turns the corner, 2 circle moves while 4 and 5 slide away from the penetrator to either open up the lane or open up themselves.








Page 643

Now 1 has a decision to make. Does the action have to stop on this penetration?  Of course not. 1 might dribble back to the top of the key and pass to a wing.  They might kick out to 2 who makes an entry pass to 4 and Laker Cuts.  The action could continue as long as the clock is running and the offense doesn’t give up possession of the ball by either shooting it or turning it over.

The point here is that this is just one combination of actions that are based on this one alignment.  Yet, the action could look very different at any number of points along the way. In each frame of the action, the ball handler could have chosen any number of different actions to take with the ball. Then as a cutter, what they do when they cut changes things. Even which side of the court a player decides to fill makes things different as well.





This may seem complicated. Remember all the players are doing is executing one simple action and then reacting accordingly. They don’t need to know what action to execute next. They just need to focus on executing the next one correctly. The action of the post players is not predicated either. Remember they have two rules to follow in this case.  The first is that when the ball is driven towards the basket to move out of the way.  The second is based on the call that we made at the beginning, “32 Split Low”.

You might wonder how post players know when to set these screens. You’re right, there are no rules, but they can be taught. These screens aren’t being set by them going way out of their way.  All of them “make sense” based on their location and the cutter’s movement. All they really need to do is see the cutter coming prepare for the contact. The cutter just needs to use the post players as they cut off of them.

The good news is that the offense doesn’t break if someone forgets to set a screen. Maybe a post player is busy posting up instead of screening.  Well this can be just as effective. Maybe they decide to set another kind of screen somewhere along the line. That’s good too. This single possibility has a number of others built into it. The way I see it there are no wrong answers as long as players remain spaced, move themselves with a purpose, and move the ball with a purpose, including attacking the lane off the dribble.

32 Split High

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

This is a first on this blog.  I’m actually talking about making a call. You might be surprised. I certainly think there are times when a coach can impact a game by making the right call. The question is how does that call change the team’s outlook. I will cover that in a different post. For now, let’s look at “32 Split High”.

“32 Split High”

“32” is obviously 3 out 2 in. That’s the easy part.

“Split High” refers to the location of the post players. “Split” tells them that one should be high and one should be low at all times. “High” means that the ball side post should be at the high post.

All I’ve done is called an alignment.  I haven’t called any actions. I haven’t restricted the play of the offense.  I’ve just created the opportunities for some interesting offensive spacing and actions.  There is no set pattern here. Let’s look at a couple different possibilities when players follow the basic concepts that we’ve outlined so far. These are actions that just naturally flow off of the basic actions of the players.  The combinations and possibilities are endless.


Page 629Initially, you might ask which post is “High” when the ball is in the middle of the floor.  You can answer that any way you want. It could be either, both or neither.  There is justification for all three answers.  I chose the 4 just because that’s how I happened to draw it. There is no specific reason.

In a very inauspicious beginning to the action, the point guard passes to the wing and cuts to the basket just like they are supposed to.  2 fills the spot vacated by 1 and 1 fills out to the corner.






Page 630As 2 fills up, 5 yells “PIN” on the backside and 4 sets a back screen for 2.  You can certainly call this a fade screen.  It could also be considered a “PIN” screen. Either of those are fine, but to keep it consistent with I’ve written so far, it would technically be a back screen. Pin screens are set on help side defenders.  2’s defender is 1 pass away. Depending on your defensive terminology, this could be considered “help side”.  Usually, I reserve help side for more than 1 pass away. Again, it’s up to you, it’s just important that you’re consistent with your players.

Back to the action. 4 is screening for a defender who is moving to get in the gap defensively to help on the potential middle drive from 3. 5 has pinned in 1’s defender. 3 has driving lanes and also has 4 passing options.  If the defense cheats the pin screen, 5 could be open on the weak side.  We’re screening for 1 and 2 and 4 might be open on the slip.  2 could certainly cut to the basket if the defender tries to chase over the screen.  In this case the defender tries to go under the screen.



Page 631Let’s say that no one is open or 3 just doesn’t feel comfortable making the pass or drive at that moment. 4’s defender probably helped on the back screen and will probably be late in getting in position on the ball screen if 4 will sprint to the screen.  If 1 and 2 don’t receive the ball from either of the screens, they should fill up.








Page 632As 3 drives off the screen, this filling movement keeps their defenders off balance.  If either of them help on 3’s drive, then someone will be open.  If not, 3 should be able to get into the lane with 4 passing options. 5 slides down as 3 drives. After setting the screen, 4 can roll to the rim or pop to the perimeter based on the defense and/or their skill set.


I didn’t draw this diagram, but let’s say 3 refuses the screen.  2 would fill behind 3 as a safety on that baseline drive.  1 would still go to the corner for the drift pass and 5 would rise to the elbow. 4 can dive to the rim or pop, again depending on the defense and/or their skill set.






Here’s a whole different set of actions

Page 629Everything starts just like the last set of actions.  1 passes to 3 and dives to the rim.










Page 633This time 4 sets a back screen and 2 dives to the block and posts up.  Maybe 2 gets the ball and maybe they don’t. Either way, 2 and 4 have switched roles. 4 has become the perimeter player and 4 has become the post player. This means that since the ball is on 2’s side, they must come back to the high post, if they are going to stay in the post. In this case, I’m assuming 2 wants to stay in the post for a pass or two but doesn’t receive the ball. If they did receive and entry from 3, there would be a Laker Cut and then who knows what might happen.







Page 634

On the pass to 4, 3 cuts off of a back screen by 2.  They might be open, but if they aren’t they continue to the rim and run off a down screen from 5. Without really trying that hard, we’re just set a staggered screen for 3  They can curl off this screen if they are being chased or pop to the corner if not.  As 4 reverses the ball to 1, 5 posts up off the screen and 2 back screens 4 back into the post.  Again if 4 can shoot, 4 might fade off of this screen.









Page 635

If 5 isn’t open on their seal after the second staggered screen for 3, they can sprint into a ball screen.  5 can roll or pop off of the screen based on the defense and their skill set.  Everyone else is either circle moving or sliding in the post.










Here’s an exercise for you.  Take “32 Split High” and following the concepts that you understand, what are some combinations that you can come up with?  How do things change if there is a dribble hand off as the first action?  What happens if the action starts with a back screen on the wing?  What if we make an entry pass to a post player, but that player doesn’t take a shot?  What other options or opportunities are created?

Pin Screen: The Whole Part III

As mentioned in the previous post on pin screens, this post will extend the discussion of setting pin screens in a 5 out alignment to a 4 out 1 in alignment. We covered setting pin screens as Next Best Actions out of the 5 out alignment. That’s the simplest way to teach players to set pin screens out of this alignment.

In the 4 out 1 in alignment, the opportunities to set pin screens as NBAs still exist.  There are not as many opportunities as in the 5 out alignment, but they still exist. In addition, there are a number of other opportunities to set pin screens with the permanent post player.

A previous article discussed the location of the permanent post player in a 4 out 1 in alignment. It’s pretty obvious how a post player on the weak side can set a pin screen for the perimeter player on the weak side.  All they have to do is find their defender and screen them. Their defender should be pretty easy to find. If the ball is on the wing, they are probably very close to if not in the lane.  That’s exactly where the post player should be. There should be very little effort involved.  It’s just recognizing this defender and screening them. What if the defender is not in help? Well that’s even better.  That provides open opportunities for cutters and penetration. If they are in help, they are susceptible to this screen.  Even if they see the screen coming, they still have to avoid the screen to get to their player on the pass. This extra second creates the opportunity for a poor closeout as well as a post entry.

If the defender leaves too early, they will take themselves out of help position.  If they leave when they are supposed to, they will be fortunate to closeout in time.  If they hesitate at all, they will be at a disadvantage.


Page 342The basic 4 out 1 in alignment offers an immediate pin screen opportunity as long as the post is on the weak side. This can be very effective way to begin an offensive possession. Especially if the ball handler is a threat to attack., the help side defenders can’t anticipate the pass. They have to be ready to help, which makes the pass and screen easier to execute.








Page 345This alignment is achieved when a player cuts and fills to the ball side corner. Remember 4 doesn’t have to fill up because they are more than one pass away. With the post on the weak side this sets up another good opportunity for a pin screen.  The perimeter player has the freedom to work the whole weak side of the court to catch their defender asleep.  All the post player has to do is find that help side defender.








Page 343



This is fairly typical alignment. Whether it follows a pass from the top to the wing, or a dribble at, when the player cuts and fills to the weak side, they set themselves up for a great pin screen.  Their defender stops in help like they are supposed to, and then all of a sudden they are being screened in.  Of course the pass has to good and the player has to be ready to play with it when they catch it, but the X’s and O’s are pretty simple.






Page 344Here’s a unique looking alignment. This is easily accomplished if 2 starts on the left wing passes to the top and cuts through to the corner.  1 could also be on the left wing and dribble at 2 who cuts through to the opposite corner.

Now we have the possibility for two different pin screens.  5 could screen for 2 or 4. Either one would work just fine. On this pass, 3 or 4 should cut following the skip pass rules.  This cut could be enhanced by a back screen following the pin screen.

If the help side cheats the screen, you’ve got a clear out on the left side for your point guard. If your point guard can beat the defender in front of them, something good should happen.






I just listed 4 examples of how to set up a pin screen when you are playing with one post player and after one action has been executed. Of course your teams will learn how to set them after 4 and 5 actions as long as your post players are on the weak side. The NBA options are still available as well which gives your team even more ways to set pin screens. I hope this helps your team score more points.



Pin Screen: The Whole Part II

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

The first pin screen article was written with a focus on the pin screen coming as a NBA out of a 5 out alignment. The diagrams showed numerous  single actions that can be easily followed by a pin screen. However, pin screens are no different than any other screen.  They are most effective when the defense doesn’t expect it.  So making it the first action every possession makes it more predictable.

If your players can set a pin screen after the first action, shouldn’t they be able to set one after the fifth action or the 15th action?  Of course a possession may not last long enough to have 15 actions, but the concept is the same.  Once a player finishes a cut, that player can set a pin screen. Pretty simple, right?  I think so, except let’s look at it a little deeper.

One question a coach should consider before having their players set pin screens is the player being screened for.  Do we want to set a pin screen for a driver?

Some coaches may say no. They might say this is a wasted action. If the player can’t shoot it, the screen is wasted and our offense is easy to guard.

Some coaches might say that it doesn’t matter who the screen is set for. The pin screen helps get the defense moving from side to side and increases the chances for a defensive breakdown.

I think this is something each coach needs to answer for their situation on their level. It might even be a question that is answered from game to game.

However, I think we should encourage our players to REGULARLY set pin screens for shooters.  You can change that to ALWAYS if you want. However, at least regularly, if a cutter notices a shooter on the weak side of the floor, they should look for that weak side defender and make the defense pay.  It doesn’t mean the passer has to make the pass.  It doesn’t mean that the shooter has to shoot it. However, the threat of this action will take some of the attention of a help side defender away from the ball.

We’ll talk about the pin screen from a 4 out 1 in alignment in the next post on pin screens.

Pin Screen: The Whole

This entry is part 4 of 7 in the series 5 player Combinations

There are so many ways that teams can set pin screens.  They can come from any number of players at any number of times.  The coach must decide which are the best times and places to set pin screens.  In the Description of Pin Screens, a few different options are mentioned.  The primary focus for this section is the Next Best Action. Therefore, we will approach this topic from this angle.  Pin Screens can be set by post players or by alert perimeter players and do not have to be NBAs.  However, in order to keep things streamlined, we will talk about the NBA method first out of a 5 out alignment. This removes permanent post players from the equation and gives ample options for cutters.

As we mentioned in the offensive fundamental breakdown of the pin screen there are three players in this action that we must be concerned with: the ball handler, the screener, and the player being screened for. Since we are talking about this being an NBA, we must have a first action in order to have a second one. Remember our first action can come any number of places. It could be a simple pass & cut. It could be a dribble-at or a read line cut. It could come as a result of a back screen. It could come from an attack dribble and a kick out.

Think about this.  How many times have you ever seen a player attack the lane kick it out and immediately set a screen?  With all the attention going to the ball on the attack and then to the kick out, think about how blind the weak side defense would be to a pin screen.

So with 5 players on the court in a 5 out alignment, start the ball anywhere you want and have the players make one action of their choice and then set a pin screen once they finish their cut. They are learning that it is going to be pretty tough to set a pin screen on the same side of the court that they just passed to or cut from. Most likely, this screen is best set on the other side of the floor. In some cases, the player may have more than one option for screening possibilities.

Below are a few different single actions that can lead to pin screens in a 5 out alignment.  The first is a simple drive and kick.  The initial driver sets the pin screen for the weakside player.

Page 339Page 340
Page 341
This is a simple pass and cut.  Most 5 out alignments have this corner player either fill back to the corner that they came from or back screen for the opposite corner.  While both of these are legitimate options, a pin screen works as well. Depending on how the defense rotates, 1 can screen 2’s defender.  If 4 drives baseline, 5 should be wide open.  Can 4 make this left handed pass?

Page 337Page 338

This just a simple dribble-at.  Again if 1 crosses over and goes baseline, there should be a wide open shooter on the weak side.

Page 335Page 336

Maybe 4 is being overplayed.  This is another way the Pin Screen can get set.  Remember 2 and 5 don’t have to fill.  They are more than 1 pass away.
Page 333 Page 334

This is the same as the last diagram except the ball is in a different spot.  3’s cut is bound to draw attention from weakside defenders.  When they help, pin them in.



Page 331 Page 332

Again, this is a simple Dribble-At.  In this case the ball is in the middle of the floor, so there is no “weak side”, but player 5 is 2 passes away so theoretically their defender should be in help.  If they aren’t, this can turn into a back screen/flex screen for a layup.

Page 329Page 330

The ball shifts sides of the floor on the skip pass.  While the defense is recovering to their new positions, 3 can find one who is in help and pin them in.  Most defenses can recover to one skip pass.  Can they recover to the second one when there is a screener there to slow them down?

Page 327Page 328

This skip pass may seem a little unorthodox, but against a team who is trying to keep players out of the lane, it sets up a nice pin screen on the weak side.

Page 325 Page 326
Here’s another Dribble-At from a different location.  Even if 1 crosses over to their left and attacks the middle of the floor, 2 can seal in 4’s defender for a wide open shot.

Page 323 Page 324

This is the most simple and straightforward action. It’s a simple pass and cut from the top.

Page 317Page 318

Pin Screen: Defensive Fundamentals

The Pin Screen helps offenses counter help side defense. It is difficult to defend an action that takes advantage of defenders being in the correct position. For most other off ball screening actions, being in the proper position makes a defender harder to screen. In this case, the opposite is true.

Would you tell your players to not be in help position so that they don’t get screened?  I don’t think so, but they might start inching closer to their player and out so that they don’t get screened. It may only take one step to cause a late rotation.That’s part of what makes this weak side screen so effective.

The key to defending the pin screen is to make the pass as difficult as possible. Ball pressure can make the screen irrelevant if the ball handler can’t see the receiver or is under too much pressure to make a good pass. If there is a lack of ball pressure, there isn’t much a defense can do to keep the pin screen from being effective.

Once a defender recognizes that the offense is setting a pin screen, the defender can work to get to either the high side or the low side of the screen.  This way, it becomes easier for them to closeout on the pass while it is in the air. The defender must move on the pass and must closeout well while avoiding the screen as best they can.

In the end, defending a pin screen starts with good ball pressure. However, if the ball handler can make a good solid skip pass, a Pin Screen is one of the most effective tools against defenses who place a priority on being in help position when they are away from the ball.