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.

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.

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.


Pin Screen: Description

This entry is part 9 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

The Pin Screen creates offensive advantages in a variety of situations.  It is a screen set on a player in a help position to keep them in help position and open a passing lane to that defender’s player.  Any cutter can set a pin screen. They can also be set by post players. They can be set at a variety of angles and in a variety of locations. Since this series is focused on NBA’s, we will focus on setting the Pin Screen as a NBA.  We will discuss this again when we talk about Post Screening options.

Pin screens are best set on the defender closest to the ball in help.  The goal in setting a pin screen is to delay the defender’s closeout on a skip pass.  Over time, this may draw the defender out of help position or create mismatches as defenses adjust to defend this screen.

We’ll look first at Pin Screens set by cutters.

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Here 1 passes and cuts to the basket.  Instead of filling out, they see that 4’s defender is in help position in the lane.  They decide to stop and “Pin” in the defender.  Remember from the pass and cut layer, players have to fill spots that are one pass away from the ball.  In this case, 4 fills the open spot, but is not required to.  When 1 sets the pin screen on 4’s defender, 4 goes back to their original position, inline with 1 and the ball handler (2).
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Keep in mind 2 does not have to make this pass.  It is just an option.  If 2 does not make the pass, 1 again becomes a “cutter” and can execute another NBA or 1 can just fill out to the perimeter.  For the sake of the discussion, let’s assume 2 makes the pass to 4.  1 would immediately open up to the ball and look for the ball. If they were to receive a pass, the passer would Laker Cut.  If they do not receive the ball, they again become a “cutter” and able to execute another NBA.

In the diagram above, they do not receive the ball and begin to fill out to the other side. On the way, they recognize another defender in help position.  1 turns and sets another pin screen on this defender.  This could be 2’s defender or 5’s defender.  Either are options.

Notice 2 does not fill the top spot in this diagram.  This keeps 2’s defender in help position giving 1 the option to set the pin screen on either defender.  2 could fill to the top spot.  Neither is right or wrong.  However, the best way to set up a pin screen for perimeter players is to be patient when they fill spots.  In the below diagram, 1 could set another pin screen for 4, but this time 1 decides to fill the corner spot.

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When a pin screen is set, the screener should call the ball handler’s attention to the screen by screaming “PIN!”  This also tells the perimeter player to line up with the screener and prepare to receive the pass. If they do not receive the pass, they will still have the opportunity to fill as needed.

Keep in mind the different ways that a player can become a cutter.  Their teammate might “dribbled-at” them, and made them a cutter.  It could have been a result of a Read Line cut.  Maybe a teammate set a back screen for them.  Cutters can set pin screen after any of those actions.

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Phase II: Transitioning from the Foundation to “What’s Next”

This entry is part 1 of 13 in the series Next Best Actions

We’ve built the foundation and the primary structure.  Now it’s time to turn the house into a mansion.  The first 100 posts have been all about the Foundational Layers of the Read & React offense. These will always be part of everything we talk about. Why?  Because they are all about that little orange sphere.  They are all about that magic pill we call a basketball.

We started with the Attack Dribble.  There’s no mistaking it’s importance.  Besides being the first main topic, it was mentioned in over 50 of the first 100 posts. You can go back and read about it.  I won’t harp on it anymore right now.

Then we moved on to Dribble-At and then to Passing which covered both perimeter and post passing.  These are critical too. However, to stop with these layers would be like putting up the outside walls and not making rooms inside, not to mention furniture or decorations.

Some teams may only need the foundation.  Some teams may only have time for it.  Some levels of basketball don’t need a mansion.  If you’re coaching middle school teams or rec league teams, the foundation is probably all you need.  It’s probably all you have time for.  You may not even have time for all of those.  However, as the level of basketball increases there has to be a next level, a next step.  The foundation is still critical.  You’ll never get anywhere without it, but you have to take the “NEXT” step.

So you ask….”What’s NEXT?”

These are the “Next Best Actions.” Offense is about to get really fun really quick for those of you who eat, sleep, and drink X’s and O’s. Defense is about to get complicated. The NBA’s (not David Stern’s league) are the actions of cutters.

Remember, the person with the ball has a choice of what to do with the ball.  They can shoot, dribble, or pass.  If they shoot, the response of their teammates is rebound (or prepare for transition defense depending on your philosophy).  If they dribble, their teammates have a specific response based on the type of dribble.  If they pass, there is a certain response.  Unless a shot is taken, each of these actions results in a cutter.

Now we will train the cutter on their “next action.”  Until now, they only had one choice.  Their next action was to fill out to the perimeter.  This action is not eliminated.  This is still an option.  However, they also have other options that they may choose from.  Coaches may decide to make these decisions for them.  That’s another topic and another discussion.  Regardless, every cutter must make a decision on what to do “NEXT.”

The cutter’s options are:

1.  Fill Out
2.  Post Up
3.  Set a back screen
4.  Set a post screen
5.  Set a pin screen
6.  X-cut
7.  Set a ball screen
8.  Set a screen for another cutter

These are a lot of options.  You may only choose one or two of these.  You may be able to teach all of them.  Less may be more for some teams.  Other teams may need all of them. That’s up to you to determine.

I’m going to attempt to cover them all in as much detail as I can.  Covering the foundation was like swimming the English Channel.  Tough, but doable.  Covering all of these seems like the Atlantic Ocean right now.  We’ll see what happens.  One stroke at a time right?