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.