As is the case with many actions in this style of play, the difficult part of this layer is less in the X’s and O’s and more in the fundamentals required to execute it. Breaking down this action can be accomplished with any number of players. There are 3 players involved in he action: a passer, a screener and a receiver. These are 3 players in the pin screen action. The coordination of these three players actions is critical to the action’s success.
This action starts with the screener. The screener must find a teammate’s defender who is in help position and set a screen on them. Most players can recognize this opportunity pretty easily. Setting the screen isn’t difficult either. In most cases the defender isn’t moving. All the screener has to really do is get in the way. Their most important responsibility in this action is to communicate their intentions. Proper communication of the pin screen is vital to its success. Communication of the screen brings awareness to the ball handler and the potential receiver that the pin screen is being set. This is an action that is not predicated on the action of the ball. Since the offense trains many of the players to react to the action of the ball, this communication is vital to players becoming aware that something else is occurring. Any time a pin screen is set, whether it’s a breakdown drill or the championship game’s final play, players must call this screen for their teammates in order for the action to work successfully.
Once the screener has done their job, it sets the rest of the players into action. The receiver’s responsibility is pretty simple. They need to line up with the passer and the screener in order to maximize the use of the screen. Then they just need to prepare to receive the pass and make a good decision once they catch it.
The passer is the player that completes the action. This skip pass is the most difficult skill for players to master related to the pin screen. A good skip pass is very difficult to defend. A bad skip pass hopefully only ruins an effective screen. At worst, it turns into a fast break layup situation for the opposing team. Many players either take too long to throw a good skip pass, or they throw them poorly. Teaching players to throw strong accurate skip passes is crucial to the success of the pin screen.
Why is the skip pass a good offensive weapon? It forces all 5 defenders to change their position quickly. Players who were in help must get out of help and players who were not in help side must get to that position. At the same time offensive players are moving which can cause significant challenges for defenders to stay in good position. The threat of the skip pass can also pull defenders out of help position. A team who never throws a skip pass is asking for defensive teams to crowd the ball side, which makes it more difficult to score. Teams who do throw the skip pass, can cause defenders to cheat to the weak side and open up dribble penetration lanes as well as post entry passing lanes.
What makes a good skip pass? A good skip pass has very little wind up. It is thrown with the whole body and not just the arms and hands. A good skip pass is thrown with zip in almost a direct line over the top of the defense. It lands in the receiver’s shooting pocket so that all the player has to do is step into that pass and shoot it. A good skip pass should be thrown with two hands. The ball should start above the head but not behind the head. With hands on either side of the ball and knees bent, the passer should take an explosion step into the pass with their knees, hips, and core and finishing with a quick snap of the wrist.
It’s important for the ball handlers to understand that they should only throw the pass if they are able to make a good pass that will be caught by the receiver. Setting a pin screen doesn’t mean that the pass must be thrown. However, if the pass is thrown, the offense must continue to function. So, if the pass is thrown, the post player should immediately look to seal for position and be ready to react to penetration.
Let’s talk about some building blocks for this action. With other actions, we started with 1 on 0 and building from there. While there are certainly ways to breakdown the individual roles and skills of the 3 people involved in the pin screen, it’s easiest to start teaching the pin screen action 3 on 0.
The most introductory and basic 3 player building block for the pin screen has the ball on the wing, the screener on the weak side and the receiver on the weak side as well. The screener calls for the pin screen. The receiver lines up with the ball handler and the ball handler throws the skip pass. There’s not much to this building block, but it teaches the most basic parts of the action.
As we stated previously, the pin screen action starts with communication from the screener. This means that the screener has to recognize the opportunity. The next building blocks will initially put players in situations where there is no pin screen opportunity, but where one is created following another action. In a 2 out 1 in alignment and the post on the weak side, the ball handler passes to the wing. Following their rules, they cut to the basket and then out to the weak side. We have now created another pin screen opportunity.
Notice the pin screen opportunity still occurs with the players starting in the same spots but with the ball on the wing. The angle of the screen is not the same, but it’s a pin screen nonetheless. This building block looks like a 3 out or 5 out alignment.
Notice what happens when we shift to a 4 out alignment. Everything still works exactly the same way.
Now let’s look at another way to set up the pin screen. In the same 2 out 1 in alignment, when the ball handler dribbles at the player, a cutter is initiated and a pin screen can be set.
Throwing the skip pass is not a requirement. For the purpose of the drill, it’s a good idea to throw the pass to build proficiency at that skill. On the pass, the receiver could shoot it, drive it, or throw it to the post player. If the receiver drives or passes, the other two players on the floor should react accordingly based on the rules that have already been taught.