How to Set Good Screens

As players develop more advanced basketball skills, setting a pick becomes an important strategy in running a successful offense.

Players who can set a pick or screen effectively, will assist their teammates in evading the defense and create more opportunities to score. These drills break down the basics of setting a good screen.

Setting a Pick

Offensive players use a pick or screen to help a teammate get around his defender. When setting a pick, an offensive player approaches behind the defender. The teammate will be able to see the pick and plan his next move accordingly.

When the defender attempts to follow his offensive opponent, he won't be able to stay with him because the pick will stop or alter his movement.

Setting a pick can create space when the offensive player is closely guarded, and can help him beat his defender and pass or shoot the ball. On-ball screens are effective, but off-ball screens can also help an offensive player shake his defender and cut to the basket.

Practicing the Pick

The screener approaches the player preparing to cut away for the ball. The player setting the pick will be facing his teammate and will position himself behind the defender.

To set a pick properly, a player should make sure his feet are slightly more than shoulder-width apart with his knees comfortably bent. His arms should be raised with elbows out and forearms held at the chest to protect against the defensive player. The picker should attempt to take up space without raising his arms away from his chest.

After setting the pick, the player cannot move. The screener must remain stationary, set his feet, and keep his body upright to avoid an offensive foul. He needs to be balanced and prepared for the defender to run into him.

Drilling the Pick

Begin by practicing with only the picker and the cutter:
  1. Divide players into groups of two. Instruct one group to form a line from the low post on the left side of the basket. This is the cutting line.
  2. The second group of players line up at the high post on the right side of the basket.
  3. The first player in the pick line runs straight across the lane to set a pick on the left side.
  4. The picker should assume the proper stance in front of, and facing the cutter. The cutter is preparing to run around the screen for a pass.
  5. Once the pick is set, the cutter should fake to one direction and then move around the pick to avoid the defense. He should cut as closely to the pick as possible to cause the defense to run into the screen.

Once every player has had a turn, players switch lines to practice playing the other position.

When players are comfortable with the first drill, add defensive opponents. This drill doesn't helps the offense learn how to set a pick, and is a great way for the defense to practice guarding against a screen.

Players have a few options for defending a pick:

  1. If the player defending the cutter is aware of the pick being set, he can squeeze or step through the pick.
  2. If the play is occurring far from the basket, where the offensive player isn't a scoring threat, the player defending the pick can step back, allowing his teammate to slide through and maintain his coverage of the cutter.
  3. If the player guarding the pick can anticipate the screen, he can warn his teammate and call to switch positions. The player guarding the cutter will switch and guard the picker, while the player formerly guarding the picker is free to cover the cutter.
  4. Both setting a screen and guarding a picker requires advanced skills, good communication and effective teamwork on the court.

    If you enjoyed this article, make check out our complete archive of youth basketball drills.

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