Basic Basketball Screens (Picks)
If you've ever watched the game of basketball, the great basketball teams set very good screens (picks). Screens (picks) will open up your offense in many ways. It doesn't matter if you primarily use a ball screen offense or an open post offense.

For example, when an offensive player sets a good screen (pick) the offensive player receiving the screen will have a good opportunity to score and pass to someone who is open. Once the defense adjusts, the screener often becomes wide open for shots. If you're setting good screens, it'll open your game as well. Most of all, it benefits the TEAM.

In this article, we will cover what a screen is, how to set a screen, how to run off a screen, and how to use basic screens.

Breakthrough Bonus: Download the "Basic Basketball Screens" article as a FREE PDF! (Download Now!)

Here's the definition of a screen:

When an offensive player legally blocks the path of a defender to open up another offensive player for a shot or to receive a pass.

Fundamentals of the Screener (Person setting the screen):

  • Feet should be a little wider than shoulder-width apart. It's very important to have a wide, strong base.

  • Hands should be crossed across your chest (girls) or protecting your groin area (boys)

  • The screener needs to be stationary as the screen is set. Otherwise, the screener will be called for a offensive foul.

  • Body should be vertical (should not be leaning forward or backwards).

  • Square to the defender. The middle of the screener's chest should be in line with the defender's shoulder and hips.

  • After the offensive player has ran off the screen, it is very important to open up to the basketball. Normally, you will pivot 180 degrees to the basketball. Sometimes, a cut to the basket or away from the basket may be open. Many times, the screener is the person who is open.

Fundamentals of the Person Receiving the Screen
  • Set up the defender - It's very important for the offensive player to set up the screen. First of all, (s)he needs to wait until the screener is completely set. If (s)he leaves too early while the screener is moving, the screener will get called for an offensive foul.

    Second, it's very good to set up the screen by faking the opposite direction even if it's only a slight head fake. This will get the defender leaning in the wrong direction and when he explodes the other direction to catch up with you, he'll run hard into the screen.

  • Shoulder to Shoulder - When running off the screen, you will need to run shoulder to shoulder. This will not give the defender any room to get around the screen. It will force him to either trail behind you or plow through the screener for a defensive foul.

  • EXPLODE! It's very important for the offensive player to blast off of the screen. This will leave the defender in the dust and give you much more time to set up for a shot.

Next, we cover some basic screens:

- Down Screen
- Ball Screen
- Back Screen
- Away Screen

Basic Screens

  • Down Screen - A player runs toward the baseline closest to their basketball goal to set a screen. In the next two diagrams, we have examples of down screens.

    In this diagram, Player 1 starts from the three point line and runs to the block area to set a down screen for Player 2.

    In this diagram, Player 1 starts from the high post area to set a down screen for Player 2.

  • Ball Screen - A ball screen is when an offensive player sets a screen for another offensive player who currently has the ball in possession. The only time you will want to set a ball screen is when the offensive player still has his or her dribble.

    In this diagram, Player 1 is at the top of the key and Player 2 runs from the wing to set a ball screen on the defender guarding Player 1.

  • In this diagram, Player 2 is setting a ball screen on the defender guarding Player 1, except this time he is coming from the high post.

  • Back Screen - A back pick occurs when the screener sets a screen away from the ball on the defender's back. It may also be called a "Blind Screen" as well. Legally, the screener is suppose to give the defender one step, otherwise, the screener may be called for an offensive foul.

    In this diagram, Player 2 comes from the block area to set a back screen for Player 1 near the three point line.

  • In this diagram, Player 2 comes from the block to set a back pick for Player 1 on the wing.

  • Away Screen - This is when a player sets a screen away from the ball. This happens when a player passes the ball to a player, then runs away from the ball to set a pick for another offensive player. This can also happen when a player is denied the ball, and he goes away from the ball to free up another offensive player.

    In this diagram, Player 2 passes to Player 3 and runs away from the ball to set a screen for Player 1.

   Down Screen1 (4K)

Down Screen2 (4K)

Ball Screen1 (4K)

Ball Screen2 (4K)

Back Screen1 (4K)

Back Screen2 (4K)

Away Screen1 (4K)

Related Resources

European Ball Screen Offense DVD

Open Post Offense DVD

Executing The Basketball Pick and Roll

How To Use And Set A Pick In Basketball

Basketball Pick and Roll Offense

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rogelito h. abanggan says:
7/30/2007 at 9:30:01 AM

coach, can you give me a drill on screening?


Jeff Haefner says:
8/1/2007 at 10:14:44 AM


We will be adding more screening drills to this website soon. In the meantime, check out the screening drills included in our free Winning Drills eBook. If you don't have the eBook yet, you can get it here:

Once you open the eBook, you'll find screening drills on pages:
25, 57, 59, 71, 73, 75, and 135

Hope this helps!

Jeff Haefner


AMMIT says:
9/4/2007 at 10:59:30 PM



maher matar says:
9/19/2007 at 2:58:46 AM

i like it so much .


Amy Teller says:
10/30/2007 at 1:16:37 AM

This really helped me understand the rules of screening. Do you have any info on when a screen is done players call out switch?


Coach Graham says:
10/30/2007 at 10:59:37 AM

Excellent explainations of the different basic screens. I coach young girls, so this will help me to exlplain the screens in a very simple form.


Joe says:
10/30/2007 at 2:36:10 PM

Hi Amy,

I'm not sure which viewpoint you want, so I will give you both defensive and offensive view points on switching on screens.

Switching on Screens (Defense)

You may want to switch if two guards are setting screens for each other and the defensive players have equal ability. That way a disadvantage is not created. If most of your players have a similar height and have a similar athletic ability, you may want to switch on screens.

If a post player sets a screen for their guard player or vice versa and you switch on this screen, this creates a disadvantage. Your guard defensive player is guarding the opposing team’s post player and your defensive post player is guarding the opposing team’s guard, which can create a huge disadvantage. Any smart team will know how to take advantage of that situation.

Switching on Screens (Offense)

If you notice the defense is switching on ball screens, the screener should try to pin the defensive player on their hip, pivot to open up to the ball, and roll to the basket. Often, this is wide open.

If a switch occurs away from the ball, the same thing should happen. The screener should try to pin the new defensive player on his hip, pivot to open up to the basketball, and maintain good position for an entry pass.


magdy says:
11/23/2007 at 2:54:21 PM

thank you


coach ronnie says:
11/28/2007 at 10:07:04 AM

What kind of screens can you set against a zone defense?


Coach Chris says:
11/28/2007 at 5:56:32 PM

I've heard people like Hubie Brown talk about a 'dribble pick'.

I have never learned this technique - can you explain? How do you do it, when and why?



Don Kelbick says:
11/29/2007 at 2:20:37 PM

Coach Ronnie

You can set the same kind of screens against a zone as you do against a man with 2 adjustment.

The first adjustment is timing. Because a zone moves with the ball, setting a screen too early will be ineffective because the defense will not be in the same place when the ball arrives. The screen should be made at the time the ball can be delivered, maybe even when the ball is in the air. It is not as hard as it sounds, it just takes an awareness of when to pass the ball.

The second adjustment is to screen an area instead of the player. Since coverages change with ball movement, the defensive player who is defending a player when the ball is in one place, won't be defending with the ball in another area. For example, if you have a player on the block who you are going to bring to the wing, screening the player defending on the block will not be effective. You need to screen in the area on the wing where your player is going to cut to.

To be an effective screening team against a zone, you need to think as a zone coach, understand how the zone moves and what the coverages are and then screen, at the proper time, the areas where you want your offensive players to be effective.

If I can be of help, feel free to contact me

Don Kelbick
Contributing Editor, Breakthrough Basketball


Jack Connor says:
1/25/2008 at 2:54:07 PM

My homeschool group is doing Basketball in PE. This is guys and girls together, and everyone is working really hard, but our coaches lack even the most basic knowledge (by their own admission) and could use some quick pointers. Any help?


Joe (Co-founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says:
1/27/2008 at 3:10:50 PM

You can look at our fundamentals page at this link:


chris servas says:
5/18/2008 at 5:19:03 AM

more important than timing when it comes to screens against zone defenses is POSITIONING.Once a screen is given and is checked{or in frequent cases the defense is disturbed or distracted],the offense is given the opportunity to make the defense guess and once the defense doubts it becomes blinded and through positioning on areas of the floor open shots or great opportunities develop.Another very effective weapon against the zone defense are the jump passes{seems very awkward but very very ffective.


kajuan says:
5/19/2008 at 8:52:34 AM

the piston is sweet


Coach Doggett says:
6/21/2008 at 10:38:48 PM

Another easy way to help kids understand getting themselves square to the person they are screening is to tell them to point their rear-end wherever they want their teammate to go. This forces the shoulders to be square to where their teammate is going.


sipo says:
10/31/2008 at 4:53:02 AM

you guys are great am getting better at basketball because of you thanks.please hbey me download some of yourebooks.


Kelsey! says:
11/12/2008 at 6:37:46 PM

I like this site i am playing a basketball game tomorow and had no clue what to do thanks for the help Seriously!


Del Edwards says:
12/14/2008 at 6:20:08 PM

Playing two on two, I pass the ball to my teamate, he is standing still, I run towards the basket passing by my teamate then he follow behind me. Is this a moving pick ? One member of our group seems to think so.


Joe Haefner says:
12/15/2008 at 1:58:46 PM

I think that would be a judgment call by the referee. If it works, keep doing it. If that ref calls it a foul, stop doing it.


alyssa says:
1/25/2009 at 8:36:05 PM

hey this really helped me on learning how to screen i am in 7 th grade and my coach was getting mad at me for not knowing how to do that THANK YOU SOOOO MUCH!! love....ME ALYSSA


Max says:
1/30/2009 at 8:02:36 PM

i liked it, but it think real pictures would help loads...


Jeff Haefner says:
2/24/2009 at 8:33:13 AM


This link answers your question:


natasha says:
5/11/2009 at 10:13:03 PM

um can u tell me what the lines on the court stand for? and what offense and deffense is? thnk you


natasha says:
5/11/2009 at 10:13:55 PM

oh and upload some real pictures so i can understand more tnx


pat says:
6/6/2009 at 11:31:48 PM

is a screen the same as a pick n roll ? I always get confused when im on the court doing screen drills .


Joe Haefner says:
6/8/2009 at 9:22:02 AM

Pat, they are not the same.

A pick and roll is an option off of a ball screen. After the ball screen is set, the screener will roll to the basket.


dakota says:
6/9/2009 at 5:53:53 PM

what is a pick


dakota says:
6/9/2009 at 5:55:03 PM

is a pick like a screen in basketball


kay says:
6/29/2009 at 11:12:11 PM

i have no idea how to play basketbal im new at it,and all my teammates get really made when i dont know what to do ,can you guys give me everything you know about basketbal.........!!!! thanx so much


Scott says:
7/17/2009 at 11:10:44 PM

I am looking to clear something up concerning picks that are being set in a 5th grade youth girls basketball league. We have a team in our league that is setting illegal and dangerous picks in my opinion. This team has girls setting picks with their arms crossed but raised with their elbows facing out. They are also getting in this postion and literally chasing my guards around looking to set a "pick". I obviously know that these girls are supposed to be stationary when they set these picks, but is it also illegal to have your arms raised out from your chest and have your arms in this position when they are on the move to set the pick. I had a "couple" of calls from the ref concerning this, but he is old school and believes that girls at this age should just play. How will these girls ever learn if not properly taught? I have had a couple of my girls get absolutely wiped out by a few of these dangerous picks. Can you clear up for me what is leagal and Illegal? What do I tell my girls to do in this situation. Do I have to have some of bigger girls flatten one of these ladies setting their illegal pick if nothing is done by the ref. We wil be playing this team again.

Thanks fo the help


Joe Haefner says:
7/21/2009 at 12:44:03 PM

Hi Scott,

I understand the ref's position on just letting the girls play. Depending on the age level, you could call a violation every 3 seconds and the girls would never learn how to play.

However, it is important to teach girls not to lead with their elbows on screens. Otherwise, someone could get injured.

I would never have a girl retaliate. That will give the girls the wrong message.

Calmly approach the referee and express your concern. If the screens are so bad that kids are getting hurt and the referee is not doing anything, don't play.


Truax says:
8/4/2009 at 2:01:13 PM

I'm 9th grade player, and my coach gave me a paper on the basics of basketball. In one place the paper says, "Don't pass too fast - make sure you look inside before swinging the ball on the outside"
What do the words "inside" and "outside" refer to?


Truax says:
8/4/2009 at 2:02:46 PM

Sorry for double posting, but I forgot to ask, what is the difference between a perimeter player and a post player?


Summer says:
10/2/2009 at 10:26:14 AM

Can you help me understand WHEN to screen...I am not very good at diagrams and I am trying out for my Middle School team in 12 days. I haven't played on a team since second grade. Could you tell me what coaches look for most in players trying out for their team?



Joe Haefner says:
10/2/2009 at 2:01:26 PM

Hi Summer,

When you should screen is probably determined by your coach. Every coach has different offenses with different options. I would ask your coach.

Coaches typically look for players with these qualities, not necessarily in particular oder:
- Good attitude
- Always hustles
- Makes lay ups
- Plays defense
- Takes care of the basketball
- Unselfish - shares the basketball and makes their teammates better
- Athletic ability
- good rebounder
- Aggressive
- Plays smart
- Plays to their strengths. Does not try to do what they are not good at.

These are some of the main things that coaches look for, but there are other things as well that I can't think of right now.

You don't have to be able to do all of these things to be a good player. I don't know of too many players that can. You could be a very good rebounder who hustles all of the time and that could get you a lot of playing time. Or you could be a point guard who takes the of the ball, hustles, and plays great defense.


Summer says:
10/2/2009 at 10:35:12 PM

What should i do to prepare my self for basketball tryouts in 12 days if i havent played on a team since the second grade?



chris says:
10/3/2009 at 1:20:09 AM
Find out more about the magnet motion offense system of basketball at you can also find the latest nba and other basketball news and features
Make it a point to play everyday before the try outs.when the try outs come ou just have to ply team basketball and be relaxed on the floor dont worry too much about scoring.


JBN says:
11/11/2009 at 8:07:14 AM

Great information, coach. I think the last word in the bullet on "Set up the defender" should be "foul" instead of "player."


Jerry says:
11/17/2009 at 10:44:36 AM

What are some good basic plays for a zone offense?


Jerry says:
11/17/2009 at 10:50:24 AM

What are some good basic plays for a zone offense


rjd says:
11/29/2009 at 10:35:13 PM

what are the basic basketball drills that we can do to develop a good inside screen skill??
we just need for our physical education class..thanks!


Selina Marie(: says:
12/7/2009 at 12:54:58 PM

my names Selina Marie Aycoth(: the only reason im on this website is because im wrote out of PE. i think basketball is a fun sport to play, but i suck at throwing, lol. but i play football wich im really good at(: well i dont know what else to say, sooo byeee(:


Selina Marie(: says:
12/8/2009 at 12:53:43 PM

its Selina again(: lmao(:


Michael Jackson says:
1/13/2010 at 10:38:01 PM

Wow! This actually helped me understand screening! Maybe my coach won't yell at me anymore..:D


Sulata says:
2/10/2010 at 4:46:42 AM

Thanks a bunch for this helpful article, guys!


Jasmine says:
10/29/2010 at 10:01:40 PM

This helped alot, i play 8th grade basketball and my coach used the term 'Back Screen' today. I was confused, so I decided to google it, Thanks for this website, it's helpful.


John says:
11/25/2010 at 11:22:25 AM

I have a question: If the dribbler and a teammate decide to run to the basket together, in such a way that the dribbler is practically right behind his teammate, but there is NO opposition from any defender(eg., no contact, no contesting the dribbler, etc.), is this act a violation? It is clearly not a pick, b/c nobody is contesting the ball.


Professional Sports Fan says:
12/30/2010 at 1:13:39 AM

Basketball Dribbling is probably one of the most popular skills of the game - second only to shooting. Players at every level of competition love to dribble the basketball! There's something about having that basketball in your hands that just feels magical!


RJ says:
10/13/2011 at 11:37:52 PM



RJ says:
10/13/2011 at 11:44:44 PM

Jerry, are you my fiend jerry who goes to the rec?


vince pocalyko says:
2/19/2012 at 5:32:09 AM

can a player setting a screen extend his arms above his head?,,,, The player's feet were planted and not moving but when I tried to get around him, to cover my player, he (the screener) raise both hands and arms straight up and I never saw that before,,,,, Is that illegal or not????


Ken says:
2/19/2012 at 9:00:33 AM

Vince -

I have never seen that done before and I certainly wouldn't teach that.... I think you would want your arms in front of you to protect your body.

Interesting question.


Rod Gerwe says:
12/1/2012 at 9:21:12 PM

Lousy grammar ("has ran") used in above explanation! It should say, "has run." Writer should master simple verb conjugation.


Ken says:
12/2/2012 at 4:56:43 PM



Josh says:
1/30/2013 at 2:09:20 PM

when setting a screen I wait until my player has used my screen, at the time my player has rolled, i roll off and head toward the basket or trail my player. this usually results in the defensive player not only being blocked by my initial pick but also blocked by my ROLL. most times this occurs, people see it as a moving screen. I do not. I was set until my player used my screen. at that exact moment I roll. IS THIS CONSIDERED A MOVING SCREEN OR NOT? please i need to know because its annoying to get called for something you feel was clean.


Ken says:
1/30/2013 at 2:28:39 PM

Josh -

The Pick and Roll is a basic part of a lot of pro teams, college teams and high school teams too.

From what you describe, the intial P&R, that doesn't sound like and illegal screen.... as long as you are not running someone over.

I've never seen someone P and follow.... I've seen a lot of P & Pops.

We always told our players that the guy that sets the best screen or pick, is usually the guy that gets open IF they help.... make yourself available...... we did this a lot too..... set a screen and after the player has used the screen, we would open up the way the defender went and asked for the ball as we came back to it.

Are the refs calling this illegal?


maki says:
6/29/2013 at 11:54:55 AM

i would like to ask on how to select an mvp?
or what is the criteria in choosing mvp?


Lee says:
11/20/2013 at 9:24:49 PM

Great stuff.


pat says:
3/10/2014 at 11:37:52 PM

Wanted to know advantages and disadvantages or when and what way to pivot after screens. Im seeing both reverse pivots and sometimes front pivots. Is there a formula for this?


Coach Ali says:
4/30/2014 at 7:44:57 PM

I've coached girls and boys from 2nd graders to 9th graders over the years. The kids picked up on setting screens (picks) pretty good. I think the hardest screen for them to execute is the away screen. The players just couldn't grasp the idea of going away from the ball My Middle School and Junior Varsity girls picked it up after a while, but the younger players is a different story. Do you have some helpful hints for me to be "more clear" on what and why they are going away from the ball? Also, will you please post some more drills to execute some of the basic screens and screen and roll?
I enjoy your website!


Ken Sartini says:
4/30/2014 at 7:56:01 PM

Coach -

First of all, the person setting the screen raised his fist so the person receiving it knew that the screen was coming.

Second of all, the person receiving the screen needs to take his defender away from the screen... to the block .... and then come back to the screen going right off the shoulder... there should be some slight contact with a hand target for the pass.

Hope this helps.


Ray says:
6/8/2014 at 10:03:17 PM

What if the player who set the screen is being overpowered by the defender? (pushed away)
is that a foul?


Ken Sartini says:
7/15/2014 at 8:07:52 PM

If he is making a lot of contact that is a foul... hard to say since I cant see it, but from the way you descrive it it sounds like a foul.


J says:
7/31/2014 at 11:06:47 PM

Can you pivot while setting a pick on the defesive player as he attempts to go around you?


Joe Haefner says:
8/4/2014 at 5:44:26 PM

J, I don't believe so.

If they are trying to get by you, that is classified as a "moving screen."

However, I see players screen, pivot, and keep the defensive player on their back to post them up.

I would ask a referee.


Ken Sartini says:
8/4/2014 at 8:25:27 PM

I agree with Joe... as long as you are trying to post a player up that shouldn't be a foul.

IF you are doing that purposely to block a player, I would think thats a foul... but to be safe, like Joe says, you can always ask the ref.

We ran a play that looks like this...only got called for a block once.. it all depends on the ref.


basketball player school team says:
10/28/2014 at 8:02:24 PM

and when u pick don''t try to move right away or sometime the reff will call moving pick sometimes. aswell as doing it to late sometime it look likea moving pick. what i do is use my defender as a pick or run behind the dude going side way and let him run into me and then i maybe get hurt alittle but still ill make the basket


basketball player school team says:
10/28/2014 at 8:04:17 PM

iff am missing anything post please ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^


alanian says:
11/18/2014 at 11:22:47 PM

okay, so basically the person who screens goes to the person whos on defense , so that the person on offense ( one on ur team ) can score or pass the ball to someone else?


Andrew says:
10/1/2015 at 4:47:15 PM

Even though this post is old (maybe no ones paying attention anymore): First off, I think the content on this site is great, as a coach of 10-12 boys, it helps me to get my practices organized and focused. Thanks!.
Real pictures might actually slow load as they might be larger, given less compression, etc.
What might help would be to insure the graphics are optimized and compressed and get your web developer to use sprite sheets instead of individual pictures.
That way there is only one call to the server -- so you get every picture at once.


derek milbottle says:
5/24/2016 at 4:00:10 AM

iff I run into the wall how much braanin damadage will I cet. plz helpz

  1 reply  

Nay Nay says:
9/25/2016 at 7:52:32 PM

If you run into a wall, then you will find out what the outcome is. 9 times of out 10 you probably won't get brain damage so it depends on how hard you hit the wall.

Why would u ask some kind of question anyway? What made u think that type of question? Just don't hit your head period, or at least not to.


Leo Gaviola says:
1/27/2017 at 1:27:37 AM

Informative & helpful for those eager to know basketball screens.


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