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5 Ways to Defend The Wing Ball Screen

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Ball screens have progressed from the days when I was a kid ("Set a screen for me so I can get my shot") to an intricate action that can show up at any time in any offense. They are used as offensive entry actions, space creators and most importantly to control matchups. They have been part of basketball since Dr. Naismith hung his peach baskets in the Springfield, Ma. YMCA and invented the game. Since Michael Jordan changed the game to a "matchup and isolate" game, ball screens have become a bigger and bigger part of the game. If you don't learn how to defend them, you are at a severe disadvantage.


In a typical wing ball screen action, the ball handler (1) takes the ball to the wing. The screener (2) comes to the wing at an angle where 1 can run his defender (X1) into the screen and drive across the screen.   Playing the Ball Screen 1


This is the most common way of playing the wing balll screen.

In this defense, as 1 approaches the screen by 2, 2's defender (X2) steps out in the driving lane over the top of the screen.

X2's purpose is to force 1 to take a path wider than the ball handler would like and contain the dribble. By forcing 1 wide, there is room for X1 to get over the top of the screen and continue to play the ball.

 Playing the Ball Screen 2 
 Once X1 clears over the screen and re-establishes his defensive position on 1, X2 recovers down the lane to defend 2 on the roll   Playing the Ball Screen 3


In an "slice" defense, as 1 dribbles toward the screen, X1 jumps over the top of the screen and attempts to push the ball away from the screen, back to where it started

X2 plays down the lane and becomes a help defender in the event that the ball handler "rejects" the screen and drives toward the baseline. X2's job is to contain the ball handler until X1 can recover on the ball.


 Playing the Ball Screen 4 

Once X1 recovers on the ball, X2 decides if he needs to recover to 2 or to remain a help defender

This is used to force a ball handler to his weak hand or to prevent ball reversal. 

  Playing the Ball Screen 5


The "Push Up" is used when the screener is more of a threat to "Pop" for a jump shot after setting his screen than the ball handler is in scoring from behind the screen

As 2 sets his screen, X2 steps up into the screen (2) and pushes the screener hard with his chest. His objective is to try to move the screen further from the offensive area than the screener would like. Moving the screen up forces the ball handler (1) to drive higher than he would like, out of his scoring area

  Playing the Ball Screen 6
X1 now goes below X2, who maintains his contact with the screen and meets the ball on the other side   Playing the Ball Screen 7

Once clear of the screen, X1 reaquires his defensive position on the ball.

X2 maintains his contact on 2 making it difficult for him to recieve the ball for a pop, shot or roll

  Playing the Ball Screen 8


A "blitz" is used to disrupt an offense or if you need to try to steal the ball on a ball screen.

As the play developes, X1 tries to drive the ball handler (1) toward the screen. He tries not to leave an option for 1 to turn back.

As 1 comes over the screen, X2 jumps into the ball handling lane

  Playing the Ball Screen 9

X1 and X2 trap the ball hard over the top

Because the trap is a 2 on 1 situation (2 defenders on 1 offensive player), it is important that a weak side defender (D) slide into the lane to protect the basket and rotate to defend the screener if he rolls

 Playing the Ball Screen 10 


"Slide" is used when the ball screen is out of an imminent offensive area or when neither the ball handler (1) nor the screener (2) are threats to score.

As the ball screen develops, X2 steps back, toward the basket, as 2 sets his screen. That creates a space between him and the screener (2). As 1 handles over the top of the screen, X1 "slides" through the space between 2 and X2 and meets the ball on the other side.

  Playing the Ball Screen 11
Don Kelbick

Coach Don Kelbick has had 27 years of coaching experience, 25 at the college level including 14 years as a head coach and 10 years as a Division I assistant including stops at Hofstra University, Marist College, Keene State College, and Florida International University. In 2 years as a high school coach, his teams produced 6 Division I players and was ranked #1 in Florida 28 out of a possible 34 weeks. In addition to coaching he has scouted for NBA teams, including the Knicks and the Hawks, and served as a general manager in the USBL.

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