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Defending Down Screens

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Down screens are an especially dangerous action for any offense. Properly timed and spaced, they create real problems for any defense.

It is important to create a philosophy and practice actions necessary to defend the down screen that fits with your overall defensive philosophy.


A down screen, or pin, occurs when a wing player (2) angles down and sets a screen on a player set on or near the block (1). Defending Down Screens1


With the ball on top, (3), defenders (x1 and x2) are in their proper defensive positions.

2 now angles down and sets a screen for 1

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In this defense, the defender (x1) upon recognizing the down screen is coming, immediately gets to the low side of the offensive player (1) and "locks" on his bottom hip.

By doing so, x1 insures that he will not get hit by the screen.

x2 adjusts his positioning due to the screener's (2) movement and is now on top of the screen, between the offensive player and the ball, effectively in low post defensive position

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As the cutter (1) cuts off the screen, x1 chases behind, the 1's outside hip onto the perimeter Defending Down Screens4
x2's responsibility, in addition to not allowing a direct pass to 2, is to contain the curl, should 1 decide to do so. Defending Down Screens5

As x2 guards against the possibility of 1 curling, there is a danger of 2 slipping the screen and diving to the basket.

Since all dfense is team defense, a weakside defender (x3) rotates toward the play to defend the possibility of a 2 slip after the screen.

This leaves 1 with only the option to step out on the perimeter.

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With the offense under control, defenders can now recover to their own assignments. Defending Down Screens7


In this downs screen defense, 2, again, angles down to set a screen for 1

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As the play developes, x1 prepares by getting to the top side of the screen.

As 1 makes his cut off the downs screen, 1 then "shoots the gap" by defending in the area between the screener and the ball, getting in the passing lane between the passer (3) and 1. This prevents the pass to the wing.

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Well schooled offensive players will recognize this and will turn and "fade" to the corner. This is especially dangerous if 1 is a good shooter. There are 2 ways I like to play this.

First, I will have x1, with hands raised, will chase down 1, remaining in the passing lane. This forces a high pass which allows 1 to recover on the shooter.

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The second way I like to play it is, 2 angles down to set the down screen and x1 "shoots the gap." Defending Down Screens11
Especially with like players, I will have x2 switch and cover the fade pass and have x1 cover up 2 to prevent post entry. Defending Down Screens12
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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