What is a hedge in basketball? (Simple 4-Step Guide)

One of the most commonly used offensive actions around the world is pick-and-roll.

And one of the most common methods of defense pick and roll By “hedging”.

This is important to know, because whether you’re playing in the NBA Finals, for your HS team, or pickup on a local court, it’s impossible to play a game without defending a pick-and-roll.

So you better understand how to do it well!

When it comes to using defense in basketball, every defensive player involved must understand their responsibilities or the offense will have a major advantage.

Below I’ll explain what hedging is and how it works:

What is a hedge in basketball?

Hedging is a defensive tactic that involves the defender of the screener momentarily exiting the defense in an attempt to slow the ball-handler and prevent penetration.

Here is a list of what a rescue aims to achieve:

  • stop dribble penetration
  • Give the on-ball defender time to recover
  • prevent the ball from going to the “roll man”
  • Defend pick-and-roll effectively without switching

How to execute the hedge correctly:

1. Guess Screen

The first step to effectively hedge the ball screen is to guess the screen.

Perhaps the ball-handler has called for a screen, or you know their plays, or the screener starts moving toward the top of the key and your intuition tells you that a screen will be set.

Either way, guessing the screen will ensure that you get to the right position in time.

If the screen catches you by surprise, you will be too far to defend correctly.

2. Beat the Dribbbler on the spot

Assuming that you are setting up a tough defense, exit quickly and establish position.

You want to position yourself in the ball-handler’s ideal dribbling route.

This forces them to change course, hopefully taking a few extra steps toward the halfway point.

If they do, the on-ball defender will have time to navigate the screen and return to position.

3. Stay Connected to Screener

The defender of the screener must step high and wide while hedging.

But, it is important that they stay connected to the screener.

Remember we are not switching or trapping the ball…

When the screener rolls in or out of the hoop, the defender of the screener must go with them.

You also don’t want to give the ball-handler a chance to “split” the screen.

4. Get Your Opponent Back

Once the ball-handler has escaped the hedge, it is time to “fix” your opponent back.

The player who hedges must be right back with his arms to prevent (and potentially deflect) the pass if the ball-handler attempts to throw the screener.

The on-ball defender will slip under his teammate to return to position.

If they chase around the hedge, the on-ball defender finds himself behind in the game, which gives the offensive player a huge advantage.

Basketball Hedge Variations:

Tough Defense:

The defender helping on the screen steps up and ideally both feet are on the edge.

The idea here is to force the ball-handler to take several extra steps towards the half-court, which will give the on-ball defender enough time to navigate the screen and return to the guarding position.

When executing this hedge, make sure the ball-handler is not able to “split” the pick-and-roll.

flat hedge

Both feet of the defender’s screener are toward the half-court and must be level with the screen.

Here, the main goal is to prevent the ball-handler from using the screen to drive immediately.

The flat hedge forces him to take several additional lateral steps, while allowing the assist defender to stay connected to his core matchup, preventing roll passes or pick-and-pops.



The “hedge” in basketball is a defensive pick-and-roll strategy used to zero the on-ball screen.

Done correctly, the ball-handler will move further back from the basket, which gives the on-ball defender time to get through the screen and establish a good defensive position.

Every player must know how to hedge the screen.

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