What is an illegal screen in basketball? (full explanation)


Aside from travel, no rule in basketball confuses people more than an illegal screen.

Due to improvements in three-point shooting and more spread of the game, screens are a big part of every team’s offense.

In every game you will see on-ball screen, pick-and-roll, pick-and-pop, etc.

Teams perform dozens of these actions in every game.

There is only one thing…

Many screens are on the verge of being illegal.

In this article, I’ll give a breakdown of an illegal screen in basketball and I’ll show you how to teach players to avoid setting an illegal screen.

What is an illegal screen in basketball?

A screening offensive player must follow several rules in order to be a legal screen.

Once the screen is set up, the player must:

  • hold their position
  • Give the defender space (one step) to escape the screen

In such a situation, players often get into trouble.

Defenders are taught to anticipate the screen and slide around them to maintain their defensive position on their man.

Illegal screens often occur when a defender projects a screen and “beats” his man on the spot, causing the screener to change his position.

Example of a (barely) invalid screen

There is a lot in the eyes of the officer about what is or isn’t illegal screen.

Take, for example, this drama between Dayton and Richmond:

He is close.

Screener is seen with his left shoulder leaning forward and slightly out as the defender goes, even though his legs don’t move.

By law, this is technically an illegal screen…

Although I would argue that subtle motion is a natural tendency to engage oneself and did not bring any undue advantage.

With the hard contact and the way the defender crumpled to the floor, as well as being out in the open, it looks worse than ever.

Teaching players to avoid illegal screens

stress your players that they should set Clean, hard, legit screen.

Players who cheat with an extra elbow on their screen or try to stick their backs into the defender are often labeled as cheap or dirty.

You don’t want to be known as the dirty team.

At the lower levels, playing a clean and legal game is much more than trying to eliminate every little lead because the officials may not notice.

invalid screen

Why do teams use screens?

screen or “selects” Crime is one of the most effective ways to generate profit.

The screen can be set to either “on ball” (for a ball handler) or “off ball” (for an offensive player who is not in possession of the ball).

Most of the offensive assets rely on screens because they are excellent at:

(1) Creating space for shooting and driving

(2) generating mismatch

Illegal Screens in the NBA

Pick-and-roll forming the foundation for many NBA offenses, there’s no shortage of players usually center – who have made a name for themselves from their bone-crushing screens.

Take for example the first play of this video…

Humphries gives Rondo several moves to avoid contact, holds his position, and keeps his arms, legs, and hips rigid.

A textbook screen.

It’s up to Rondo’s teammates to say “Pick” and tell him he’s running toward a brick wall.

Some teams are even starting to track what they call “screen assist,” where open shots are made for well-set pics.

You can’t watch a Utah Jazz game without praising Rudy Gobert’s screen help numbers several times with local announcers.

But with so many picks being set, many players are getting better at how they set them…

…and many borderline illegal (or just plain illegal) screens are ignored by the authorities.

This is not to defame the warriors.

(every team does the same)

But they use multiple off-ball screens, are precision shooters, and have been one of the best teams for the past decade, making them easy targets.

Such calls are often ignored.

Watch how Andrew Bogut and Drummond Green casually get in the way of defenders as they try to keep up with their man.

In most cases, they are not set or square and are certainly not giving the one step space needed to accommodate the defender.

Like Journey, the game is being played so fast, and even with three officers, they can’t see everything at once.



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