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How to Read Down Screens in Basketball

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During the last few weeks we have had several players and coaches email us asking about scoring in the half court. Coaches are asking if there is anything they can do to make their offense run more smoothly while players are curious about how they can score more points. The answer to both of these questions relies in down screens.

Today, down screens are making a huge resurgence and are once again becoming a staple in many teams' half court offense. Coaches like them because they take away the overplay, help players get open, and allows to basketball to be reversed easier. On the other hand, if players can learn how to read these screens correctly, they could see their scoring averages possibly before the end of next season! Today we are going to talk about the 4 reads that players need to make when receiving a down screen as well as how to drill down screens in practice.

Catch and Shoot

All screens are set in order to get players open. Whether this opening is to reverse the ball or to create a shot depends on the defense. In an ideal situation, the defender guarding the player receiving the screen gets hung up long enough to leave the offensive player open on the perimeter. When this happens, players should come off the screen looking to catch and shoot the basketball immediately.

Curling the Screen

Before coming off a down screen players can do two things to increase their chances to score. First, players need to set their man up for the screen. To do this take two steps away from the screen before coming off of it shoulder to shoulder. Second, players need to read how their defender is guarding them. If the defender is on the outside hip this tells the offensive player to curl the screen. When curling the screen, the cut should be as tight as possible ensuring the defender can't squeeze through. At the same time the cutter needs to have his hands in order to help make the shot quicker!

Bodying up the Screener

A read that players don't usually make often enough is rejecting or back dooring the screen. As soon as the offensive player notices the defender trying to body up the screener and be the aggressor, he should reject the screen and go back door. This works because the defender will get caught up on the screen which will make him a half step slower in reacting to the cut.. Another thing you can do in this situation to improve your chances of scoring is to give the passer a target hand.

Flare the Screen

The last read I want to talk about is flaring the screen. Generally this occurs when the down screen is set on the weakside of the court. If a defender is playing "help side" defense he will usually try to beat the offensive player to his intended spot. If the offense sees the defender going over the screen, he should flare to the corner. This will create space between the receiver and his defender which might lead to an open shot attempt.

How to Practice Down Screens 

Like everything else skill related, the secret to mastering down screens is practice! The more your players can practice reading their defender the better they will become at this crucial skill. The best way to give players time to practice is to run a controlled drill in practice. Have players split into groups each containing a guard and post. Instruct two groups to step out on the court - one on defense and one on offense. The ball starts with the post players on the wing. After passing the ball to the coach at the top of the key, the posts will then set a down screen for their partner. This drill can and should be run at several baskets at the same time.

When first implementing this drill, tell your defensive players how you want them to guard the down screen. This will make it easier for your offensive players to read the screen until they perfect the skill. If you spend as little as 15 minutes a week, spread out over several practices, you will soon see your players and your offense becoming much more efficient.

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