Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills

Van Gundy - ballscreens

Jeff Van Gundy

When the ball is out front, cushion and contain rather than pressure it. The attacker is looking to drive, not pass. The defender of the screener announces pick and roll coverage early, loud, and continuously (ELC talk), e.g., "show, show, show".

Defending a High Screen

If he knows the screen is coming, X5 tells X1 to "back up" so X5 won't have to go out. X1 backs up then bodies up to 1, making him use the screen. X4, X3 and X2 form a triangle to shrink the floor, with X4 in the middle of the lane (form a triangle of lane protection on any ballscreen). X2 and X3 stay level with 2 and 3.

With regular "show", X5 steps out but stays attached to the screener, often screening X1. With "show high-low", X5 explodes out one step away from the screen on the same angle, making 1 go wide. X1 can go over the screen (but under X5), or under the screen (the higher the screen, or worse the shooter).

The problem with show is that the xscreener is above the screen. As the screener rolls to the basket, X4 steps up to meet him hard as early as possible. Show man X5 turns and sprints but stays high to take O4 who comes up to replace O5 (show high, stay high). X2 inches out, X3 inches in.

Spread Pick and Roll

A defender calls out "spread right" (or left). Show is the worst defence because X5 gets above the screen and X4 has to help on roller 5, leaving 4 open and a long close-out on a 3-point shooter.

A better approach is for X1 to force 1 into the crowded side of the floor. If this can't be done, use "soft", which is like a soft trap. X1 bodies up and forces 1 to use the screen, X1 goes over or under it. X5 is initially one step below the screen, gets into a position between the ball and the basket, and stays there, retreating until X1 gets back in front of 1, or 1 dribbles back out or picks up the dribble.

X4 has to bump roller 5 towards X5, narrowing the passing space, then releases back to 4. X3 protects the lane, X2 inches out towards 2.

His teammates protected him, now X1 has to protect them by disrupting the first pass. His hands are up high to make 1 make a hang-time or reverse pivot pass.

Show gets you in trouble against the very best. If Van Gundy were back coaching high school, he would switch more, and use soft with a big defender on the screener.

Shake Pick and Roll

The Rockets want to drop X5 to the dots, have X1 go under the screen, and not have any defenders suck in from the strong side. If 5 re-screens for 1, X5 stays between the ball and the basket.

When there is an attacker in the ballside corner, they will "down" the pick and roll, not letting the dribbler come to the middle. A good attacking team will counter by using a step-up screen, so the dribbler can use it and go baseline (X1 would go under the step-up screen).

At the last second, X1 will veer to 5, switching with X5, and getting rebounding position on 5.

If 1 does not have a play and dribbles under the basket (Nash, Stockton), the Rockets call "midget", which means no help then switch back once the dribbler comes out and clears the lane line.

The Rockets will give up long two-point shots, what beats you are free throws, layups, and 3s.


Defence when the ball is on the wing is "no middle", but when 5 comes to set a ballscreen and X5 calls the coverage, X1 gets to 1's body and makes him use the screen.

The Rockets will use show high-low. X4 comes across the lane, and X3 sits on 4's top leg.

They will also trap a good ballhandler, better to have him pass than create a shot. X5 calls "blitz" three times. X3 sits on 4's top leg when he punches to the middle.

Once the trap is set, the other three defenders are zoning and watching the ball, regardless of whether 2 and 3 exchange on the weakside.

On a pass out of the trap to 2, everyone recovers to their own.

On a pass to 5 in the corner, X4 closes out, X3 covers 4 flooding ballside, X1 goes to a help position at the elbow, and X5 pursues back to take 4 and kick X3 back out weakside.

X2 has first pass weakside. If 5 skip passes to 2, X2 closes out and X3 takes 3.

However, if X3 is still protecting against 4, he will have trouble closing out on 2 if 5 passes to 3. In this case, X2 takes the ball, X1 takes 2, and X3 takes 1 (x-action by X1 and X3, shown).

The same x-action can be used when a perimeter player is double-teaming the ball in the low post and a skip pass is made.

Straight-On Pick and Roll

Always play "weak", with no confusion. X5 calls "back up". X1 forces O1 to his weak hand, X5 plays soft between the ball and the basket, drops to the dots, or can show.

This page was made with Basketball playbook from Jes-Soft

2007-23 Eric Johannsen