Ball screens are important in modern basketball. Defenses have come up with different coverages to try to prevent the offense from creating an advantage from the ball screen. There are many defensive coverages such as drop, high-flat, hedge, trap, switch, and more. As a counter to many of these coverages the rescreen has become important and has found new interesting applications that we will present.
In the continuous chess match between the offense and the defense, a lot of coverage solutions has been popularized as well. It’s hard to say “created” as nothing is really completely new in this sport. Think about flipping a screen, changing the angle at the last moment to prevent an aggressive coverage, or using a short roll to punish a trap to the ball as examples of coverage solutions. Learn more about punishing coverages from The Basketball Podcast: EP81 Ross McMains on Offense
Rescreen vs Under
Let’s start by analyzing the main use of the rescreen. This is when the ball handler’s defender goes under the ball screen and the ball handler doesn’t want to take a shot (for multiple reasons such as distance from the basket, individual abilities, moment of the game). The screener can make a quick pivot and re-screen the defender, now closer to the basket than in the initial ball screen.
Now that the action is getting closer to the rim, it is going to be even riskier going under the screen. If the defense does in fact go over the screen the second time, the offense now has generated the momentarily 2-on-1 that is the goal of every ball screen action.
Here you can see two video examples of the rescreen being used for this specific purpose:
Rescreen vs Ice
In these two clips the defense is playing an ICE coverage (trying to keep the ball on the side) and we see a nice example of great teamwork between the ball-handler and screener, the true sign of an excellent ball screen.
First picture: The defense is playing ICE, with the defender being between the ball handler and the screener, channeling the ball toward the sideline and the help defender.
Second picture: At the same time the screener starts to roll, forcing his defender to worry about him, the ball handler makes one strong dribble to attack. Now the ball seems to be over and the defender recovers back in front, and not on the side.
Third picture: Now the screener sprints back up to screen the ball again. This time, he is able to send the ball handler toward the middle of the court, where the defense didn’t want him to go at the beginning of the play.
In the video, you can see how the defense decides to go under this screen, to avoid an easy middle drive, and the offense uses a rescreen.
Should the offense instead just flip the screen immediately when the defense presents ICE coverage? This is a legitimate question and in some situations flipping the screen and attacking that side could be the first solution used by a team, but instead let’s focus on another crucial point when using a ball screen:
It’s one of the first things you will hear in every gym when coaching how to use the ball screen and it’s easy to understand why: creating separation with your own defender allows you to have some precious spatial and timing advantage when you turn the corner of the ball screen. This expands the 2-on-1 advantage and forces the big man to complete an even more difficult task.
Look at the separation at the moment of the rescreen: no contact, no inside foot trying to cancel the screen and pass with the offensive player, and no hands ready to put pressure on the ball handler right after he turns the corner.
Rescreen When an Advantage is Not Triggered
To analyze this situation, it is crucial to have clear in our minds what a slip is and which cues can lead the screener to initiate his roll early. Slipping instead of smashing (creating contact and then roll) is becoming more and more popular in basketball.
The main reason to slip is that the advantage is already triggered, and this could be caused by two cues:
Reading the Screener’s Defender: the defender is already over the high shoulder of the screener, anticipating an aggressive coverage or a switch. They could also simply be at the level of the screener but with their legs straight, not in a position to play good defense on the slip.
Reading the Ball Handler Defender: this type of slip was less used in the past and it’s a distinctive feature of a more modern and dynamic style of play. The screener should read the position of the defender if he’s trying to force the ball handler into the screen until the last moment (I personally suggest my players focus on the hips of the defender as it’s the easier cue for me). If the defender’s hips are open and they are already chasing, the advantage is already created.
Check out this video for examples:
To summarize this use of the rescreen, we want to rescreen when the advantage has not been triggered, or has been triggered but then lost, on the initial screen or slip. This can happen due to a great effort by the defense cancelling the screen, or by a misunderstanding of the two players involved in the action.
You can clearly see this concept used in the previous video as there is an initial ball screen and the advantage is triggered BUT the defender is able to recover in front of the ball. The offense then chooses to rescreen, creating an open lay-up opportunity.
Rescreen vs Aggressive Coverages
Another situation where the rescreen can be used effectively is when a defense plays an aggressive coverage, like a hedge or a trap. It’s possible to rescreen the defender and catch the screener’s defender in an impossible position! It’s nearly impossible to be aggressive on two screens in a row.
Here you see the defense being very aggressive, almost at midcourt to hedge on the ball, while the ball handler defender is going over the screen.
In this second picture, you see how the roller stops to set a rescreen, and his defender is on the wrong side of the floor.
So we have seen another possible use of the rescreen, which is to loosen up an aggressive coverage.
I love to play devil’s advocate and I think it’s a very successful tool to grow as a coach. I’m going to spend some time on arguments against the rescreen. Let’s go back step by step and think about how we could have solved these situations without a rescreen:
Rescreen vs. Under: If we don’t want rescreens as part of our system, we can focus on preventing this specific coverage instead of punishing it. This could mean a more flat screening angle toward the baseline. This makes it harder to go under without allowing the offensive player to get in the paint.
Rescreen vs. ICE Coverage: Instead of trying to attack either with the screener or with the guard, we could do the opposite. This means to take one dribble back diagonally toward the halfcourt and flip the screen.
Rescreen When the Advantage is Not Triggered: We could simply coach our players to move on to the next trigger, either playing a guard to guard DHO or maybe lifting the big man back up to pass the ball to him and play on the opposite side.
Rescreen vs. Aggressive Coverage: We could ask for a different coverage solution. For example, the idea of “moving it early and moving it twice”, is a great tool vs. aggressive coverages that prescribe to the roller to roll deep, fast, and diagonally into the paint.
I think that in the modern way of coaching, we can cultivate a team that’s able to play different coverage solutions throughout the game and the season. We can use SSGs and the CLA (constraints led approach) to try to cultivate multiple coverage solutions by changing the constraints to the offense and defense every time. With my team, I’ve often played guided defense situations from 2v2 to 5v5 where on the first ball screen if the defense was going under our primary solution would be a rescreen. I’ve also played 4v4/5v5 situations where the rescreen was not allowed and we stimulated players to come up with alternative solutions to those coverages.
If we are thinking about a professional team or a context where every game is heavily scouted and prepared we can think about using strategic solutions to the problem.
I’ll give a quick example. Let’s say that we are playing against a team who’s primary coverage on ball screens is an aggressive hedge. We might decide that with our starting 5, who is an excellent passer and decision-maker in the short roll, that we want to use that tool, but with every other big man in the rotation we don’t feel comfortable using that. We prefer to use the rescreen as a coverage solution.
But this assumes that our team is already capable to pick from their toolbox. It also assumes that the team has enough of an understanding of coverage solutions that they know what works best with each player on the team. There is no time to practice every single tool against every single coverage every week so it is important to prioritize.
Learn more about the rescreen in this video explainer: