Teaching Off Ball Screening and Cutting Down Screens

A down screen is set by a player moving toward the baseline, for example:

  • high post player setting a screen for a low post player;
  • guard at the top of the court (“point position”) setting a screen for a wing perimeter player.

Typically, when setting a down screen, the screener’s back will be facing the ball.


“Down Screen Cuts”

The player passes the ball to the coach and will then cut off a “screen”:

  • A cone or preferably a chair is placed inside each block replicating the screener
  • Players cut off each chair to receive pass from the coach.
  • Initially Coaches calls the required cut, straight, back, curl and flare
  • Players make the required cut, calling out the cut (“e.g. “straight”, “flare” etc) and where on the court they will be.
  • Players rebound their own shot and pass back to the coach and move to other side


“2x0 Down Screen”

Two passers have a ball each. One player sets a down screen for the other. The cutter practices all four cuts, calling out the cut they make (this can also be chosen by the coach).

Teaching Points

  • Screener uses visual signal (“clenched fist”)
  • Screener comes to a jump stop (one count)
  • Screener calls wait, wait and then “go” when they are in position
  • Cutter calls the type of cut, straight, curl, back, flare
  • Cutter cuts late, locking off with arm shoulder to hip


Offensive communication

On a Straight Cut:

Cutter- “straight”
Screener – “basket”

On a Back Cut

Cutter- “back”
Screener – “pop”

On a Curl Cut

Cutter- “curl”
Screener – “pop”

On a Flare Cut

Cutter- “flare”
Screener – “post”


With a flare cut, the screener may “re-screen” before moving to the post.


“2x1 Down Screen”

Defence plays on the cutter and can choose how they wish to play. Cutter must read their defender and make correct. This can be done with one passer, who passes to the cutter if they get open and to the post player if the defender is able to guard the cutter.

The coach should emphasise to the passer to be patient - it is a 2v1 situation so eventually one offensive player will be open.


“2x2 Down Screens”

2x2 contested drill, with 2 passers. The coach may instruct defenders how to defend or may leave it up to them.


Practicing Motion Offence with Screens

There are many activities that can be used to practice motion offence and a number of different activities are set out below. Coaches are encouraged to use activities that include both offence and defence, to assist in the players’ decision making and not to constantly stop the play or instruct players.


“3x0 Down Screen”

Guard passes then ball and then sets down screen.


“3x1 Down Screen”

Introduce a defender to the cutter.


Introduce defender to the screener


“Two Halves Scrimmage”

Designate two teams (3x3, 4x4 or 5x5) who will play against each other for two halves. They play in the half court and the coach can stipulate any particular rules in order to change the emphasize of the drill (e.g. no dribble, must pass to post before can take an outside shot) , allow only “off ball” screens or simply play normal rules.

After the defence gets the ball, either through a steal, rebound or an offensive score, they go to the other end to score unguarded. They can shoot a two point shot or a three point shot and continue shooting until they get a score.

Defence then returns the ball to the offence and play contested in the half court.

At half time of the scrimmage, the defence should have a lead – as they scored on every possession! Offence and defence then swap for the second half. So that the new offence, who have a lead, must keep that lead by scoring, as they know that the new defence will score every time that they have possession.

This activity places a focus on the concept of “points per possession”.