What Is An Illegal Screen In Basketball? Explained


A common offensive foul that I see a lot is the illegal screen, many of us have a hard time understanding why the call was made during the screen. There is more than one reason for an illegal screen that most of us don’t realize.

What is an illegal screen in basketball? An illegal screen is a screen that doesn’t allow the defender the opportunity to avoid contact from the screener. A step must separate the screener and defender while the screener may not move laterally or towards the defender that they are setting the screen on.

The illegal screen happens often in the pick and roll, but in many other ways that you may not have realized. I have made a  quick guide explaining the violations as to what the referees are looking for and included the rule book at the end of the article.

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 Types Of Illegal Screens

Here are some easy to understand situations that may arise in a basketball game that may lead to a whistle blown because of an illegal screen.

  • Illegal use of hands while screening; such as holding, pushing or hitting the defender.
  • Setting the screen and leaning in with the shoulder and or bumping the defender.
  • Sticking out the leg to prevent the player
  • Moving to fast and not setting the screen properly results in bad technique.
  • Ball handler gets impatient and runs the defender into the screener that is prematurely set.


What Is A Screen?

A screen is a legal way to interfere and impede the defender’s path. this provides the ball handler more space to pass, shoot, or got to the basket.


Why Set A Screen?

Setting screens opens up the defense and forces the opposition to switch and rotate positions. This allows the offense to penetrate and attack open areas on the court that become available increasing the likely hood of scoring.

The ballhandler has more room to maneuver but also the player setting the screen will be open for a pass, this is due to the defense helping the player who was screened to recover.


How Do You Screen?

Setting a screen involves anticipating prior to where the defender will be when you set the screen. Having your feet planted and not moving with your feet much wider than shoulder-width apart as to keep a strong base, as to when the defender bumps into you, you will not fall over.

Use the arms to protect your torso midsection or your groin area. Sometimes flying limb can be damaging to the other player when you least expect it. After the screen is set the ballhandler should rub shoulders wth you making it very difficult for the defender to get around.

The screener may now roll to the basket, open up for a shot or follow the penetration to the basket for a possible rebound.


Nba Rule Book On Illegal Screens

The NBA rule book on screens is universal for all leagues with same rules and calls that the referees are trained to look for across the board. Here we can take a look at what the rules state, you can find these rules and many more at NBA Official Rules Website.

Section III—By Screening

A player who sets a screen shall not (1) assume a position nearer than a normal step from an opponent, if that opponent is stationary and unaware of the screener’s position, or make illegal contact with an opponent when he assumes a position at the side or front of an opponent, or (3) assume a position so near to a moving opponent that he is not given an opportunity to avoid contact before making illegal contact, or (4) move laterally or toward an opponent being screened, after having assumed a legal position. The screener may move in the same direction and path of the opponent being screened.

In (3) above, the speed of the opponent being screened will determine what the screener’s stationary position may be. This position will vary and may be one to two normal steps or strides from his opponent.

(1) The screener must provide at least a step for the defender to have an opportunity to move out of the way.

(3) Or in a position to close to the defender that it makes it illegal contact.

(4) The screener can not move with the defender side by side and try to set the screen, this would be considered moving and would result in a violation.


This concludes the article if you are looking for more tips and rules take a look around.


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