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Screen Navigation: Using Picks Effectively

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Screen Navigation: Using Picks Effectively

In basketball, mastering the use of screens (or picks) can elevate a shooting guard's game, creating open shots and driving lanes. This article explores how shooting guards can effectively use curls, flares, and pindowns to their advantage, blending player technique with coaching wisdom.

The Basics of Screen Usage

Types of Screens

Screens come in various forms, but for shooting guards, the most relevant types are:

  1. On-Ball Screens: Set directly on the ball handler.
  2. Off-Ball Screens: Set away from the ball to free up players.

For this discussion, we focus on off-ball screens, specifically curls, flares, and pindowns.

Curls: Coming Off the Screen Tight

What is a Curl?

A curl involves the shooter moving tightly around the screener towards the basket, typically used when the defender trails closely behind.


  • Footwork: Plant your outside foot and propel off using your inside foot when curling around the screen.
  • Body Position: Stay low and compact to maintain balance and speed.
  • Timing: Synchronize your movement with the screener's setup to maximize separation from your defender.

Drill: Curl Shooting

Set up a series of cones or markers to simulate screeners. Practice coming off each "screen" at game speed, focusing on tight curls and quick releases.

Flares: Creating Separation

What is a Flare?

A flare involves the shooter moving away from the basket and towards the sideline, often used when the defender tries to go under the screen.


  • Footwork: Plant your inside foot and push off using your outside foot to maintain balance and speed moving laterally.
  • Awareness: Read the defender’s position. If they anticipate the curl, flare out to create open space.
  • Communication: Work with your screener to ensure they understand the timing and positioning for an effective flare.

Drill: Flare Shooting

Using cones to simulate a screen, practice flaring out and catching a pass for a quick shot. Emphasize clear communication with your screener (cones or actual teammates).

Pindowns: Setting Up Your Shot

What is a Pindown?

A pindown is a downward screen set by a player closer to the basket for a shooter moving towards the perimeter.


  • Reading the Defense: Observe if the defender is trailing or going under the screen.
  • Change of Speed: Use a quick change of pace to gain a step on the defender.
  • Catch and Shoot: Be ready to catch and shoot immediately; this is where shooting mechanics and quick release are crucial.

Drill: Pindown Shooting

Simulate pindowns by setting an obstacle or teammate at the free-throw line. Practice navigating around the screen and setting your feet quickly for the shot.

Combining Techniques into Game Situations

Integrating curls, flares, and pindowns into game situations requires practice and understanding both your teammates and defenders.


Conduct controlled 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 scrimmages emphasizing the use of screens. Mentally log how defenders react to each type of screen and adjust your movements accordingly.

Film Study

Break down film of both your play and professional games to identify effective screen usage. Note how elite shooting guards create separation using these techniques.


Utilizing screens effectively is crucial for shooting guards aiming to create scoring opportunities. By mastering curls, flares, and pindowns, players can elevate their offensive game and contribute significantly to team success. Integrate these techniques into your training regimen and always maintain open communication with your screeners for optimal results.