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What is a Ghost Screen in Basketball?

What is a Ghost Screen in Basketball?

What is a Ghost Screen in Basketball?

The connotation of ghosts may bring up images of Halloween, Casper the Friendly Ghost, and other more frightening visuals from our childhood.  But, when discussed for basketball, specifically with regards to a ghost screen, the implications are a lot less frightening or scary.

Below, we’re going to explain what a ghost screen in basketball is and why it is a useful, if somewhat rare, play.  We’re also going to discuss how to avoid a ghost screen and how to ensure that no offensive player is unaccounted for during a defensive play.

What is a Ghost Screen?

In the simplest terms, a ghost screen in basketball is a fake screen.  It is usually performed by an offensive player off the ball.  In a ghost screen, an offensive player will approach to set a screen, but instead of setting the screen, will rather sprint to an open space on the court.

Ghost screens are meant to take advantage of good, solid defense.  In a regular screen, the defending players will attempt to either switch defensive players to ensure the player with the ball is being contested and defended or will “step over” the screen to continue defending the player with the ball.

How to Perform a Ghost Screen?

There are multiple ways to perform a ghost screen.  One of the more popular ways is to run slowly towards the player with the ball, allowing the opposing, defending players to believe that an imminent screen is to be set.  However, as you approach the player with the ball, quickly sprint away to an open space on the court.

In addition to sprinting towards an open space on the court, many ghost screens allow for unobstructed access to the rim.  This can be accomplished by going to set a screen and abruptly turning and running towards the basket.  A seasoned, experienced ball-handler will see this cut and will immediately pass the ball for the easy, uncontested bucket.

Lastly, a great way to perform a ghost screen is to enlist the help of other team members.  On the weak side of the court, have one player set a screen for another player without the ball, the player for whom the screen was set should then move to set a ghost screen.  Essentially, screening the screener.

As the screener goes to set a ghost screen, the original screener should cut to either the basket or to an open space on the court, waiting to receive the pass.  This “screening the screener” drill works as it disarms the defense and causes both confusion and chaos momentarily on the court.

Why Ghost Screens Are So Successful

Ghost screens work so well because screens work so well.  Due to the advantage that an effective, proper screen can provide to an offensive team, defenses are especially careful to ensure that the screen is properly defended against and stymied.

However, due to the overprotectiveness and caution that so many defensive players play against the screen, setting a ghost screen can help the offense to gain an advantage against the fake.  As the defensive players will, naturally, look to avoid and help against a screen, the ghost screen will allow for one player to be open for an uncontested shot.

How to Defend Against the Ghost Screen?

As the ghost screen becomes more popular and more commonplace in both the NBA and other basketball leagues, it will become more and more important to know how to play against the ghost screen.  Learning how to properly play and defend against the ghost screen will help you to avoid confusion and mismatches on the court.

One of the best ways to learn how to play against the ghost screen is to watch and review tape of the opposing team and to see how often and how exactly they set a ghost screen.  While some teams utilize the ghost screen often, others do not.

Reviewing an opposing team’s previous games and seeing if, and how often when, they utilize the ghost screen, will help you to be better prepared for one.

In addition to reviewing tape, learning how to play against the ghost screen is about leaving enough space between yourself and the opponent setting the screen.  If you play close defense, and maintain a slight distance from the incoming screener, you will be able to follow their path and continue to properly defend them against a ghost screen.

Lastly, playing and defending against the ghost screen takes a certain level of awareness on the court.  This can be done by tracking a player’s movement to set a screen and their abrupt turn to an open space on the court.  Don’t attempt to overplay the screen, but rather leave sufficient enough space to be able to continue playing defense against the ghost screen, if it were to come.