What Is Illegal Screen In Basketball? Brief Explanation!

Illegal screen in basketball

Key takeaway: Setting proper screens in basketball is crucial for creating offensive opportunities, but it's important to avoid illegal screens that can result in penalties. Understanding the rules of screens, such as avoiding illegal contact and staying stationary after setting the screen, is essential to maintain fair gameplay and prevent offensive fouls.

In basketball, you might have come across terms such as screens or picks. Screens are an essential part of basketball. In most basketball games, you will find that the good teams often know how to set perfect basketball screens. A good basketball screen can go a long way in helping the team raise their score. A screen opens up the offense in several ways. Therefore, it is a vital basketball technique to give space to an offensive player to receive a pass, dribble, or shoot. This technique is often beneficial to the team provided that the player does it legally.

But sometimes, anyone can make a mistake while setting a screen that results in an illegal screen basketball. An illegal screen basketball is one of the most common fouls in basketball. Sometimes., there may be confusion among fans or even the players as to why the referee gives out an illegal screen basketball call. There are several means where a player could commit an illegal screen basketball. Read on to find out all about illegal screen basketball – what makes a screen illegal, what are the penalties of an illegal screen basketball. And why basketball needs such a rule.

The Definition Of A Screen In Basketball

So what exactly is a screen? A screen, also known as a pick, is a move set by an offensive player in basketball. This technique blocks a defender to give room to a teammate to either pass, shoot, or score. The screener usually stands behind or beside the defender to make this move.

A screen in basketball is a common method, and many assume that any basketball player can set a screen. But like any other basketball basics, a screen should be taught how to do correctly to avoid the offensive foul of an illegal screen basketball. This method is applicable when an offensive player wants to free a teammate from the defender’s bondage. It is also helpful in out-of-bounds games. 

A screen can either be on-ball or off-ball. But do you know what these terms mean? Don’t worry; we will come to that. On-ball screens are screens that are for the ball-handler, the player with the ball. Off-ball screens are for a free player who is open for a pass. The offensive players who set the screen by blocking the defender are called screeners. The player who gets free from the defender is the cutter. 

Pick and Roll

It is an important thing to know how to set a proper screen in basketball. A right move, and it benefits the team. One wrong step and it will result in an illegal screen basketball. While setting a screen, the screener should place himself in a position that is at the least one normal step away from the fixed opponent who is not making any movement. This step is essential for one main reason. The player setting the screen should be able to provide the opponent with a reasonable chance to evade contact to facilitate fair gameplay. The next article will deal with how to set a screen in basketball properly.

Once the screener sets the screen, he usually becomes free and open to roll and receive a pass. In basketball, this method is known as ‘pick and roll.’ This method became quite famous in the 1990s and has progressed as the most popular offensive action in the NBA. NBA elites like Karl Malone and John Stockton are the masters of the pick and roll method.

There is another method known as ‘pick and pop.’ But this method is not like the pick and roll, which involves rolling to the basket. Instead, this method consists of the ball-handler leading to the basket as the screener moves or pops to a free area for an open jump shot. 

What Makes A Screen Illegal In Basketball?

To set a legal screen, the screener should give the defensive player the chance to evade contact with him. He can do this by leaving a step between them. He should not move or advance towards the defender. If the screener does not follow this rule, it makes a basketball screen illegal. 

An illegal screen basketball is an offensive foul that results when the screener is still making movements as they make contact with the defender. It is also known by the terms illegal pick or illegal pick and roll. An illegal screen basketball usually results in the pick and roll. However, that is not the only way that leads to an illegal screen basketball. 

In basketball, several types of illegal screens lead to the referee blowing the whistle during a heated match. Some of them are illegal contact with the defender and moving too fast after setting the screen. Let us check out the two common illegal screen basketball in detail. 

Making Contact

When the screener sets the screen on the defender, he must avoid any illegal contact with the defensive opponent. These illegal contacts include using hands by pushing, holding, or hitting the opponent. It also includes sticking out an elbow, leg, or arm to hit, bump or trip the defender.

Instead of standing at a fixed position, if the defender is making any movements, a screener should be cautious while setting a screen to avoid an illegal screen basketball. The screener should give the defender enough room to avoid the screen by keeping a distance of a step or two between them. If the player setting the screen does not meet the above requirements, it can result in an illegal screen basketball. 

Moving Screens

Sometimes after setting a screen, the screener may get impatient and move prematurely. This action results in an illegal screen basketball. After setting the screen, the offensive player should not make any movement laterally, or towards the opponent he is screening. But he can move in a parallel path as the opponent and re-create the position of his screen. If the screener does not make any movement when the opponent runs into him, the screen is considered legal. However, the screener should not move the screen to make contact or take advantage. Or else, he will be charged with a foul of committing an illegal screen basketball. 

The Penalty Of Illegal Screen In Basketball 

If an offensive player does not follow the basketball screen rules and make contact with the defender or move the screen, it will lead to an illegal screen basketball. The referee will then charge the player with an offensive foul. The outcome will lead to the opponents getting the ball. If the rival team is in the bonus, they might get free throws. The penalty of the illegal screen in basketball can result in a drastic game turn, which could give the opposing team a significant advantage. Therefore, before setting a screen, a player must be well-versed in setting a screen.

 Bonus information

Many people are not aware of the difference in the penalties imposed on a team when it commits either a foul or a violation. Note that a foul and violation are two different things. In basketball, fouls mostly result from illegal contacts in holding, pushing, and hitting. An illegal screen basketball is an example of an offensive foul. Depending on the situation, the penalty of committing a foul is either losing the possession of the ball or having the opposing team get free throws. 

Violation, on the other hand, is closely related to the court or the ball. There are no free throws for violation. A violation generally results from double dribble, walking, three second, carrying, time violation, and back-court violation.

Why Does Basketball Need This Rule?

Basketball is one of the most exciting and intense games of all time. When you see a basketball game, it is not uncommon to see players crashing into each other and falling over. In fact, without proper rules and regulations, the players on the court could turn into savages. The earliest basketball games are quite rough and fierce because they have no clear set rule on how the game should progress.

When a player sets a good screen, the opponents should get a fair share of options to defend against the screen. If there are no rules to set a screen, the defenders will not be able to defend against the blocks, resulting in unfair gameplay. That is why rules are there to maintain a safe and fair play between the teams and keep the game fun. 

Making contacts with the opponents can’t be illegal in all cases. But there are some certain situations in the game where a player could tend to become aggressive and hostile. Rules like illegal screen basketball are there to keep the potential fights and injuries at bay. 


You might groan when your team gets called for an illegal screen basketball. But it is still one of the essential rules in basketball. You probably don’t want to pay to see a game that is full of unfair gameplay where the more robust and bigger players always win. Without the illegal screen basketball rule, the game will be exactly that. The stronger players can easily block out the defenders leading to an easy win.  

Since basketball is one of the most fascinating and fast-paced games of all time, you will want a fair and relaxed game. Even though a player is a professional and has set screens a hundred times, it does not necessarily mean that he cannot commit an offensive foul. Now that you know what makes the whistle blow while setting a screen, you can put this information in mind the next time you set a screen. That way, you can stay away from the penalty of illegal screen basketball while providing an advantage to your team. 

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