Film Room Volume 2: How to Use Screens like Ray Allen

It's game 4 of the Celtics’ 2009 first round series against the Bulls. With the game tied at 115, Ray Allen stands at the top of the key and watches the game clock tick down. Kirk Hinrich is draped all over him. He knows better than to give him any airspace.

With 8 seconds remaining, Allen suddenly streaks past Glen Davis and toward the baseline, Hinrich close on his tail. At the right block he sets a screen on John Salmons, sending Paul Pierce across the lane. But this is a decoy. Davis follows Allen to the block and sets a rumbling down screen.

Allen turns on a dime and sprints to the top of the key, masterfully pinning Hinrich directly into the Davis screen. As he catches the ball at the 3 pt line, Joakim Noah tries desperately to switch out onto him. It's too late. Allen has just enough space to launch his beautiful jumper. Swish.

Screens are a shooter’s best friend. But learning how to use them properly is a detailed science that often goes overlooked. It’s a science that Ray Allen mastered and made him one of the greatest shooters of all time. If you call yourself a shooter or want to become a better shooter, than learning how to use screens to get open shots is a must.

In this episode of Film Room I’ll examine the specific techniques that Ray Allen used to create open looks for himself.

Too many times, young players don’t take enough care with their pre-screen activity and it impacts their ability to get open shots. As you watch the following clips, I want you to notice 2 things that Ray Allen does before he uses every screen.

1) Patience. Ray Allen is incredibly methodical in his use of screens. He waits until the screen is in proper place before actually using it. Rather than rushing off the pick before the screener is ready, Allen waits until the screen is in the exact place he wants it. 

2) The Set Up. The key to using a screen effectively is to create space between yourself and the defender before actually using the screen. This way, the screener can step into position and hit your defender or make him run a longer route to reach you. Allen uses a combination of misdirection, change of speed, and physical contact to create separation. See if you can figure out how Allen creates space before each of these screens. In the example above, Allen used misdirection to pin Hinrich on the Glen Davis Screen.

Let's check out the first clip.

Look at the patience here. As Allen waits for the screen, he walks his defender all the way down to the baseline to give himself as much space as possible. At this point, the defender already knows the screen is coming and is sitting on Allen’s hip, preparing to trail him around the screen.

Right before Allen takes off, he uses his body to push the defender toward the baseline and create separation. Masterful.

Let’s watch another curl.

As Allen drifts underneath the basket, he’s doing two things: waiting for Shaq to get in position to screen and setting up his defender (Tony Parker). As Shaq gets in place, Allen gives just enough of a push to knock Parker off balance and create space. He then curls tight around the screen, leveraging each inch of separation that he created.

Here’s a typical single-double set that many teams use. Ray Allen has the option of using the single screen (on the left block) or the double screen (on the right block). Let’s take a look.

Again, look at the patience, Allen waits until Paul Pierce is in the proper position before using the screen. For the set up, notice his change of speed. He floats underneath the basket at a leisurely pace with Gary Neal right on his tail. In an instant, Allen is in a full sprint, leaving Neal a step behind and fighting through screens. That step is plenty of separation for Allen to curl around the double screen and knock down a jumper.

Side note: It’s fascinating to watch Allen use other defenders as obstacles for his own defender. In this play, he floats around Matt Bonner, making Parker move out of the way to avoid his own teammate. Allen is trying to make it as difficult as possible for the defender to maintain contact. Great stuff.

In each one of these clips, the defender knows the screen is coming, they just can’t stop it. With patience and a proper set up, you too can learn to consistently get clean looks coming off screens.

Any other ideas for Film Room posts? I'd love to hear your comments.