Offensive Actions Breakdown: Elevator Screen

By Matt Wheeler

Elevator Screen Action-2

A great way to expand an offensive playbook is by focusing on the actions that make up specific plays. By breaking plays down to their individual components, players become more proficient in executing the actions. This also gives the option of utilizing those actions in a variety of ways without players having to learn a completely new play. When players understand the basic action, executing it in a new situation comes easier to them. See our previous breakdown of the Stagger Split Action here.

The elevator screen is commonly run to get a shooter open for a 3 point shot, but it can also be used as an initial action to set up the next part of a play. Though difficult to guard by itself, the elevator screen can become even more effective if it is set up by additional screens and misdirection. Here we are going to explore some different concepts that teams use to set up the elevator screen, and how elevator screens can be used to set up other actions.

Elevator Screen Action & Roles

Just like in other actions, the positions don’t matter as much as putting players with the right skill set in those positions. Most of the time the 1, 2, and 3 positions become interchangeable with the 4 & 5 usually setting the elevator screen. The elevator action happens when a player cuts between two screeners. Once they get through, the screeners close together to form a wall where the defender can’t get through, which frees them for a shot.

  • 1 must be a good passer to deliver the ball to the shooter.
  • 2 needs to be a good shooter. This action should get them open for a shot.
  • 3 can set additional screens, create misdirection or provide spacing depending on how you use them.
  • 4 & 5 are your screeners. Typically they are your bigger players. They will close the door on the screen after 2 cuts through.

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Using the Elevator Screen as the Entire Play

The Washington Wizards ran the elevator action as the entire play to get Bradley Beal (2) open for a 3 point shot. 2 cut to the rim as 1 dribbled to the wing. 2 then cut through the elevator screen to receive the pass from 1 for a shot. In this play 3 stayed in the corner to provide spacing as the elevator action took place.

Wizards - Elevator

Involving the Shooter in Additional Screens

In this play NC Central used a cross screen from 3 to start the action. This gave 2 a head start on cutting through the elevator screen from 4 & 5. Once 2 went through the elevator screen, 4 & 5 shut the door on 2’s defender. This got 2 a wide open look at a three point shot.

NC Central - Elevator Cross

Have Bigs Set Multiple Screens

The Chicago Bulls summer league team used multiple actions and screens in this play to set up the elevator screen. Though 2’s defender only had to defend the elevator screen, 4 & 5’s defenders had to guard additional screening action right before the elevator screen with the stagger dribble handoff for 3. The multiple screening action makes it more difficult for them to provide help as 2 cuts through the elevator screen.

Bulls - Elbow DHO Elevator

Using Misdirection

The New Orleans Pelicans used a cut from their point guard to create misdirection to set up their elevator screen. 1 dribbled to the wing and passed to 3 who was cutting up top off a zipper screen. 1 then cut to the right side of the court using a screen from 5. 2 brought the action back to the left side of the floor by cutting through the elevator screen from 4 & 5.

Pelicans - Zipper Cross Elevator

Using the Elevator Screen as an Initial Action

The Spanish National Team runs multiple ball screens in their offense, and in this play used the elevator screen to help set them up. They started with 2 curling around 4 and screening for 3 at the rim. 3 then cuts through the elevator screen to receive the pass from 1. 1 then cuts to the corner, putting them in a horns set. 1 can use the ball screen from either 4 or 5 and they can flow into the different options they have from using each screener.

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Matt Wheeler

Matt Wheeler

Matt Wheeler has spent the last 10 years coaching in the Orlando, FL area. For the last 6 seasons he was at Olympia High School where he spent time as assistant boys varsity coach, head girls varsity coach, and head boys varsity coach. During his tenure there he saw 4 players reach the Division 1 level and 12 players receive basketball scholarships. Previously, Coach Wheeler was an assistant coach at Montverde Academy under then head coach Kevin Sutton. While at Montverde Academy he assisted with player development, conditioning programs and created team playbooks and scouting reports. Coach Wheeler's experience also includes winning the 2008 3A Girls Basketball Florida State Championship as an assistant at Bishop Moore Catholic High School. Coach Wheeler was born and raised in Portland, Oregon. He got his coaching start at Cascade College where he was the student assistant for the women’s basketball program while also participating on the men’s JV basketball team. Coach Wheeler resides in Orlando, Florida with his wife Kiana.
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