Early Offense Ideas: Transition Drag Screens

By Randy Sherman

Chris Paul drag screens Phoenix Suns NBA Playoffs

TransitionOffenseTips – Three early offense offense ideas for effective drag screens to create immediate advantages in the half court.

If we breakdown offense into two phases – transition offense and half court offense – the goal is to blend those two phases together. One ends where the other begins and there is no seam between them.

To accomplish this the offense needs to arrive in space before they create an advantage. Many teams do this through drag ball screens in transition.

Here we will take a closer look at three tips for effective transition drag screens.


#TransitionOffenseTips | Drag Screens

Width Then Depth

Let’s begin with the transition phase. In my view, this is where offense begins – the moment we regain possession of the ball after a defensive rebound or getting scored upon. If we want to arrive in space and seamlessly create an advantage, some considerations must be made in transition offense.

First, players must run wide then deep. The objective of the first three steps is to gain player speed toward the sideline then toward the baseline. The goal is to “pull apart” the defense both horizontally then vertically. The first commandment is to “find a sideline” and run.

This is reflected in the diagram above. Players 2 and 3 are sprinting wide to create horizontal spacing then deep to create vertical spacing. Their first three steps drive them wide into the rails. Player 4 forms the double side by getting width then depth just the same.

Before we can set an effective drag screen we must create space. The drag screen must exist in favorable spacing. Finding a sideline with width then depth accomplishes this.

Induce the Over

Now that the offense has arrived in space, it’s time to create an advantage assuming the defense has transitioned successfully. We want to get to this opening drag screen in the first four to five seconds after gaining possession.

The primary goal of the drag screen is to get the on-ball defender to go over the screen as X1 does in the diagram below.

The goal of the drag screen is to create an advantage, hopefully in the form of penetration. We want the ball handler to drive or hit the roller. Either of those accomplish penetration.

Player 5 above is screening the “back pocket” of X1. As soon as he/she sees X1 intends to go over the screen, get out of it. This may look like a slip as no contact is made.

If the on-ball defender goes under the screen, we rescreen or “twist” the screen. In the second attempt we improve the angle and induce the over (diagrammed below).

Video from 2016 Olympics showing the rescreen, or “twisting” the ball screen:

Manipulate the Help

A drag ball screen is a two-player action meaning it directly involves two players – the screener and the ball handler. That leaves three player out of the action and three defenders out of the action. But those defenders don’t always stay out of the action. They are potential helpers who can take away rollers or seal penetration. The three players out of the action can do some things to manipulate that help.

One example is SHAKE or “back action” behind the screen. In the video above, Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro demonstrates. He lift from the corner when his defender tags the roller.

Another example, a double-side flare screen demonstrated by Brazil below.

Yet another example is the 45º Cut. This cut opens space for a potential drive off the drag ball screen and moves the nail defender before the execution of the drag screen.

Also, just holding space is an option! The three players outside of the ball screen create as much space as possible with their positioning and allow the ball screen to create the advantage.

With good shooting and positioning, just holding space manipulates the help. The drag ball screen can launch the drive-and-kick game by simply holding space.

This is where I recommend beginning with players – space first. Iowa State demonstrates this below:

These tips for transitioning into your drag screens, inducing the over and then manipulating the help can bolster your transition attack. They are simple concepts, that when well-executed, can go a long way to creating a potent early offense attack that any team can execute.


Continue the conversation:

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Randy Sherman is the owner and founder of Radius Athletics - a basketball coaching consulting firm - where he consults with basketball coaches at all levels on coaching philosophy, practice planning, Xs & Os and teaching a conceptual style of basketball. While a head basketball coach at the the interscholastic level, Sherman's teams won 197 games in nine seasons.
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