Action Spotlight: Roll/Replace Ball Screen Breakdown

By Matt Hackenberg

SLU Roll/Replace Ball Screen

One of the most basic actions in basketball, there is still a case to be made for running more Roll/Replace ball screens in your offense.

When deciding what sets are going to be featured in your playbook, one thing to consider is the specific type of actions that comprise those sets. If your team can master the execution of a specific action, that action can permeate throughout your playbook, evolving from different formations and pairing with multiple complimentary actions. This post shares why I believe the Roll/Replace Ball Screen should be considered as one of the actions your team invests heavily into.

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Roll/Replace Ball Screen – The Basics

A Roll/Replace Ball Screen is pretty self explanatory: a player sets a ball screen and rolls to the rim while another player replaces to the area vacated by the roller and ball handler.

For as simple as this action is, it can be lethal. You’ll see it being used a ton in the NBA and college basketball, which means it will soon filter its way down to the high school level as well.

Roll/Replace = A Shooter’s Dream

Using a shooter to replace is pretty confusing to high school defenses. Most team defensive schemes are going to have the defender positioned under the basket provide some kind of help on the ball screen and roll. If they do help, the replace player is open. Roll/Replace presents a complicated tagging situation to the defense. For that reason specifically, I think this action needs to be considered for any shooting specialist package. Most of the time the Roll/Replace action features a forward replacing a forward, but it doesn’t have to. Using a shooter to replace the roll can get your sniper a few easy looks per game.

Create Space to Drive

All coaches know that ball screens are a great option to put stress on the defense. Smart coaches know it’s the spacing around the ball screen that really allows the action to thrive. The Roll/Replace action opens up space for ball handlers to attack. I always felt so crammed for driving space running Euro Ball Screen. The most common off-ball alignment for ball screens is probably Spread, and the Roll/Replace action features more space for the ball handler than Spread.

Miami Hurricanes – Roll/Replace Action

Isolate the Wings

The court balance for a Roll/Replace is pretty straightforward. Three players occupy the middle third of the court, usually with each of the corners filled. It doesn’t have to be that way, but that’s the most common alignment I see. The spacing provides a beautiful opportunity to isolate the wings for a backdoor look. I love opportunities for “cheap” points, and this spacing naturally provides it.

Kansas Jayhawks – High Post Entry Roll/Replace

Pick Your Poison

Staying on the theme of Roll/Replace occupying the middle third of the court, the wing defenders are not only susceptible to getting beat on the backdoor, but they also have tough decisions to make in a team’s help defense scheme. If the wing defender helps off the corner, it’s a drive-and-kick opportunity for a catch-and-shoot three. If the wing defender stays attached, the ball handler can turn the corner and take the ball all the way to the rim. 

Houston Cougars – Iverson Roll/Replace

Big-to-Big Connection aka High/Low

Keeping both forwards in the middle third of the court sets up the High/Low game beautifully. If you’re going to have two posts on the court at the same time, you need to find schemes that not only allow them to play together, but allow them to play together with synergy. Playing High/Low in the middle third of the court removes most of the help defense, allowing for two posts to play interchangeably with complementary skill sets.

Canada – Ram Roll/Replace

A lot of coaches simply choose plays to fill up their playbook. That mentality can get you so far, but evolving that philosophy into investing in actions allows for deeper levels of execution. With that being said, this is my evidence that one of the actions you should consider committing to is the Roll/Replace ball screen.

Implement Roll/Replace Down the Stretch This Season!

At the time of writing this post it’s mid February. March is right around the corner. Teams are either heading into the stretch run with or without momentum. Make sure you’re on the positive side of that by adding a few new twists for opponents to figure out. Roll/replace ball screens are easy actions to include and which players will be comfortable with executing right away.

Texas Longhorns – Weave High Roll/Replace

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OCTOBER 24, 2022: Saint Louis Billikens forward Jake Forrester (10) sets up a screen on University of Missouri St. Louis Tritons guard Donovan Vickers (4) allowing Saint Louis Billikens guard Yuri Collins (1) to get past him into the open lane in an exhibition game where the University of Missouri St. Louis Tritons visited the St. Louis Billikens. Held at Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, MO Richard Ulreich/CSM (Credit Image: © Richard Ulreich/CSM via ZUMA Press Wire)

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