July/August 2017
Using ‘Elevator Screens’ to close the door on defenders By John Kimble

The “elevator screen” is appropriately named because it has two stationary screeners that are stacked together but leaves just enough room for a teammate to cut through to the opposite side for a perimeter shot. Once the cutter has passed through the screen, the two screeners step together, shoulder-to-shoulder, as if the cutter is stepping into an elevator. This action is to prevent the defender from playing the cutter and to free up the designated shooter.

DIAGRAM 1: Baseline out-of-bounds (A). 2 starts on the ball-side, mid-post block with 5, 4 and 3 aligned shoulder-to-shoulder in a horizontal line at the free-throw line. 4 is at the ball-side elbow. The play should be called before 1 is handed the ball to catch the defense unprepared. As soon as the 1 receives the ball, the play should begin.

2 looks for a quick pass from 1 while posting up on the block for a possible inside shot. If 2 is not open, he or she cuts vertically up the lane and toward the top of the key behind the 3-point line. 2 should cut between screens by 4 and 5. As soon as 2 passes through the elevator screen, the “elevator door” closes with 5 stepping shoulder-to-shoulder with 4. If 2’s defender gets caught inside the screen, 1 can lob the ball to 2 for a 3-point shot.

DIAGRAM 2: Baseline out-of-bounds (B). If no shot is taken, 1 steps inbounds to the new ball-side deep corner, while 3 curls back to the new weak-side high elbow area behind the 3-point line. As 2 catches the ball, both 5 and 4 cut hard to the block with a “twisted cut.” 4 cuts to the new ball-side post, and 5 dives to the opposite block. If no shots are created by the action, all five players are in the proper spot-ups for either the flex continuity or any four-out, one-in motion offense to build on the momentum created by their initial movements.

DIAGRAM 3: Half-court from a stax set (A). 4 is stacked above 2 on the right side near the elbow, while 5 is stacked above 3 on the left side of the lane near the mid-post block. 1 scrape-dribbles off of 4’s ball-screen near the top of the key, while 2 drifts out to the newly declared ball-side deep corner. 4 then slips the ball-screen and remains at the top of the key, while 1 dribbles to the free-throw-line extended.

DIAGRAM 4: Half-court from a stax set (B). 1 quickly reverses the ball to 4 at the top of the key and cuts through the lane to the deep corner using an elevator screen by 3 and 5. After 3 steps back in to close the door, 5 posts up and 3 makes a pipe-cut straight up the lane line. 4 drifts to the new weak-side high elbow area, and 2 stays deep and wide in the new weak-side corner. All five players end up in the correct spot-ups for the flex continuity or any type of action from the four-out, one-in offense.

DIAGRAM 5: Twins set (A). With this set being symmetrical, 1 could dribble to the free-throw-line extended on either side of the court. This diagram shows 1 dribbling to the left side.

When 1 declares which side of the court to attack, 3 steps into the lane to set a lane exchange cross-screen for 2, who momentarily posts up on the block. After setting that interior screen, 3 breaks vertically up the lane and between an elevator screen by 5 and 4. 3 ends up spotting up at the top of the key behind the elevator screen and behind the 3-point line.

DIAGRAM 6: Twins set (B). If 1 cannot make the quick inside pass to 2, 1 reverses the ball to 3. As the ball is in the air, 5 dives to the empty weak-side mid-post and 4 swings out to the empty wing area. If no shots are produced, the players end up in the proper locations for any continuity or motion action from the three-out, two-in offense.

There are many other offensive sets/alignments that could incorporate the elevator screen as an important component of the entry. Coaching staffs with innovative ideas could create other entries from other offensive alignments that not only fit their philosophy, style and personalities, but also help accentuate an offensive player’s strengths while minimizing their weaknesses. These same coaching staffs can also incorporate their own second phase of the offense, whether it’s a specific continuity or a motion offense.

John Kimble coached basketball for 23 years in Illinois and Florida at the college and high school levels, accumulating more than 340 victories. He has authored five coaching books.

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