What Is a Flare Screen in Basketball? And How to Execute One


An outdoor basketball court near the water.

Basketball is a complex sport full of terms and tricks that don’t make a whole lot of sense to those not familiar with the game. For example, there are many different types of picks or screens that players set on offense in an effort to free up their teammates. One such type of screen is known as a flare screen.

So, what is a flare screen in basketball?

A flare screen is a screen that gets set away from the basketball, which allows the player being screened for to fade to the perimeter, rather than the basket. Flare screens are unique in the fact that they’re set away from the ball and are designed to free up shooters for 3-pointers.

If you’re curious about the ins and outs of flare screens and when to use them, then you’ve come to the right place! We’ll delve into everything you need to know about flare screens, as well as the other types of screens in basketball.

What Is a Flare Screen?

A flare screen is a screen set away from the ball but within easy passing distance of the player who has the ball. It’s usually used to free up a shooter or a scorer who then receives the ball in open space with room to operate. They will then have an open shot or an opening to drive to the hoop if the screen was set correctly.

A screen or pick is when a player uses their body to block an opposing player and to create space between the offense and the defense. They do this by positioning their body in a way that their teammate can run so close to them that their defender can’t stay with them. Screens are effective because defensive players aren’t allowed to run into offensive players without it resulting in a foul.

It’s important to note, however, that not all screens set off of the ball are flare screens. In order for a screen to be a flare screen, the player who has the screen set for them will flare or fade away from the player with the ball.

The most frequent usage of the flare screen is when an offensive player has the ball at the top of the key in the middle of the court. A player to their left or right will then set a flare screen away from the ball and free up an offensive player to fade to a wing or corner.

How Do You Set Up a Flare Screen?

Two basketball players in orange dribble up an outdoor court.

A successful flare screen on offense involves three players: the player with the ball, the player setting the screen, and the player the screen is being set for. Here are the three basic steps to setting up a flare screen:

An Offensive Player Sets the Screen Away from the Ball

The screen is usually set by a player who is far away from the ball for a player who’s in between them and the player with the ball. In most instances, the point guard will have the ball at the top of the three-point arc.

A player will run up from the corner of the court and set a flare screen for another offensive player between the point guard and the corner. The player for whom the screen is being set will then fade to the wing or corner on the side the screen is being set.

Another Player Maneuvers Around the Screen

As the offensive player is setting the flare screen, the player for whom the screen is being set then fades to the 3-point line. If done correctly, there will be ample space for the player with the ball to pass to their now open teammate.

It’s imperative that the player being screened for gets as close as possible to the teammate setting the screen. Leaving no space between them will help guarantee that there isn’t room for the defender to sneak through and stay with the offensive player.

The Ball Is Delivered to the Open Player

After the offensive player has successfully maneuvered around their teammate’s screen and faded to the perimeter, it’s up to the player with the ball to successfully deliver it to them. They should then be open to attempt a 3-pointer or catch the ball and drive to the basket.

Either way, they will have an opportunity to make a play on offense. Flare screens are successful due to the fact that they’re often quick and unexpected. Speed and the element of surprise are paramount to successfully executing a flare screen.

What Is an Off-Ball Screen?

There two main categories for screens in basketball, and the first one we’ll discuss is the off-ball screen. Simply put, an off-ball screen is any screen that gets set for any offensive player who doesn’t have the ball. There are several different types of off-ball screens including flare screens, down screens, cross screens, and back screens.

What Is an On-Ball Screen?

The other main type of screen in basketball is known as an on-ball screen. As its name implies, an on-ball screen is any type of screen set for the player with the basketball. Its purpose is to free up the player with the ball for an open shot, a drive, or a pick-and-roll scenario. We’ll go into more detail later about the different types of on-ball screens.

What’s the Purpose of Screens in Basketball?

Whether you’re setting an on-ball screen or an off-ball one, the goal is always to get somebody open to score the ball. Basketball is a fast sport, played in close quarters and it can be difficult for players to find space against tough defenses. Screens are a great way of creating separation between the offense and the defense.

What Is an Illegal Screen in Basketball?

There are several different types of illegal screens in the game of basketball. Here are a few of the most common types:

A Moving Pick or Screen

In order to properly set a screen, the person setting the screen has to remain still and not move. If they set the screen and then move their feet and continue setting the screen by moving from side to side, it results in an illegal moving screen.

The screener is merely a stationary obstacle in the way of a defender rather than a moving blocker like you see in football.

Using their Hands or Feet Illegally

As the screener is setting the screen, they aren’t allowed to use their hands, feet, or other body parts to further inhibit the defender. If they stick their feet, hips, elbows, or knees out to bump or trip a defender, an illegal screen is called. The screener also isn’t allowed to use their hands to grab the defender or their jersey while setting a screen.

Not Giving the Defender Space

As the offensive player is setting a screen, they must stand still when the defender makes contact with them. If they are still moving into the defender as they’re setting the screen, it results in an offensive foul and an illegal screen.

In each of the above scenarios of an illegal screen, the screener is called for an offensive foul and the play results in a turnover.

What Are the Different Types of Basketball Screens?

Basketball players fight for a rebound on an outdoor court.

Here are the different types of on-ball and off-ball screens in basketball:

Down Screens

A down screen is when a player runs from the top of the court near the 3-point line and sets a screen near the basket. This is most commonly used when a player at the top of the key, a wing, or the high post sets a screen for a player in the low post. An easy way to identify a down screen is that a player runs down to the low post to set it.

Cross Screens

A cross-screen is also set away from the ball in the low post area, usually to give a bigger player a chance to post up.

Back Screens

A back screen is similar to a flare screen in that it’s usually set around the top of the key. However, wherein a flare screen has a player fade to the perimeter for an open shot, the goal is different for a back screen.

Rather than fading to the outside, the player for whom the screen is being set cuts to the basket. The goal is for the player with the ball to hit the open player cutting to the basket in the hopes of an easy layup.

Pick-and-rolls

A pick-and-roll is when one player sets a ball for a player with the ball and then rolls to the basket. The hope is that either the player with the ball or the screener will be open for a layup.

Another version of the pick-and-roll is the pick-and-pop. Rather than rolling to the basket after setting the screen, the screener pops out to the perimeter for an open three-pointer in the pick-and-pop scenario.

Double screen

A double screen can be set on the ball or away from the ball and is self-explanatory. Rather than a single person setting the screen, two offensive players set a screen simultaneously to give a teammate the maximum amount of space and freedom.

How to Get Through a Screen

Getting through screens is difficult even for the most seasoned and determined defenders. A properly set screen is nearly impossible to defend perfectly, which is why they are used often and effectively. If screens didn’t work, the offense wouldn’t bother setting them.

Getting through a screen requires vision, proper technique, and determination. You must see the screen coming and hurry to block the player you’re guarding from getting to the screen.

If you’re unable to do this, then your best bet is to create a tiny amount of space between the screener and the player receiving the screen. However, this is extremely difficult as well if the offense knows what they’re doing.

In short, the best way to defend a screen is to stop the player you’re guarding from getting to the screener. Blocking their path or creating a small amount of space between the screener and the screenie is your best bet. Being fast and physical are paramount to getting through screens.

Screen vs Pick

The terms screen and pick can be used interchangeably in basketball. They mean the same thing and it’s largely up to you in regards to which word you want to use. Pick used to be the word of choice, but, for whatever reason, the screen is the term used more often in today’s age.

Final Thoughts

Screens are a big part of basketball and the flare screen is no exception. As the game of basketball has evolved and screens have become more popular, the flare screen has become a staple of the game.

Properly executing a flare screen is a great way to get open shots on offense and generate points. If you want to contribute to your team without having the ball in your hands, learn how to set a flare screen and get your teammate an open shot.

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Steven G.

My name is Steven and I love everything sports! I created this website to share my passion with all of you. Enjoy!

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