The fade screen: An underutilized option as shown by UConn and Utah State
A fade screen is a screen where the screener sets the screen to screen in the defender and allow the player using the screen to fade away from the ball and find the open space. This screen is difficult to defend but underutilized on offense because it is not a natural action for most players. It requires the player using the screen to move away from the ball, instead of coming toward the ball, which is the opposite of what most players are thinking on the court when they are trying to score. This is why that the screen is not often used, even though it is tough to defend, as you will see.
We have two examples of this screen, with plays from UConn and Utah State. They both provide good examples of why this screen is so tough to defend, so let’s look at both play together.
We are going to start by looking at the play when the fade screens are set. Both plays have the screens set at the near elbow, for Kemba Walker and Brian Green. Instead of coming toward the ball to make the catch, Walker and Green are going to fade to the left wing, which has open space. This way, with the main defender being caught in the screen and the help defender unable to hedge, they are able to catch and shoot before the defense can challenge the shot.
If this were a down screen, the defender of the screener would be in good position to show on the screen and delay the play enough to allow the primary defender to recover. With the position and angle of the fade screen, the screener’s defender is playing between the screener and the basket and is unable to hedge on the screen.
The screeners get a good piece of the primary defenders in both of these clips which allows Walker and Green to find the space on the wing. In the UConn set, the defender tries to fight above the screen while the defender goes under the screen against Utah State. As long as the screener delays the defender for a few seconds, the shooter will have enough time to get open.
With the defenders having to stay in help position prior to the screens being set, they are not able to close out in time and challenge the shot. If they had cheated on the screen and tried to hedge early, the screener would likely have been open on the slip of the screen. Since they did not, Walker and Green had the time to catch, set themselves and get the shot off before a defender was able to alter the attempt.
As you can see, the fade screen can be difficult to defend if the screener does his job and delays the primary defender. The help defender is too far away to effectively close out, as they are starting the play in proper positioning between their man and the rim. For the reasons listed above, this screen is underutilized by many teams but I think that teams will see success if they make this a more primary point of their offenses.