“Gortat Screen”

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Term: Gortat Screen

Definition: an (often illegal) off-ball screen in which an offensive player screens/obstructs/seals his own defender to clear a driving lane for the ballhandler

See Also:

  • Drop Coverage: a conservative pick-and-roll coverage in which the screener’s defender is backpedaling toward the hoop (drop is often countered with a Gortat Screen)
  • Snake: a technique by the pick-and-roll ballhandler against drop coverage in which the ballhandler comes off the screen and veers back in the opposite direction
  • Hostage Dribble (aka “putting the defender in jail”): a technique in which the pick-and-roll ballhander uses his backside to prevent his defender from recovering from the ballscreen
  • Theis Screen: either identical or similar to a Gortat Screen, depending upon usage and preference

How It Works:

In the diagram above, 5 sets a ballscreen for 1, while x5 is in drop coverage. As 1 snakes back to his right, 5 rolls and sets a Gortat Screen on x5, clearing a path to the hoop for the ballhandler.

In this example, Atlanta’s Bogdan Bogdanovic uses a ballscreen from Onyeka Okongwu. Bogi’s defender, New York’s RJ Barrett, goes over the screen, while Okongwu’s defender, Jericho Sims, is in drop coverage.

As Bogi snakes back to his right (green arrow), Okongwu sets a Gortat Screen (light blue) on Sims, letting Bogi finish with a righty layup before his defender can recover:

Here’s an example of the announcers for the Dallas Mavericks using the term “Gortat Screen” to describe the illegal screen Maxi Kleber set for Luka Doncic:

Why It Works:

Cynically speaking, Gortat Screens work the same way offensive linemen work in football: by blocking defenders away from the ballhandler/carrier.

More specifically, they exploit a weakness in drop coverage, which is that one defender (x5 or the screener’s defender) is temporarily guarding two players: the ballhandler and the roller. Drop coverage often works because x5 (or whoever is defending the screener) is taking away the valuable shots at the rim, while the ballhandler’s defender rearview pursuit applies enough pressure to impede an open pull-up jumper until he can fully recovery.

If the roller is a lob threat, most NBA ballhandlers can capitalize on this temporary 2-on-1 advantage with either an alley-oop to the roller or finishing at the rim (using the potential lob as a decoy):

But what if the roller is not a lob threat? Perhaps unsurprisingly, most practitioners of the Gortat Screen—from Daniel Theis to the Polish Hammer himself, Marcin Gortat—are strong, clever, and somewhat Earth bound.

Cleverness can be the difference between a layup and a turnover. Two factors within the screener’s control that can help prevent incurring an illegal screen are subtlety (i.e., requiring less visible effort to obstruct the defender) and acting (e.g., the roller puts his hands in the air as if to feign “I’m just trying to roll to the hoop, but my defender won’t let me”).

As for subtlety, strength helps—it’s perhaps impossible for a 180-pound point guard to successfully Gortat Screen someone like Joel Embiid without drawing attention—but there are tricks, such as hooking the defender and relying more on lower-body positioning than arms and elbows. As football players have been taught on (technically illegal) pick plays, the roller can also put his hands up so that his attention seems to be receiving the pass, not obstructing a defender.

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