The Basketball Action Dictionary

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Visual Diagrams of Each Action:

  1. Pick-and-rolls
  2. Pick-and-roll coverages
  3. Off-ball Screens
  4. Cuts (coming soon)

List of Terms:

21 (aka “Pistol”): a fast-paced, 5-out offense primarily featuring the ballhandler (on a wing), another guard (in the strongisde corner), and a big (at the top of the key)

45 cut: a cut at a 45-degree angle from the wing to the basket

Angle: a spread pick-and-roll (a ballscreen in one slot, with an off-ball player in the opposite slot and each corner) with the screen angled for the ballhandler to dribble either towards the middle (how Mike D’Antoni uses the term) or towards the sideline (how Popovich/Budenholzer/et al. use the term)

At the Level (aka “Up to Touch”): a pick-and-roll coverage in which the screener’s defender begins at the level of the screen

ATO: after timeout (usually, “ATO” is shorthand for a special playcall immediately after a timeout)

Automatic: a predetermined counter to an opponent’s coverage (for example, an automatic rescreen if the on-ball defender goes under the first ballscreen)

Back Cut: a cut behind the defender’s back and towards the basket

Back Screen: an off-ball screen for a player to cut towards the hoop

Barkley: to dribble from the perimeter into the low block for a post-up, as players like Charles Barkley, Mark Jackson, and Gary Payton used to do

Baseline Drift (“Baseline Drive, Baseline Drift”): an automatic cut from the weakside wing to the weakside corner when the ballhandler drives towards the baseline

Bazemore Cut: a UCLA-type screen for a wing on a SLOB, often to receive a lob

Bilbao: an off-ball action in which a player curls or rejects the first of two staggered screens, and then the first screener turns around and cuts off the second screener (see Twirl)

Blind Handoff: a three-person action, similar to blind pig, in which the ballhandler passes to a teammate, who hands off to a third teammate

Blind Pig: a three-person backdoor action in which the ballhandler passes to a big, who passes to a third teammate running by him toward the hoop

Blitz: a pick-and-roll coverage in which the screener’s defender is positioned above the screen and helps trap the ballhandler

BLOB: baseline out-of-bounds (aka “BOB”)

Bogut: a defensive tactic in which a center “guards” a nonspacing perimeter player in order to sag off him and protect the paint, as Golden State’s Andrew Bogut did to Memphis’s Tony Allen in the 2015 playoffs

Boomerang (aka “Reload”): a pass to a teammate followed by an immediate pass back so that the original ballhandler has a live dribble to attack his defender (usually, a mismatch after a switch)

Brush Screen (or “Brush Cut”): an off-ball movement in which an offensive player cuts so that he (and/or his defender) get in the path of a different defender, functioning like a screen but never making contact and thus not a moving-screen violation

Butt Screen: a flat ballscreen (typically near the top of the key) set with the screener’s back to the ballhandler (more loosely, butt screen can mean any screen, on- or off-ball, set with the screener’s back to the cutter)

Carolina Break: a 4-out transition offense made famous by Roy Williams, featuring a rim runner, a wing on each side, a designated ballhandler, and a trailing big

Carolina Screen: a backscreen for a big to cut from the top of the key to the weakside low block (see “Carolina Break”)

Catch Hedge (aka “Catch,” “Up to Touch” or “At the Level”): a pick-and-roll coverage in which the screener’s defender is positioned at (or one step below) the level of the screen

Charlie Ward Cut: a cut along the baseline to the strongside corner

Chicago: a pin-down screen followed by a dribble handoff (the player who receives the pin also receives the DHO)

Chicago Cut: a post feed followed by a high Laker Cut that turns into a Thunder Screen for a big at the weakside low block

Chin Screen: a backscreen for a player to cut from the weakside slot to the basket (see ricky)

Contact Switch (aka “jump switch” or “hedge switch”): an aggressive switch in which the screener’s defender switches onto the cutter or ballhandler and makes contact with him, forcing him to redirect his path (similar to a hedge) and denying him a pass (if he’s off-ball); meanwhile, the other defender also makes contact as he switches onto the screener denies a pass if the screener slips or rolls to the hoop

Corner (alignment): an alignment that features three players on the strong side—a big at the Elbow plus a guard in the corner and in the wing—plus another big at the weakside Elbow and forward near the weakside slot (see corner offense)

Corner Offense: a 4-out read-and-react offense with elements of Princeton and Triangle, typically initiated by the point guard passing to the big at the Elbow and then executing split-cut action with the wing in the strongside corner

Cross Screen: an off-ball screen for a player to cut horizontally across the court and towards the ballhandler

Cut Screen: a (basket) cut that functions like a screen because it momentarily draws the attention of a help defender away from his assignment, who is cutting in the opposite direction

Cyclone (aka “Corner Rip”): a backscreen near the weakside Elbow set by a guard who is expected to receive a down screen

Danny Green cut: a baseline cut from the weakside to the strongside corner

Delay: a 5-out offensive series initiated by a pass to the trailing big at the top of the key

DHO (aka “Over”): a dribble-handoff

Dork: to sag off a non-shooter on the perimeter, daring him to shoot

Double Drag (aka “77” or “55,” among others): a two-person staggered ballscreen for the ballhandler to dribble towards the middle of the floor (drag screens are traditionally set in transition)

Double From the Bottom: a double team in which the “low man” (the defender near the weakside corner or dunker spot) traps a post-up

Down: a pin-down screen (i.e., an off-ball screen for a player to cut from the baseline towards the top of the key)

Drop: a pick-and-roll coverage in which the screener’s defender is positioned a few steps below the screen, and then backpedals as the ballhandler comes off the screen

Duck-In: a post move in which an offensive player moves into the paint and uses his inside foot to seal his defender

Elevator Screen (aka “Gate”): a two-person off-ball screen in which the cutter cuts in between the two screeners, who then slide together like elevator doors in order to separate the cutter from his defender (see Cyclone)

Empty: the lack of an offensive player in the corner closest to a pick-and-roll (if a PnR occurs on the left wing, it’s an “Empty PnR” when there’s no offensive player in the left corner) (opposite of “corner filled” or “filled corner” PnR)

Euro ballscreen: an empty ballscreen on the wing; see 45 cut

Exchange: an off-ball relocation in which two teammates switch positions on the court (often the players in the weakside corner and weakside slot trade spots), frequently used to either occupy help defenders or put a better shooter in a more important location

Exit Screen: a baseline screen set near the dunker spot for the cutter to cut to the corner (aka “corner pin-in”)

Face Cut: a basket cut in front of the defender’s face (in other words, the opposite of a back cut), especially from the corner in a Horns alignment

Fill Behind: a cut in which the off-ball perimeter player closest to the ballhandler relocates to the starting point of the ballhandler’s drive (for example, as Player X drives from the right wing to the paint, Player Y at the right slot relocates to the right wing)

Flare Screen: an off-ball screen for a player to cut along the 3pt line, away from the ballhandler (see Hammer)

Flare DHO: a two-part action in which a player sets a flare screen and then receives a dribble handoff from a big at the top of the key

Flat Hedge: a pick-and-roll coverage in which the screener’s defender begins just below the screen (i.e., too high for Drop Coverage but not quite At the Level/Up to Touch) and looks to contain the ballhandler’s dribble penetration

Flex: a screen-the-screener action in which a player sets a flex screen and then receives a pin-down screen to cut from the weakside block to the weakside Elbow area

Flex Screen: a type of cross screen set near the weakside box so that a player from the far corner can cut horizontally into the paint

Flip (cf. “Handback,” “Snap,” or “Chase”): similar actions in which the ballhandler passes to a teammate and then follows his pass for a DHO/pitch (see Get Action, which the original ballhandler receives a ballscreen from that teammate)

Flip (aka “Varejão”): a pick-and-roll technique in which the screener “flips” or changes the angle of his screen at the last second before the screen is set

Floppy: a play in which a player, positioned under the basket, can choose whether to cut off a single screen to one side or a double screen to the other

Fronting the Post: a defensive tactic in which the player defending a post up gets in between his man and the ball—instead of between his man and the basket—in order to prevent a post feed but conceding an over-the-top pass (which is the low man’s responsibility for preventing)

Gap: the space between the ballhandler and their closest teammate on the perimeter

Garfunkel: a variation of veer in which a would-be picker ghosts a ballscreen before setting a pin-down

Gator: a high-low pass from a big to the roller, usually to punish hedging defenses

Get (aka “Throw and Get” or “Chase DHO”): an offensive action in which a player passes to a teammate and then follows his pass for a handoff

Get (alternate definition): a ballscreen (cf. “Elbow Get,” in which a big at one of the Elbows gets a ballscreen from the other big)

Ghost Screen (aka “Slide” or “Blur”): a pick-and-pop, but without the pick; a fake ballscreen after which the would-be screener cuts away from the ball into space

Gortat Screen: 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

Grenade: a DHO from the low block

Gut DHO: an action in which a player cuts up through the paint (aka the middle/“gut”) before receiving a dribble handoff near the top of the key (see Spanoulis)

Hammer Screen: a weakside flare screen for a shooter to cut from the wing to the corner, while the ballhandler is driving baseline

Hard Hedge (aka “show” or “hedge/show and recover”): a pick-and-roll coverage in which the screener’s defender is positioned above the screen and pressures the ballhandler for one or two steps—redirecting him away from the basket—before retreating to the screener/roller

Hawk Action: a UCLA screen (usually for a non-point guard) followed by a side ballscreen

High I Defender: the weakside wing’s defender

Horns: an alignment that features a guard/wing in each corner, a big at each Elbow, and the ballhandler at the top of the key

Horns Out: a Horns set in which the player at one Elbow sets a cross screen for his teammate at the other Elbow to cut to the far wing (aka “Horns Leak” or “Horns Cross”)

I Cut: a cut from the strongside block to the strongside Elbow to clear room for a baseline drive

Ice (aka “push,” “blue,” or “down”): a pick-and-roll coverage in which the on-ball defender directs the ballhandler towards the sideline (which usually means also denying the ballscreen)

Indiana: a pick-and-roll with a flare screen on the weakside

Inverted Pick-and-Roll (aka “Under”): a ballscreen set by a guard for a big

Iverson Cut (aka “Over”): a horizontal cut from one wing to the other, often while receiving a screen from a big at each Elbow (commonly seen in Horns or a 1–4 High alignment)

Korver Screen: an off-ball screen set by a player who was expected to receive a down screen (e.g., 4 starts to set a screen for 2, but then 2 down screens for 4)

Laker Cut: a basket cut made by the player who passed the ball into the post

Low Man: the defender closest to the baseline and hoop on the weak side of the floor, responsible for providing the first and most important layer of help defense (aka “MIG,” or “Most Important Guy”)

Nash: an empty two-person ballscreen on the wing (a double drag variation common in pistol)

Next (or “Nexting”): a pick-and-roll coverage in which the nail defender switches onto the ballhandler as he comes off the ballscreen

Corey Maggette Cut (aka “blade”): a curved cut from the corner to the hoop, often occurring during a pick-and-roll (see face cut)

Miami: a dribble handoff followed by a ballscreen (the player who receives the DHO then receives the ballscreen)

MIG (“Most Important Guy”): another name for low man, the help defender who is (often) located in the weakside corner and responsible for the first and most important layer of help defense

Motion Strong: a staggered two-person pin-down screen for the player in the weakside corner, originally from the San Antonio Spurs’ motion offense

Motion Weak: a play from the San Antonio Spurs’ motion offense that involves the point guard making a thru cut to the weak side and a cross/pin-down screen-the-screener action

Off the Line: off-ball perimeter defenders are in the gaps—instead of standing directly between the ballhandler and their matchup (therefore denying the pass), “off the line” defenders sag back 1–2 steps, as in Virginia’s packline defense (compare with on the life and up the line)

Oklahoma: a double drag and then the second screener screens for the first screener to come back toward the ball (see Ricky)

On the Line: off-ball defenders deny the pass to their mark: They are positioned on the line between ballhandler and their mark (contrast with Off the Line)

Over: a pick-and-roll coverage in which the on-ball defender goes over the top of the ballscreen

Paul Pierce Cut: a basket cut from the weakside corner

Peel Switch (aka “Go Switch” or “Fly Switch”): a defensive tactic in which a help defender switches onto a ballhandler (or cutter) who has beaten his original defender, and then that original defender “peels off” his mark and rotates to whoever is left open

Peja: Rick Adelman’s version of a Rip DHO in which a shooter sets a backscreen at one Elbow and then receives a handoff (typically from a Horns alignment), as Peja Stojaković used to do

Pin-in Screen: an off-ball screen near the low block in which the screener is facing the basket, freeing up a teammate to be open in the corner or wing area (see exit screen)

Pinch Post: an offensive series in which a big near the weakside Elbow is used as a playmaking hub (while no other teammates are between him and the closest sideline)

Pistol (offensive series aka “21”): a fast-paced, 5-out offense primarily featuring the ballhandler (on a wing), another guard (in the strongisde corner), and a big (at the top of the key)

Pistol (action): a pass to a teammate followed by a downhill handoff back to the original ballhandler on his way to the hoop (see pistol series)

Pistol (action): from the Triangle offense, an action that’s either a down screen followed by a dribble handoff (aka Chicago) or a handoff followed by a ballscreen (aka Miami/Orlando)

Pre-switch: an off-ball switch in anticipation of a ballscreen so that a better defender is now guarding the ballscreener and can thus switch onto the ballhandler

Ram Screen: an offensive action in which a player receives a screen and then sets a ballscreen

Reject: an off-ball screen option in which the cutter chooses to cut backdoor instead of using a designed screen (he rejects the screen); running a pick-and-roll, a ballhandler can also reject a ballscreen by dribbling away from it (and towards the basket)

Release Into the Pocket: a would-be screener slips a ballscreen and settles into open space near the Elbow for a short roll opportunity, commonly used against ice coverage or blitzes

Ricky: a backscreen followed by a down screen for the same player; more broadly, a screen and rescreen involving the same cutter and screener each time, with the second screen set in the opposite direction of the first

Rim Runner: a big who aims to outrun his defender in transition offense (see “Carolina Break”)

Rip: a backscreen (traditionally, rip referred to a backscreen set by a guard for a big)

Rip DHO (aka “21 Down” from Pistol): a three-person action in which a player sets a rip screen and then receives a DHO

Rub (cf. “Horns Rub” or Elbow Rub”): a backscreen in which a player cuts toward the basket and then hooks around to set a backscreen, typically near the Elbow

Rub (alternate definition): a playcall for middle ballscreen

Rub (alternate definition): a brush cut; a cut/moving screen a player makes to obstruct the path of a defender (but without making contact with that defender, and thus not a moving-screen violation)

Scram Switch: an off-ball switch to mitigate the mismatch caused by an earlier switch

Screen the Screener (StS): an action in which a player sets a screen and then receives a screen from a different teammate (see rip DHO, Swing)

Screen Your Own: a tactic against switching defenses in which an offensive player screens his own defender, preventing his defender from switching onto the cutter

Secondary Break: an offensive system that transitions from a primary break (aka fastbreak) to a set halfcourt offense (see “Carolina Break”)

Short Action: a cut/flash to the strongside during a pick-and-roll, usually to punish hedging or blitzing

Short Roll: a pick-and-roll in which the roller stops short (often near the free-throw line), receives a pass from the ballhandler, and makes plays for his teammates from there

Shuffle (offense): a continuity offense best known for its namesake Shuffle screen

Slash: a pick-and-pop followed by a DHO to the weakside

Slash (alternate definition): a 45 cut, especially from the weakside wing while a big pops to the top of the key

Slice Screen (aka “shuffle”): a backscreen for a player on the wing

Slip: a basket cut made by an offensive player who was about to set a screen

SLOB: sideline out-of-bounds (aka “SOB”)

Shell: a defense’s standard alignment

Shrink the Floor: a team defensive tactic in which the off-ball defenders shift closer to the ballhandler, thereby clogging possible driving lanes but forcing longer recoveries/closeouts if the ball is passed to the weak side of the floor

Spain Pick-and-Roll: a pick-and-roll combined with a backscreen (the player who sets the ballscreen then receives a backscreen as he rolls to the hoop)

Spain Veer StS: a double drag variation that combines Spain and veer: After two players set the double-drag ballscreen, a fourth teammate sets a backscreen for one of the pickers and then receives a down screen from the other picker in a screen-the-screener action

Spanoulis: an offensive action in which a guard/wing cuts from under the rim towards the top of the key for a handoff (the guard/wing often receives [aka Gut Chicago] or sets a screen [aka Rip DHO] before getting the DHO)

Spread Pick-and-Roll: a pick-and-roll with the three off-ball players behind the 3-point line (typically, an off-ball player is in each corner, and the third off-ball player is in the slot opposite of the ballscreen)

Stagger: two screens set in the same direction for the same player, one after the other (the opposite of elevator or gate, in which the screeners stand shoulder to shoulder) (see motion strong)

Stampede Cut (aka “Slot Drive” or “Go-and-Catch”): an offensive tactic in which a player on the perimeter is already running to the hoop as he catches a pass and continues driving to the basket (instead of squaring up for a shot and then attacking the closeout)

Step-Up Screen: a side ballscreen set with the screener’s back parallel to the baseline

The Steve Novak Play: a variation of wedge roll in which a shooter sets a wedge screen and then receives a down screen to pop to the top of the key for a 3-pointer (more loosely, a PnR with a simultaneous down screen for a shooter to cut from the paint to the top of the key)

Strong Side: the half of the court that has the ball (e.g., if the ballhandler is near the left wing, the left corner is the “strongside corner”)

Strong-Side Zone: a zone/man hybrid defensive tactic popularized by Tom Thibodeau in which help defenders pre-rotate to the ball side in order to clog driving lanes and force offenses to rely on third and fourth scoring options

Swing Offense: an interchangeable 4-out continuity offense that rotates between a UCLA screen and a slice/pin-down screen-the-screener combination

Switch to Blitz: a switch and then a double-team (“blitz”) to prevent the ballhandler from attacking a mismatched defender

Tag Switch: a defensive tactic in which the tagger switches onto an open roller or cutter, whose original defender peels off him and guards the offensive player left open by that rotation

TD Cut (aka “Tim Duncan Cut”): after a guard passes to the big near the Elbow, the guard cuts off the big — using him as a screener—on his path the hoop for a layup

Throwback: an off-ball screening action in which the ballhandler drives in one direction (usually baseline) and then passes back to the spot he started from

Thunder Screen: a down screen for a big at the low block

Trailer: a big who, unlike the rim runner, is the last man up the floor and settles in near the top of the key (see “Carolina Break”)

Triple Switch: a defensive tactic of switching twice in a row so that three defenders are now guarding different players (see scram switch, a type of triple switch)

Twirl: an off-ball action in which a player curls the first of two staggered screens, and then the first screener turns around and cuts off the second screener

UCLA Screen (or UCLA Cut): a backscreen for the ballhandler to cut from the strongside slot to the basket after that ballhandler has passed to the wing

Under (aka “Inverted Ballscreen”): Mike D’Antoni’s term for a guard setting a ballscreen for a big

Under: a pick-and-roll coverage in which the on-ball defender goes underneath the ballscreen

Up the Line: the location of an off-ball perimeter defender when they are a few steps closer to the ballhandler instead of being glued to their matchup (contrast with Down the Line, in which the defender is closer to their matchup and thus further from the ballhandler)

Varejão: a pick-and-roll technique in which the screener “flips” or changes the angle of his screen at the last second before the screen is set

Veer Screen: a ballscreen followed by an off-ball screen, usually a wide pin-down (the player who sets the ballscreen then sets a screen for a different teammate instead of rolling to the hoop, as he would in a typical pick-and-roll)

Veerback Switch (aka “veer”): an emergency/unplanned switch after a ballscreen in which the ballhandler’s defender and the screener’s defender realize they can’t recover to their original assignments, so they switch: The ballhandler’s defender takes the screener, and the screener’s defender takes the ballhandler

Weak: a pick-and-roll coverage in which the on-ball defender forces the ballhandler to his left/weak hand

Weak Side: the half of the court that doesn’t have the ballhandler (e.g., if the ballhandler is near the left wing, the right corner is the “weakside corner”)

Weakside I: the I-shaped alignment of the two weakside help defenders: “low man” (who is guarding the player in the weakside corner) and the “high I defender” (who is guarding the weakside wing)

Wedge Screen: an angled backscreen set by a guard for a big to cut from the top of the key to the low block, usually to create an advantageous post-up opportunity (see also ram)

Wedge Roll: a side pick-and-roll in which a player sets a wedge screen for a teammate who then sets a ballscreen on the wing (similar to ram)

Wide Screen (aka “Away” or “Single Away”): a high cross screen set by the player at the top of the key for their teammate on the weakside wing to cut toward the ball (often in 5-out or 4-out alignment)

“Winner” (Brad Stevens set): a late-game SLOB (sideline out of bounds) play that culminates in a flare screen for a 3-point opportunity near the weakside wing

Wiper Screen: a flare screen followed by a cross screen, involving the same cutter and screener both times (see ricky)

WTF: a sideline (SLOB) screen-the-screener play in which a shooter sets a backscreen for the in-bounder and then uses a pin-down screen (aka “What the Fuck?” or shoulder shrug)

Zipper: a down screen for a player on the strongside low block to cut to the slot, where he receives a pass from the wing

Zoom: a 3-person action involving a screen and a dribble handoff, such as Miami (or Pistol) Action (DHO + ballscreen) or Chicago Action (down screen + DHO) (see @HoopVision68’s video explanation of Zoom Action)

The 4 Main Screens: Flare, Cross, Down, and Back

Left panel: 3 sets a Flare for 2; 4 sets a Cross for 5. Right Panel: 3 sets a Down for 2; 4 sets a Backscreen for 5.

  1. Flare Screen: a screen for a player to cut away from the ballhandler, fading along the 3pt line (e.g., Hammer)
  2. Cross Screen: a screen for a player to cut horizontally across the court and towards the ballhandler (e.g., Wide, Flex, Horns Out)
  3. Down Screen: a screen for a player to cut away from the basket/baseline and towards the 3-point line/ballhandler (e.g., Pin-down, Zipper)
  4. Back Screen: a screen for a player to cut towards the basket (e.g., UCLA/Hawk, Chin, Slice)

How This Works: Inspired by Dylan Murphy’s excellent Basketball Dictionary, the Basketball Action Dictionary is definitions, variations, explanations, and video examples of different actions, from 45 cuts to wiper screens.

The hyperlinked terms have pages dedicated to each action. If you have any questions or suggestions for new posts, drop me a line at on Twitter at @bowser2bowser.

If a word is in bold but not underlined, its definition has a link to a different post that mentions the term. For example, Bazemore does not have its own post, but its definition links to the page for UCLA screen, which mentions and defines the Bazemore.

Lastly, basketball terminology is like the telephone game: Terms and definitions get slightly altered as they get passed from person to person. The Basketball Action Dictionary tries to accommodate various and occasionally competing definitions (e.g., whether wiper and ricky are synonyms or merely similar actions). If you know of an alternate definition or term that isn’t listed, please let me know and I’ll update the post.

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