I feel like no one ever beats a screen anymore. It seems like every team switches most like screens, or switches everything 1-4, or even at all five spots. It doesn’t seem like you ever see anyone actually fight through a screen anymore.
This is probably due to two factors with regards to the way the game has evolved – one is the lack of true positions anymore, where teams felt like they had to have traditional power forwards and centers. There is a lot more position less basketball, with a lot more skilled hybrid players who just play and don’t necessarily fit a certain mold. The second factor is the amount of ball screens you see everywhere today. With the elimination of hand-checking and the continued development of skilled players, offensive teams are looking to get an edge with a ball screen and create a quick advantage for one of their best players.
Switching to me was always the easy way out, and it changes the match-ups which can be exploited by the offense. I’ve never believed that a mismatch is going to beat you on any one possession, but I still think if you are a good defensive team it is valuable to keep the match-ups you want on your opponent for most of the game. If you are switching 1-4 it’s pretty hard to count on your best defender to take their best player out of rhythm in a game. Switching gives your players an easier option, and when given an easier option they are always going to take it. I’m not sure that’s the mentality I want on defense.
I’ve always thought there was a toughness advantage to beating screens, and I think it has a significant impact on the mentality of your defense. Does switching make you lazy? It’s probably not fair to say that all switching teams are lazy teams, but I do think switching teams can get lazy if you don’t stay on them. Teams teach “touch and take” or some version of that when they switch, but when you watch film you do see a lot of guys who just look at each other and point when wings are exchanging so they can save a few steps. Obviously it all depends on your defensive philosophy, as you can be very aggressive when you switch. But if you aren’t on it, your guys can pick up some bad habits.
I just like the toughness that’s expected of your team when they have to fight through screens. The mentality we always talked about is “tough players and tough teams don’t get screened.” You just refused to get hit, and we talk pretty specific fundamentals on how to get through screens (beat the screen, stay low, fake at the screen, run through it with your feet always moving, etc.). I never wanted my teams accepting the fact that something the offense did was going to force us to change what we wanted to do, and how we wanted to match up. I think teaching and working on beating screens develops a toughness in your team that is important to winning.
I understand the philosophy behind switching screens, and if it fits your personnel and the way you want to defend, it makes sense. But I feel like a lot of teams just switch now because it’s easier, rather than teaching and drilling what it takes to get through screens. Beating screens is tough, which is exactly what I want my defense to be, so I’m not switching.