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Basketball Zone Offense

Most teams play Zone defenses for various reasons, maybe to be able to contain a fast team, maybe they feel the opponents do not shoot very well from outside and many other reasons. Through the years a Zone defense has created problems for very good teams and has also won a couple of championships. Here are 10 key principles you can use or consider in designing any Zone offense.

Defense. 10 Principles to Attacking any Zone Defense.


1. The Fast Break.
The first and easier way to beat a Zone defense is by a fast-break. Box out well and rebound, give a quick outlet pass go for your fast break. If the opponents scored, inbound fast and push the ball up the floor as quickly as possible, before the defensive zone can get set.

2. Out Number the defense (Overload)the zone


Outnumber the defense covering a Zone area. Some people refer to this as overload. By doing so, the defense finds it difficult to cover everyone, forcing a shift that will create an opening that could possibly lead to a basket. The diagram A here shows the possible approach you would give to a two guard front defense. Always go odd against an even front or even against an odd front alignment.

Diagram B shows a possible approach you would give to a one guard defensive front. Notice D1 has to take care of O1 & O3, D2 has to take care of O1 & O2 and at the baseline D4 has to take care of O2,O4 & O5

3. Attacking the gaps.


Dribbling is an effective tool in attacking a Zone defense. It is most effective in attacking the Zone gaps. Perimeter players should look to dribble-penetrate the gaps in the zone and kick out or look to dump inside to the post player. One of the most effective plays on penetration is the Circle movement If movement. you train your team well to understand it then it would be very effective to create chances whenever you penetrate the Zone gaps.

Play4. Interior Play- Get the ball inside


Look to get the ball inside for high-percentage shots. The high post is a very EFFECTIVE position to get points against a Zone defense. When the ball is at this position, he (the high post) can shoot the ball, initiate a penetration to the basket, and pass to the low post player slashing behind the defense at the baseline, or sealing the defense at the low post. He can also pass to the perimeter player cutting to the basket or to the shooters at the wing or baseline, skip pass to stretch the defense. The high post becomes the second play maker. The low post with the ball MUST face the basket and be threat to play. This way

hes able to see the other post and the perimeter players. This creates openings to beat the Zone. With the ball inside, it causes problems for the Zone especially with aggressive posts, they could be fouled, or they suck up the defense for an open three-pointer.

5. Shoot the ball & Get another Shot.


Take the high percentage shots such as the lay ups and shots near the rim using your post players. This will force the Zone to help inside giving a chance to the perimeter shot or the 3 point shot. Have good shot selection giving yourself a chance to rebound and get another shot much closer to the basket. Practice taking high percentage shots.

6. Move and Maintain Good Spacing


Cut into the zone and pause on open areas or gaps. The movements MUST be purposeful, intended to drag the defender to create space or gap Drag and Fill (a dribble can be used drag the defender). As in the post movement, the first cutter is intended to create a play for the second or third person. Keep the spacing in order to stretch the zone (Seal the defender to create more space). With good spacing, you are able to pass the ball well from high post to a wing or corner, and then skip pass to the opposite side. With the spacing, then Players are able to move into the gaps and passing lanes in the zone.

7. Offensive Rebounding
Unlike in Man to Man defense, Zone defense does not have clear cut responsibilities to box out. Crash the offensive boards aggressively with your hands up ready to rebound. Read where the ball is coming off the backboard and fight to obtain the inside position. The offensive rebound gives you the highpercentage shots you need to win. Always have the back side rebounder ready to crash the boards.

8. Freeze the Defense


Perimeter players MUST receive the ball in "triple-threat" position, ready to shoot, look inside to pass, or penetrate. This act as well as the ball fake or fake pass freezes the defense. The Zone will react to a good ball fake to allow the creation of a possible pass inside the zone, a better pass for an open shot or a penetration to the basket.

9. Patience
Patience is a virtue, Patience Pays. Be patient on offense and take the high percentage shot. Wait to see a clear and good opening especially inside the zone. You MUST get one of your posts touch first (either low or high post). Pass the ball from side to side to distort the Zone. Give quick crispy passes, fake pass and give pass opposite direction. The players should be strong enough to wait for the timely and correct opening to score.

10. Screen the zone


Setting screens against the zone is very effective. You can set a screen on the person with the ball or back screens. When you use screens on zones, both inside and outside. Players have opportunities to cuts to the open areas, and especially to the weak-side, or "back-door". If you have good post players, you can work on the weak side screen, then a skip pass and pin.

Note; FullPress Full-court.


Most teams that play look at slowing down the game. A half court defense favors the slowdown basketball. However, when you press full court, this forces quick passes and movement which makes the game an up-tempo one and more transition type.

Cliff C. Owuor
Head Coach APR Lions Basketball Club.