It’s a common coaching saying that “defense is the best offense”, but Scott Drew’s Baylor Bears and their 1-1-3 zone take that concept to a whole new level. Watching them play defense has you unsure which team is meant to be attacking. Their guards harass opposing ball handlers, their wings are are lengthy and quick to trap, and their center is an intimidating presence in the paint.
And it’s working. So far this year, the Baylor Bears are holding opponents to just 0.9 PPP and an astounding 0.71 PPP in the half court.
Anyways, enough chat, let’s break down the 1-1-3 zone defense!
Personnel and Organization
So the first thing you need to know about the 1-1-3 zone defense is that unlike most zones, your goal is not to pack the paint. Rather, it’s about getting in the face of perimeter players and using rotations aggressively to allow the defense to recover, rather than give help outright.
Keeping that in mind, let’s look at what the players do:
1- “Patrick Beverley”, your quickest guard who’s main goal is to harass the opposing team’s primary ballhandler from half court and to prevent middle penetration.
2- “Chris Paul”, the guard with the best basketball IQ, needs to deny the high post, make rotations to trap the wings and otherwise cover any holes in your defense. 1 and 2 will rotate positions over the course of a possession.
3 and 4- “Jimmy Butler”, your athletic, lengthy wings. These guys need to be great at defending 1 on 1, rotating quickly to trap and denying passes to the corners (defending the corner 3 is a weaknesses of this defense, more on this later).
5- “Deandre Jordan”, your shot blocking center. This player defends the post and erases any perimeter mistakes at the rim.
As the ball is brought up following a make:
- 1 goes to meet the ballhandler at half court.
- 2 stands at the high post to guard any player there.
- 3 and 4 stand high and wide, outside the three point line between the second block and free throw line, ready to deny any pass to the corners.
- 5 stands in the paint. If there’s a post player he goes to guard them, otherwise he patrols the restricted area, cheating slightly towards the corner.
- Everyone must communicate- with so many rotations, the defense is in constant movement. Communication is key.
- Everyone must rebound- not many players are in the paint so boxing out is key.
- Ball pressure at all times- this will force mistakes and turnovers.
- Hard closeouts with hands high- there are no “soft” closeouts in this defense. Players need to get into the face of their man.
- Defender stays on man until called off by teammate- some closeouts require a teammate to bump and then retreat to guard another player. No leaving the ball until called.
- Always guard the high and low posts- the 1 and 2 must communicate constantly to make sure someone is always protecting the high post.
- NO middle- force the ball handler baseline
One last note on defensive philosophy- this defense, whilst it has some built in traps, isn’t about creating steals. Baylor plays at one of the slowest paces in the nation so they don’t get a ton of break away fast breaks. Instead, each good rotation denies the offense open looks and forces them into taking contested shots with the shot clock winding down. Any steals you get are going to be by players forcing passes that aren’t there.
Now lets look at how the 1-1-3 responds when the ball is passed to different areas.
Slot to slot pass
Many offenses, including the dribble drive motion, and 4 out 1 in offense have 2 guards in the slots (area directly above the lane line). In a slot to slot pass, the 1 and 2 guards most rotate between guarding the high post and the perimeter.
- 1 is forcing the defense baseline, and tries to make the slot to slot pass as difficult as possible.
- On the pass, 2 anticipates and closes out on the perimeter.
- 1 sinks back to guard the post.
- Meanwhile, the strong side wing (4) moves to deny the pass to the corner. The weak side wing (3) moves in to be inside and deeper than the deepest man on his side of the court. He gets ready to run out and intercept any skip pass.
- 4 and 3 can help close out on top players, depending on how high the offense is (e.g in the high post spread offense) When this happens, the 3 closes out until 2 can rotate over, before running back to his man. 5 stays in the low post but anticipates the pass to the corner and close out.
Slot to wing pass
On the pass to the wing from the top everyone must be ready to move.
- The ball side wing (4), quickly hedges, giving 2 time to rotate over.
- 1 drops down to guard the high post and the weak side wing (3) also moves down to be as deep as the lowest player on offense.
- 5 tries to push his man out of the low post if he’s fighting for post position.
- Once 2 is on his man, 4 drops back down to his man.
- If there’s no corner, 4 can just guard his man 1 on 1 on the wing, remembering to force baseline.
- Once this happens, you want to keep the ball on that side of the floor. 2 should deny middle and make the reverse pass difficult.
Wing to corner pass
If the ball gets into the corner you want to be aggressive in ball denial to try and force a risky long skip pass.
- 4, the ball side wing, closes out on the corner.
- If there’s a big in the low post, 5 guards him from behind whilst 2 sinks down to front him, to deny the entry pass.
- 1 rotates down to the wing to cover the reverse pass.
- 3, the weak side wing steps in and sags towards the baseline and gets ready for a long skip pass. When it comes, he must steal it.
- The weak side wing sags below the lowest man on the weak side (either the low post or corner) to get full vision of the court- it’s easier to run and look forwards than behind you. This is to also to ensure the ball doesn’t get skipped to the corner.
- When the ball is in the corner you want to make it difficult to reverse it. Don’t allow a quick straight line pass. Force a risky skip or a lob by closing out with active hands to deny the ball.
- When the ball is in the wing and corner the 1-1-3 looks like a 2-3 zone with a post double team.
Ball reversal from the corner
When the ball is finally skipped, you must scramble to rotate. Ideally, this is a skip pass back to the top because you’re denying the pass to the wing and the cross court skip pass will get picked off.
- The weak side wing, 3, moves when the ball is in the air to bump up top.
- The guard closest to the middle, 2 (who has been denying the post) closes out to the top, so that 3 can drop back to guard his spot on the wing.
- 1, who has been denying the wing, moves back to the middle to guard the high post.
- 5 goes back to guarding the rim whilst 4, who is on ball in the corner, can move back to the wing.
- Communication between players closing out is key. You want a call like “off” or “mine” to let the help defender know that he can rotate back to his spot.
These are just the basic rotations for when the ball is passed around the perimeter. Here are some more trapping tactics for different situations.
High post entry trap
As with any zone, it’s dangerous when the ball is in the high post. The 1-1-3 uses an aggressive 2 guard trap to get the ball out of there.
- The ball is in the wing. As the wing is the last player on the strong side, 3, the strong side wing is guarding him.
- On the pass to the post, 1 drops down to double the post with 2. 3 steps back to protect the paint but is ready to close out.
- 5, the center, steps up to protect the basket in case of a drive.
- 4, the weak side wing, moves to the low block to get ready for a close out to the corner.
- Note that in the diagram above, in this situation, 1 is lower than weak side wing to prevent that skip pass. If the ball was passed to the top, 2 would close out, 1 would guard the high post, and 4 would step up to the wing.
Short corner trap
Baylor will always trap if the ball is passed to the short corner. Everyone drops down and makes it difficult to get the ball back out.
- When the ball is passed from the wing, 4, leaves his man and drops down to trap with 5.
- The weak side wing, 2, steps ball side to protect the paint.
- 1 and 2 both drop down closer to the ball to protect against cutters.
- If the ball is passed back out to the wing, the nearest guard, 2 can help until 3 recovers.
Pick and Roll Defense Notes
Baylor defends the high pick and roll with the 1 and 2 guards. As they’re already stacked, they’re in good position to guard it:
- 1 harasses the ball handler and follows him around the screen.
- 2 sags back to contain, about 3 feet in front of the free throw line (depends on his quickness).
- The weak side wing (opposite to which direction the guard is driving to) puts a foot on the lane line to close up the driving lane.
This is an unconventional approach as they give up a size mismatch for speed but it is effective in containing dribble penetration. Giving up a contested jumper on the pop to the 5 is generally a good end result for the defense.