Every coach will have to face a zone defense at some point and it’s especially effective against youth teams because players don’t have the strength to shoot 3’s to stretch the floor and exploit the open space. Coach Don Showalter – head coach of team USA U17 men’s national team breaks down how he attacks zone defenses which he sees alot at the international level.
This super comprehensive guide to zone offense that will cover everything you need to know about breaking a zone and video breakdown of team USA:
7 principles for a zone offense.
- Fast break beats zone down the floor
- Must have player movement
- Penetrate the gaps
- Quick ball movement
- Aggressive board play
- Show patience vs zone
- Get the ball inside
- Pass and move
- #1 passes inside to #5 and moves to the right or left away from the defender, preferably to the direction that the defender’s back is facing. #5 then passes back out to #1 for an open shot.
- Point of emphasis: The offense should always relocate after a pass. Do not stand in the same spot you passed from.
2. Make two guard one
- #1 penetrates the gap between defender 1 and defender 2. Once defender 1 and defender 2 stop #1, he passes to #2 or #3.
- Point of emphasis: Penetrating the gaps in the zone forces two defenders to guard one offensive player, thereby opening up an offensive teammate.
3. Inside/outside opposite
- #1 passes to #5 on the low block. #5 turns and passes out to #2 for a shot.
- Point of emphasis: The ball must go inside and then back out to the weak side perimeter. This technique keeps the defense from cheating in too much and should also help isolate the post player with the ball.
4. Skip passes (open spots)
Skip passes are just long cross court passes. For youth players, you’ll need to practice this.
- #2 should step into open spot for a skip pass.
#2 must stay outside 15-20 feet for the shot.
- Point of emphasis: Wing players should make themselves open for skip passes.
5. Quick ball reversals
- #1, #2, and #3 should reverse the ball quickly from one side of the court to the other. This forces the low forward to step out and guard the wing player.
- Point of emphasis: Once the forward commits to guarding the wing, the offense can attack.
6. Flash middle
- When ball is on the wing, if the opposite low post (#5) sees an opening in the middle of the zone, he flashes to that open spot.
- Point of emphasis: Post players must flash to the middle to keep the defense honest.
7. Pass fakes
- The perimeter offensive players (#1, #2, #3) must make a pass then fake a pass the second time the ball is touched. This is especially important for the player on top of the key.
- Point of emphasis: Pass fakes against a zone are possibly more effective than the passes themselves. By making a pass fake (selling it with a good, hard fake you can get all five defenders to shift.
8. Rebound the weakside
- #3 puts up the shot and #2 crashes the boards from the weak side.
- Point of emphasis: This is a great opportunity because there are no blocking out assignments.
9. Drag dribble
- #1 uses the dribble to drag the defender over towards him. He then can pass the ball to open #2, creating an attack situation.
- Point of emphasis: Drag the defense with you, then release the ball. The dribble will pull the defense out of position.
10. Pass behind the zone (Short corner)
Short corners are a weakness and the baseline in general. Having shooters on the baseline “flattens” the defense and creates more spacing for your team.
- #3 dribbles up from the baseline pulling the defense up with him. #4 steps out behind the zone. #3 passes to #4 for the shot.
- Point of emphasis: Similar to the drag dribble,
#3 is creating an open space in the zone by utilizing a dribble. The ball side low post (#4) should recognize this and move to the now vacated area.
11. Post dive
- #1 passes to #4 in the short corner. The high post (#5) dives to the basket down the middle of the zone. #4 looks to pass to #5 for the shot.
- Point of emphasis: If a player receives a pass in the short corner, the defense should cover that player, thereby opening up the middle for the high post player to utilize.
12. Step into the zone
- #1 skip passes the ball over the zone to #2. The opposite wing (#2) stays outside the three point line and steps into the pass ready for the shot.
- Point of emphasis: #2, by staying outside the three point circle, forces the defense to stay spread out and cover more area.
13. Penetrate and kick
- The wing players should look to penetrate the guard / forward gap in the zone and kick the ball out to the opposite wing for the shot.
- Point of emphasis: The weak side defense is probably already cheating to the middle to cover the post players. The penetration might draw them in more and open up the weak side wing.
14. Screen and step to the ball
- The post players (#4) should look to screen the baseline defenders and then step to the ball. The perimeter players can utilize pass fakes to set up the post player.
- Point of emphasis: The screen can be used to open up a player for a skip pass. If defended, the screener should step to the ball and will possibly be open.
15. BONUS: Screen the zone
It forces the defense to make tough decisions because there’s no assigned defenders on the screens. Either you’re left open or you draw the defense in.
- Attack the diamond drill
Purpose: Simulating a 3-2 zone. Focus on the fundamentals make two guard one and inside/outside opposite pass.
Rules: The defense must stay in a diamond formation.
2. 3 vs box drill
Purpose: The advantage here are for the perimeter guards against a 2-3 zone. Practice make two guard one, penetrate and kick, drag dribble, quick ball reversals and step into the zone.
Rules: Defense must stay in box formation and forwards cannot leave their zone.
3. High low drill
Purpose: This drill are for the forwards and centers to practice getting the ball inside. Focus on: post dives, flash middle, screen and step to the ball.
4. 4 on 4 zone fundamentals
Purpose: This drill simulates a 2-3 zone and requires all the fundamentals mentioned above.
#askCoachbase: Are we missing anything here? Leave a comment if you have some insights on how to beat zones. Share the game!