Thoughts on Attacking Zone Defense

From Brian Anglim

 I had been reading this past month some notebooks from Don Meyer and it has been mentally stimulating. In particular there was a great section on zone attack and I wanted to share some of mine and Coach Meyer’s ideas

Regardless if you are a play, continuity, or motion zone attack – teach players zone attack principles. It allows them to recognize situations.

Define roles for players within your zone attack – high post players, short corner players, shooters, gap drivers, rebounders. Give players ways they can help the team and help them maximize those skills.

Pass fake and shot fake. Pass fakes shift the zone laterally and shot fakes shift it out.

Practice shot fakes – video tape it for players.

Sometimes you reverse the ball quick, sometimes slower allowing reads, and sometimes you throw back to where you received the ball. Teams often get into a predictable pattern of ball movement.

Why are they in a zone? Is it because they can’t match up with your penetrating ability? If so, let your team know, give them confidence.

Who is the weak defender in the zone defense – don’t let your opponent hide their weaknesses.

If a player screens within a zone, they must be able to score off of that screen.

Who can pass from the high post? Who are your non-shooters and what are you going to do with them.

Have shooting rules versus zones – a big time shooter might be able to shoot at any point, but other players might need 1 to 2 ball reversals.

Fast break on any miss – if a team’s convert into zones they have a real weakness.

Change your practice rules to work on different emphasis

  • 1 point for any jump shot regardless if it is 2 or 3, but you get two points for a bucket in the paint.
  • Change it around: You get 2 points for any 2 point basket outside the lane, 3 points for any post bucket, or 4 points for a 3
  • You can apply these rules if you are working on zone defense.

Teach ball protection and reverse pivoting for players that look to drive gaps.

Teach your players to read the defense – against man we make cuts when defenders loss vision. We should do the same versus a zone, if a player loses vision than you can cut into a hole.

Practice passing to the high post, it is crucial that it hit the player in a position to get into triple threat immediately.

High post players must catch in triple threat, they don’t have time to make a long read of the defense.

Consider sending an extra man to the boards in your zone offense.

Don Meyer ran a zone secondary; I think this is an interesting idea. Zones weaknesses lie in converting into their positions, using a secondary can further exploit that weakness.

Post players need to be able to score against a zone and most likely will not be able to use their dribble. Interior scoring versus the zone is about quick moves.

This is where post players need a quick jump hook off of either shoulder

Teach the ¼ turn, this is where when the ball is passed to a low post player he will jump to the ball and make a ¼ turn in the air. On the catch he is now in a position to shoot that power jump hook over the defense quickly.

Extend your perimeter spacing vertically to see if they will come out to play you. If they do then attack the gaps as the rotations will be too long.

Start with extended spacing and with ball rotations and dribble/pass attacks compress into shooting positions.

One reason to play a zone defense is that offense often just stands around versus it.

Against a zone, I want to dribble less but it still must be utilized. I might encourage some players to attack gaps; while others I might encourage them to rotate the ball.

Flow and courter flow, need them both.

If you get an interior attack via the drive or pass, good defenses will be able to cut off that initial attack. The key is to get it to the opposite side quickly.

Practice skip passing

Practice jump skip passes off of the drive.

Post players must be passers.

Don’t be married to have your tallest players having to be in the high post or low post, decision making and ball handling(passing and catching) are paramount.

My first priority in scouting a zone is how do they play the high post? Who? Do they trap? Do they deny it?

Other scouting notes

Do they trap the wing…The corner? Do they trap a side?

Who are the weak defenders?

How far will they extend? If they extend, how is their high post coverage.

When they closeout do the push to a direction? Do they stunt?

How do they play the short corner, can you get the ball there.

How does the center play as the ball hit’s the corner?

How well do they box out, do their guard box out? This might not seem like an actionable piece of information, but if they don’t rebound well I would send 4 to 5 to the boards.

You can read an excerpt from Creighton’s eBook by clicking on this link: The Ultimate Guide to Attacking Zone Defenses

2 thoughts on “Thoughts on Attacking Zone Defense

  • May 1, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I no longer coach but when I ended up it was at the junior high level. I have read some information tod ay that I have never read before and had I been exposed earlier I would definitely done a better job of coaching. Thanks so much for providing me with this opportunity. Bets of luck during the remainder of your careers. Yours in basketball.

    • May 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm

      Thank you very much Daniel!


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