One of the biggest challenges youth basketball coaches face is scoring against a zone defense. Inside this article, we discuss 12 simple secrets for getting high percentage shots against any type of zone.
Looking for basketball plays to help your team score against a zone defense? This article will surely help.
Playing against a zone can be a hard nut to crack... and extremely frustrating for coaches at ANY level. Whether you're playing against a 2-3, a 1-2-2, a box and 1, or some other variation, there are a number of key challenges to face.
Challenge #1: The key gets almost completely clogged up. So there's no easy way to get the ball inside to your "bigs."
Challenge #2: Penetration is almost impossible too. Even if your wings can get past the perimeter of the zone, there's always another defender right there to close off the driving lane.
Some coaches encourage their kids to launch up dozens of "Hail Mary" three-pointers… and pray that a few of them fall. But if you lack a real threat from "downtown"… or your team has an off shooting night… then this strategy won't even stand a chance.
The truth is, there are 12 key concepts to attacking a zone defense that are almost never taught to today's youth and high school coaches. These concepts are simple to learn, easy to teach, and (when used correctly) explosively powerful.
Best of all, they work for almost ANY team… even if your kids are small, slow, or can't shoot.
Let's go through these one by one.
Tip #1 - Inside Outside Theory
Getting the ball down into the paint is probably the single most effective strategy you can use against a zone defense. Interior passing forces the zone to contract, and when your post players kick it back out, the defense has to scramble to close out on the perimeter.
So you keep the defense off balance and get more open looks from outside.
Tip #2 - Recognizing The Zone
For starters, you and your players need to learn how to recognize the difference between a man-to-man defense and a zone… and how to identify the different zone formations you'll see in your league.
Tip #3 - Poise-Patience Payoff
In the early part of a possession, the defenders inside a zone are crisp and energetic… quickly rotating from spot to spot and communicating with their teammates.
But after 10 or 20 seconds, the kids get tired… their rotations break down… and (almost like magic) scoring opportunities will open up for your team. If your players can be poised and patient against a zone, they'll get plenty of chances for high percentage shots.
Tip #4 - Dribble With A Purpose
There are 2 key ways to use the dribble against the zone. The first is to dribble and draw defenders, then set up your teammates for an open shot. The second way is to penetrate through the gaps and beat two-fifths of the zone for a pull-up.
Incorporate those attacks into your zone offense, and encourage your guards to be aggressive whenever they're handling the ball.
Tip #5 - Pass The Rock
There are 4 critical passing techniques your players need to master to break down a zone defense. The chest pass for swinging it around the perimeter… the bounce past for post entry… the skip pass to get it to the weak side… and the lob pass to get over top of the zone.
Tip #6 - Get Your Spacing Right
Never... ever... EVER allow a zone defender to cover two or more of your players. Train your team to use proper spacing on the floor so the zone is forced to spread out and cover as much area as possible. Make sure your kids are at least 15 feet apart on the perimeter… and about 10-12 feet apart inside.
Tip #7 - Game Situation Shooting
Spend at least 30% of your practice time on game-situation shooting drills. This is NOT just throwing out a bunch of balls and allowing your players to fire up jumpers from anywhere they want. Instead, pick out the spots where the "gaps" in the zone usually are (the high post, short corner, 3-point line) and run structured partner-passing drills to get as many reps in as possible.
Tip #8 - Offensive Rebounding
Probably the biggest weakness of a zone defense is rebounding. Since the defenders are not matched up man to man, they have a tougher time finding their boxing out assignments when a shot goes up. If you can teach your kids how to get after the ball with intelligence and aggression, you'll EASILY get an extra 5 or 10 offensive rebounds per game.
Tip #9 - Screening Against A Zone
Using interior screens can allow your forwards to dive across the lane and receive a pass for a high percentage shot. Or (if you learn to do it correctly) you can use perimeter screens to set your shooters up for open looks from the outside.
Remember to remind your screener to come back for the ball!
Tip #10 - Use Triangles
The goal here is to move the ball to a point on the floor where you have 3 offensive players guarded by 2 defenders. This is the classic "overload" … where you try to outnumber the defense to gain an advantage and get more open looks at the basket.
Tip #11 - Attack From The Rear
Train your post players to "lurk" under the basket where the zone defenders are unable to see them and follow the ball at the same time. Then… when the opportunity presents itself… the "lurkers" can pop into the middle of the key for a pass and quick shot.
Tip #12 - Master The Timing
The single most important key to any half-court offense is timing. Your entire team needs to be on the same page, so that the offense is initiated by the first pass, and all 5 players have their movements, cuts, and screens timed correctly. Get the reps in at practice and this will come easily over time.
And if you'd like to learn more offensive tips and strategies, please visit my site for a free coaching video:
Coach Pat Anderson is a youth basketball coach and publisher of www.Online-Basketball-Drills.com. Visit his site today for more than 723 free basketball plays, drills and practice ideas.