The following 21 Zone Offense Strategies will help your zone offense be more effective and more dominant. These strategies are basically individual or team tactics you can utilize against any zone defense – and with any zone offensive system – to help you move the basketball and the defense to create open scoring opportunities.
Zone Strategy 1: Pass and Move
O1 passes inside to O5 and moves to the right or left away from the defender, preferably to the direction that the defender’s back is facing. O5 then passes back out to O1 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.
Zone Strategy 2: Make Two Guard One
O1 penetrates the gap between X1 and X2. Once X1 and X2 stop O1, he passes to O2 or O3.
Point of emphasis: Penetrating the gaps in the zone forces two defenders to guard one offensive player, thereby opening up an offensive teammate.
Zone Strategy 3: Inside / Outside Opposite
O1 passes to O5 on the low block. O5 turns and passes out to O2 for a shot.
Point of emphasis: The ball must go inside and then back out to the weakside perimeter. This technique keeps the defense from cheating in too much and should also help isolate the post player with the ball.
Zone Strategy 4: Open Spots
O2 should step into open spot for a skip pass. O2 must stay outside 15-20 feet for the shot.
Point of emphasis: Wing players should make themselves open for skip passes.
Zone Strategy 5: Quick Ball Reversals
O1, O2, and O3 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.
Zone Strategy 6: Flash Middle
When ball is on the wing, if the opposite low post (O5) 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.
Zone Strategy 7: Pass Fakes & Grimace
The perimeter offensive players (O1, O2, O3) must make a pass then fake a pass the second time the ball is touched. This is especially key 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 and a grimace on your face) you can get all five defenders to shift. Thereby, you can make the defense shift to one side and then pass it someplace else.
Zone Strategy 8: Rebound the Weakside
O3 puts up the shot and O2 crashes the boards from the weakside.
Point of emphasis: This is a great opportunity because there are no blocking out assignments.
Zone Strategy 9: Drag Dribble
O1 uses the dribble to drag the defender over towards him. He then can pass the ball to open O2, 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.
Zone Strategy 10: Skip Pass and Post
O1 makes a skip pass to O3. O3 may have the shot or look inside to O5 posting up.
Point of emphasis: If the defense is slow in reacting to the skip pass, O5 should be able to seal off his defender and be open in the low post.
Zone Strategy 11: Pass Behind the Zone
O3 dribbles up from the baseline pulling the defense up with him. O4 steps out behind the zone. O3 passes to O4 for the shot.
Point of emphasis: Similar to the drag dribble, O3 is creating an open space in the zone by utilizing a dribble. The ballside low post (O4) should recognize this and move to the now vacated area. This action can also be performed anywhere in the halfcourt when the player with the ball dribbles away from a teammate.
Zone Strategy 12: Down the Gut
O1 passes to O4 in the short corner. The high post (O5) dives to the basket down the middle of the zone. O4 looks to pass to O5 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 the the high post player to utilize.
Zone Strategy 13: Step Into the Zone
O1 skip passes the ball over the zone to O2. The opposite wing (O2) stays outside the three point line and steps into the pass ready for the shot.
Point of emphasis: O2, by staying outside the three point circle, forces the defense to stay spread out and cover more area.
Zone Strategy 14: Reverse to a Triangle
When reversing the ball, try to keep three players opposite the ball to create a numbers advantage on the reversal.
Point of emphasis: O2, O3, and O4 are in a triangle position. This makes it difficult to defend without moving a defender out of position, which in turn, would open up either O1 or O5 (not pictured but would be on the weak low side).
Zone Strategy 15: Dribble Off the Top
O1 dribbles the ball off the top of the key, pulling the defense as far as possible before passing.
Point of emphasis: This simple maneuver, dribbling off the top, forces the entire defense to move. Also useful if the wings are closely guarded and as a way to start your zone offense.
Zone Strategy 16: Keep Post Opposite the Ball
O5 should stay opposite the ball for several reasons:
- Offensive Rebounding
- Creates the ‘Skip Pass and Post’ Principle
- Creates the ‘Triangle’ behind the zone
- Keeps the middle open
Zone Strategy 17: Attack on the Reversal
On the ball reversal, O2 should look to attack the zone. O2 looks to penetrate into the zone or for the quick pass to O5 on the low block.
Point of emphasis: On a quick reversal, the defense will still be rotating over. Look to attack quickly while they are out of position. Don’t let the defense set themselves up again.
Zone Strategy 18: Attack Zone From Behind
The offensive post players should look to flash into the middle of the zone from behind.
Point of emphasis: By starting on the baseline, below the defense, the offensive post players help to spread the zone out.
Zone Strategy 19: 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 weakside defense is probably already cheating to the middle to cover the post players. The penetration might draw them in more and open up the weakside wing.
Zone Strategy 20: Curl Into Open Spots
The perimeter players must look to curl into open spots in the zone, as shown by O1 and O2 in the diagram.
Point of emphasis: The offense should get into no man’s land to force the defense into making decisions.
Zone Strategy 21: Screen and Step to the Ball
The post players (O4) 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.