Why Play a Zone Defense? Their are many advantages to playing a zone; this article will list just some of the advantages. It will also talk briefly about overcoming some of the so-called disadvantages and then offer up many coaching tips to remember for when you do begin incorporating a zone defense. Zone Defense Advantages
- Individual defensive weaknesses can often be hidden within a zone.
- It is a complete team defense. If you are beaten, help is available.
- Your team can transition and fast break effectively out of a zone defense.
- The ‘bigs’ are often in rebounding position close to the basket.
- An effective zone can reduce the number of high percentage shots.
- Teams are often less prepared to play against zone defenses.
- Most zone offenses are very similar, therefore, your overall scouting time should be reduced.
- You can add nuances to easily doubleteam a great one-on-one player.
Zone Defense Problems
There can certainly be problems when using a zone defense if you don’t understand the potential issues. The following 4 problems are often cited when discussing the ‘cons’ of playing a zone. True, they may become problems, but they can be overcome.
- It makes the defenders lazy. I suppose that it can make defenders lazy, but a lazy defender will be a lazy defender. A good zone defense requires as much movement as a man-to-man defense. The players must understand this and know to shift and rotate quickly. Proper drills and correct teaching can overcome this potential laziness.
- It allows for open perimeter shots. I’m not going to lie…it does! It’s also easier to get layups against a man-to-man! Again, proper teaching and drilling — along with hard work — and the perimeter of a zone can be adequately defended.
- It gives up too many offensive rebounds. A zone defense does have the potential to give up offensive rebounds because the defenders may not be in a position to turn and block out their opponent. Coach the importance to rebounding, teach how to rebound, and enforce they work hard at doing so and this ‘problem’ can be overcome. I would say if a team can’t rebound defensively in a zone, they won’t be that good at doing so in playing a man-to-man either!
- You can fast break a zone defense. In actuality, you really never fast break a ‘defense’. You are fast breaking the opponent’s offense or their inability to transition to defense. If the players learn to transition quickly, they can get into any defensive alignment you desire.
Zone Defense Coaching Tips
- Some teams will get ‘hot’ against the zone. Shooting percentage will generally taper off but you must be prepared to make necessary adjustments.
- Most teams ‘attack’ the zone with perimeter passes. The good teams will attack with dribble and pass penetration inside. Usually, once the ball goes inside, it rarely comes back out.
- It is key to rebound the weakside. Most shots carom to the opposite side of the rim and the players should be aware of this.
- All five players are rebounders. None should leave early unless directed to do so by the coach!
- Most offensive teams will attack by trying to get the ball to the middle.
- Communication, as always, is key. Defenders need to communicate the cutters and flashers so their teammates know what’s going on.
- If you install a full court zone press, it is generally easier to retreat into a half-court zone defensive alignment.
- The on-ball zone defender can play tough ‘in-your-face’ defense. He should have help and backup.
- If you only play zone, you must have a pressure zone at your disposal. Many teams with the lead will hold the ball against a zone, especially at the end of game situations.
- Fouls generally occur less often in zones than in man-to-man.
- The zone defender will predominantly approach and retreat; lateral slides are not as frequently used.
- Approach the opponent as you would in man-to-man — attack, defend, and dictate. Don’t just sit back in a zone and let the offense dictate tempo.
- Defenders must be willing to move with each pass. If they move when the ball moves, the passes are less hurtful.
- Determination and hard work are essential for any zone defense.