1-2-1-1 Alan Lambert
Alan Lambert (Basketball Highway)
Zone presses are very effective when interchanged with man-to-man pressure. The 1-2-1-1 is strong around the perimeter area, where double teams are easier. It is also simple to fall back into a 1-2-2 or 3-2 zone.
X5 pressures the inbound passer, wing X3 or X4 traps the inbounds pass with X5 when the ball comes to their side, then the other wing protects shallow middle, anticipating a return pass across court for a quick steal.
Middle defender X1 normally gets most of the steals. X1 covers a sideline inbounds pass, vertically parallels movement of the inbounds passer, and can be assigned to deny a pass to a middle attacker. X1 has deep sideline and middle responsibility when a trap is set by X5 and a wing. If the ball gets behind a wing, normally X1 and the trailing wing will try to trap the sideline while the three other players rotate back to coverage areas.
Safety X2 stops an inbounds pass into the defensive backcourt. He may have to rotate up in certain situations, but must signal X1 to rotate back as safety.
Variation - instead of trapping on the inbounds pass, X5 denies a pass back to the inbounder, forcing the ballhandler to attack on the dribble, which can lead to more steals.
If the inbounder cuts downcourt after passing, X5 follows him until the level of the ball, then traps and releases defensive responsibility to the offside wing defender. Using both a quick trap and delayed trap can add variation to your press attack.
In the basic 1-2-1-1 you may choose only to trap any dribble attack or lateral pass (red), the key for releasing the press is any long pass behind the front line. Late in games you might consider going from red to yellow (trap all passes in the backcourt whether lateral or forward) to green (trap and chase all passes not a direct threat to the basket).
Consider denying the inbounds pass if your team is more athletic than your opponent, or you need to catch up quickly late in a game, or if your opponent use two guards to attack the pressure, then disguise your press attack by playing man to man in full deny position, which might get them to clear out, creating better opportunities to trap the ballhandler.
Facing a great guard, it may be advantageous for X5 to double-team deny the strong guard (shown), then one defender denies him after the inbounds pass.
If the opposition uses a 1-4 set across the foul line extended, don't try to deny the inbounds pass, focus on preventing any deep pass.
The middle is the vulnerable spot in a 1-2-1-1 press, especially after quick ball reversal.
Instead of continuing to trap with X5, optionally have him float back to the middle to match up with any cutter, the weak-side wing comes across later to close the trap.
There are exceptions to the rotations of X1 and X2, for example, if the attacking team uses a long lateral skip pass, it may be difficult for X1 to take away a pass to a weakside deep attacker coming back to the ball, in this situation X1 and X2 exchange coverage.