Basketball Systems, Skills & Drills

Zone Attack

1-4 Against the Zone (Steve Smith, FIBA Assist, issue 3)

•    point guard sets up in a seam and starts the offence fairly high on the floor

•    2 an 3 start one step above the foul line, facing so they can see the defence with their peripheral vision

•    4 and 5 are at the corners of the foul line, facing each other, screening the defensive guard or sealing him out to get a pass

•    on catching the ball, high posts should inside pivot to face the basket, low posts should catch, chin, look over the high-side shoulder

•    when one post gets the ball, the other cuts to the opposite block

•    when the ball is passed from the wing to the top, the high post downscreens for the low post

•    when the ball is reversed by skip pass, the posts criss-cross, the high post cutting first

•    against an odd-front zone, the point guard plays on the blind side

•    option on a pass from the top to a wing is a screen away or exchange with the other wing

Zone Offence ( Ergin Ataman, FIBA Assist, issue 2)

•    when one post catches the ball, the other basket cuts

•    we teach our players some offensive situations that even if not pre-arranged can be very effective, e.g., a pick and roll at the elbow, back screens between perimeter players, or between inside and perimeter players against a 3-2 zone

Zone Offence (Moussa Tourι, FIBA Assist, issue 4)

•    when the ball is received in the high post, there is no effective defence

•    cut after making a pass

•    practice passing, primarily the skip pass

How to Attack the Zone Defence (Bodizar Maljkovic, FIBA Assist, issue 13)

•    most US college coaches demand that the ball be passed inside at least twice before a shot

•    many successful teams put 3 or 4 players near the basket behind the defence then pop out for a pass

•    Europe needs to use more pass fakes

•    offensive rebound positioning should begin when the shooter lifts the ball to his chin - if you wait for the shot, it’s too late.

•    zone offence one - leave the perimeter open with no high post, forcing the defence to play man to man

•    decoy play - 1 passes to 2 and cuts to the ballside corner, 5 backscreens the top of the zone for a skip pass from 2 to 3, a mismatch when the bottom defender comes out, 3 can also look for 5

•    zone offence two - four perimeter players and a low post, on a skip pass from one corner to the other, they automatically double screen the other side

•    zone offence three - overload one side leaving their best player on the weakside, starting from a 1-4 set       

Attacking the Box and One (Lou Carnesecca, Basketball Highway)

•    prepare your players - your scorer must move without the ball without a lot of open space but will receive multiple screens, and open up other players when double teamed

•    basic zone attack principles

      •    split the defence - position players in the seams, get two defender guarding one offensive player

      •    attack from the rear - place one player on the baseline behind the defence to break into an open area and become a post

      •    think one play ahead

      •    step in and toward the direction of your pass - closer to the basket on the return pass

      •    get the ball inside - post play is essential, cardinal rule is attack from the rear and the blind side.

      •    offensive rebounding

•    run a regular zone attack, but then call set plays if the scorer goes too long without good looks

•    point guard splits the top two defenders on the dribble

•    set plays - scorer is a post, scorer is a wing          

Attacking the Unorthodox Zone (Dragan Sakota, FIBA Assist, issue 6)

Box and 1

•    best attack is for an attacker to dribble penetrate the gap between the two defensive guards, opening room for a pass to a wing

•    the “scorer” should always set up outside or near the baseline to give space to teammates

•    if it is the point guard, switch positions with another player

Attacking the Box and 1 (coachesclipboard.net)

•    don’t have to do anything fancy, just set good screens for your star player

•    or he can set screens for teammates, seal and roll

•    put the star player in either corner running the baseline, use your 2-3 zone attack

•    screen for him as he runs the baseline to the ballside

Triangle and Two (Lee Rose)

•    one option is to relocate the two players with man coverage on the blocks

•    when the ball is on a wing, there should be teammates at the top and in the ballside corner

•    use a two-guard front (not including the two scorers)

Triangle and Two (Alan Lambert)

•    usually the hot shooter and point guard are guarded

•    most common approach - unguarded players are ballside post, ballside corner, and ballhandler high

•    or unguarded players - best shooter runs the baseline using screens from the other two, the guarded players screen for each other on the perimeter

•    or guarded players run the sidelines, unguarded players play an inverted triangle

Attacking Junk Defences (Alan Lambert)

•    does not address guarded post player(s), only perimeter

•    if in doubt about the type of defence, run your man attack to check

•    your junk offence should have at least three options

•    use zone principles in attack, e.g., ball movement, gapping

•    an unguarded player with the ball should look to shoot or penetrate a gap

•    the other unguarded players cut to an open zone or screen in the zone

•    guarded players need spacing to open up holes in the zone, when screening, screen a zone defender

•    if your point guard is guarded, let an unguarded player bring the ball up.

•    x-junk attack uses same formation as x-gap, with the two guarded players as screeners for two interior players

Spanish Women’s National Team Offensive Sets (coachesclipboard.ca)

•    in international basketball most zone offences have a great deal of player movement

•    also extremely prevalent is movement of post players from inside to outside and back, and their ability to hit 3-point shots

•    4 and 5 start very high (outside the arc)

Coach Pat Anderson (online-basketball-drills.com)

•    the weak spots of a zone are usually at the free-throw line, the Russian spot (8 feet from the basket on each side along the baseline), and the baseline three-point line

•    dribbling should be used only to improve a passing angle, or create an easy shot

•    all players should know how to pass

•    4 and 5 need to be able to cut to open areas around the key, catch the ball, square up, and look to dump the ball to the other big

•    the big guys should also be able to shoot from 10-12 feet

•    1, 2, and 3 need to be able to make open 3's to keep the defence honest

•    dumping the ball into the high post and Russian spot will usually cause the defence to collapse, and a well-timed kick-out and reversal will usually lead to a wide-open shot

Vic Pruden

•    the point guard needs to make at least one of the players in the zone defend him before passing

•    by “pinning” a top defender, a bottom defender will have to move out to guard the pass receiver on the wing


Patrick Hunt, Keys to Beating a Zone Defence (That’s a Foul, March/April 2004)

•    fast break, and develop a secondary early zone attack from transition without having to re-set

•    attack the glass with at least three offensive rebounders

•    score early - focus on high-percentage shots the first 3-4 possessions, positive results give your team confidence and discourage your opponent

•    pass with patience and purpose, most teams can play good defence for a few passes but then the integrity of the zone deteriorates

•    put key players in positions that emphasize their strengths

•    attack from the back, the best zone offences constantly run players baseline, flash into the post from behind, and look for lob passes

•    5 principles to beating a zone defence are gap the zone, places posts behind it, flash from behind, dribble against it, and screen it.

•    ball reversal - the should cross the split line before being passed back to a player

•    take the ball away from your best shooter then bring it back

•    dribble one way, pass it the other

•    use pass fakes to shift the zone

•    posts behind the zone - level with the backboard, short corner, long corner

•    if one post gets the ball the other goes to the basket

•    gap dribble between two defenders then pass when one commits to the dribbler

•    freeze dribble directly at one defender, pass once he commits

•    dribble entry to the wing, who shallow cuts to the top

•    screening the back of the zone

      •    skip pass wing to wing, the bottom attacker screens the bottom or middle defender

      •    screen the top and bottom defenders, the point guard flares for a skip pass, or dribbles off the top screen if he has the ball

      •    the bottom attacker screens the middle or top defender, the point guard dribble enters the wing, the wing attacker works the sideline (dives to the corner)up


© 2007-19 Eric Johannsen