Zone Offense in the R&R (Part III)

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series Zone Offense

As a smart coach pointed out to me last night, one reason teams play zone is because the offense can’t shoot. Well, I don’t know of many offenses that can cure that problem.  So get in the gym and get up reps.  In the meantime, let’s look at some options for zone offense as a part of the R&R.

There are a number of ways to defeat zone defenses.  One way is to force defenders to play out of their zone.  Another strategy is to overload a zone. The traditional overload, puts four players on the ball side of the court and forces 3 players to cover them.  What if we overload the zone in a different way?

What if we make 2 weak side defenders guard 4 offensive players?  What if we make two defenders guard one person which leaves no one to cover a second offensive player in the same zone?  What if we simply put two people in one zone and make one person guard both of them?

Below are three single action options. The first is an attack dribble.  The second is a Pass and “hook and look.”  The last one is third is a Dribble At.

I guess you can use them as quick hitters.  I would say this is a way to get a zone defense chasing right away.  I will include some variations of these zone offense diagrams in a following post.

I look forward to your comments, questions, and suggestions.

 

An Attack Dribble can make 2 people guard 1 person.
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Who is going to guard 2?  X1 and X2 both helped on the drive from 1.  A simple reverse pivot and a kickout to the safety can cause issues for the defense.  You might not get a wide open 3.  You might not want a wide open 3. Regardless, it creates a situation where X1 and X2 might be in confusion about who guards 2.  Not to mention that there is a numbers advantage on the right side of the floor. On the kickout, does X5 come up to help on 1?  That leaves 5 open.  Can 1 post up one of the top defenders for an easy return pass?

 

Pass and Hook & Look…Oh but wait, I can just take a couple steps and bury my defender with a screen.  

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I doubt X2 will come all the way over to help.  X1 is stuck with a decision to make. In the meantime, 5 can seal X4 in the lane or out of the lane on the weak side.  If 5 commits to help X1, X3 is stuck guarding 2 one on one.  If X5 is too worried about 5, then 1 is open.

 

Dribble-At & Pin Screen

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A simple dribble-at can set up a double pin screen on the weak side. Somebody has to close out to 4. Who’s gonna do it, X2 or X4?  That’s gonna leave somebody open.  Maybe 5 on the post up?  Maybe 2 for an open jumper.  Maybe 3 at the elbow.

Zone Offense: Hook and Look (Part II)

This entry is part 2 of 3 in the series Zone Offense

I mentioned in my first post on zone offense that we are typically 4 out 1 in. You might ask, “Are you 4 out 1 in against even front zones?”  My response, “Sure, if we want to be.”  We don’t let the zone dictate our alignment.  We let our lineup and the abilities of our players dictate how we start.

First let’s look at this strictly from the standpoint of the initial set. There are a few reasons teams play zone defenses.  One of the most common reasons is that they don’t think they can defend the offense playing man to man.  While lining up in the gaps is certainly an effective strategy against zone defenses, matching up with them forces them to play man to man.  It’s probably not something they want to do. Running an even alignment against an even front zone or an odd alignment versus an odd front zone puts teams in a situation that they were trying to get out of to start with.  Yes, it may help them define who they have to guard, but it also means that they have to guard those players. Now two people can’t guard one person as easily.

Second, let’s consider what happens after one pass in a 4 out alignment.  After one pass, there will always be 2 people in gaps of the zone and 3 people on the perimeter. Even in a 5 out alignment, the same is true after 2 passes.  So the perimeter players may be in gaps or they might not be.  They may be isolated in 1 on 1 match-ups against zone defenders.  The constant stream of cutters into the lane and out of the lane forces the zone to adjust in ways that it may not want to.  It forces zone defenders to constantly make decisions about their responsibilities.

Since there is no pattern, they can never count on a certain cutter coming to a certain spot at a certain time.  Yet the movements are so simple for offensive players to understand that it’s fairly simple for offenses to operate.

The ability for these cutters to be effective is critical to the success of the offense.  Yes, of course, when they catch the ball, they need to be able to make a good decision.  Whether this is a shot, drive, pass to the other cutter/post or kick out, these players must be able to handle the ball in traffic.  However, they can also be very effective without the ball. They can draw attention from multiple defenders.  They can set screens.  They are rebounders. They must be ready to react to dribble penetration.

These cutters force the zone to contract.  If the zone doesn’t recognize them, they will give up shots in and around the lane.  If the zone pays too much attention to them, the offense will get open jumpers.

Of course, you have to be able to make shots. As a coach, I can help you get the shot.  I can even help you work on your shooting. However, when it comes game time, I can’t make the shots.  Players have to make plays no matter what zone offense you run.

I happen to think this zone offense is pretty easy to teach and tough to guard when you’re already teaching the same concepts against man to man defenses.

Zone Offense in the R&R

This entry is part 1 of 3 in the series Zone Offense

Zone offense in the R&R is one of the greatest reasons to play using this style.  The ability to use the same concepts against both man to man and zone defenses saves lots of time and gives players less to remember.  Many people ask me what we run against zones defenses.  We do the same thing against zones that we do against man to man defenses with one adjustment. Coach Torbett calls it “hook and look.”

Let’s quickly define “hook and look” and how it is applied.  The phrase basically means that every cutter must cut into one of the six posting spots and “post up” looking for the ball. Against zones, they are not required to finish their cut to the basket.  The length of time that the cutter stays in that spot depends on the alignment that the team is using.  If the team is in a 5 out alignment, the cutter looks for the ball from the next 3 receivers and then finishes the cut if they don’t receive the ball.  In other words the cutter waits for 2 passes.  If the team is in a 4 out 1 in alignment, the cutter looks for the ball from 2 receivers and then finishes the cut if they don’t receive the ball. In other words the cutter waits for 1 pass. If a team is in a 3 out 2 in alignment, there are already two players in post spots and so no specific adjustment is necessary.

There’s a very specific reason I mention the number of receivers that the cutter should look at before finishing their cut.  It helps with the timing of the offense.  If we only talk about the number of passes, the tempo of the offense can be too fast.  Especially when teams are used to executing the faster tempo of the man to man offense, they can often rush the offense against zones.  The likely result is that open cutters are missed.  Either the person with the ball doesn’t see them or the cutter doesn’t take the extra split second to realize that they are open.

This adjustment creates a constant stream of players entering and exiting the middle of any zone. The zone can is always adjusting to the player movement and ball movement that this concept creates.  However, the zone offense must operate at a different pace in order to be successful. It cannot operate at the same pace as the man to man offense. It must slow down so that the zone must adjust to the cutters.  If the offense moves too fast, the zone must only keep up with the ball and doesn’t have to worry about the cutters as much.

Against zones, coaches may also want to adjust the location of their post players. We are typically in a 4 out 1 in alignment with our post player starting in one of the short corners.  From there, she can post up at any time.  She is also encouraged to set pin screens on the weak side of the zone.

I will expound on this more with diagrams and video clips.  I welcome any questions or comments that you might have. Here is one clip of us running the zone offense.