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.