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Mike Krzyzewski: 5 Essential Principles for Attacking the Zone

By adam.warner - Last updated: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 - Leave a Comment

In this week’s team concepts feature, we’ll highlight key offensive principles when attacking the zone. With his Duke team on hand to simulate key coaching points, legendary basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski provides simple solutions to running a highly effective zone offense. Follow along with Coach K as he explains the five major components of his offense before letting his players demonstrate on the floor.

Zone Offense Principles: An Overview

When it comes to attacking regular half-court zone defenses, Coach K prefers to attack in a simple manor. Many people feel like they must run a different offense based on the zone defense. At Duke, however, the team runs just one offense against all zone defenses.

A familiar offense against multiple defenses keeps your players more instinctive. If you keep changing things back and forth, the team gets out of rhythm and that’s exactly what a zone defense is looking to do against you.

 

On the Court: The First Three Principles

Against a two-man front, the first thing we want to do is have intelligent use of the dribble (i.e. gap penetration, step back dribbles, and getting 2 on 1 scenarios). Look for gap penetration to force two defenders to play one. Also, we can have angle penetration. By getting angle penetration, this creates movement and forces the zone to move.

Second, ball reversal is also important. When you have the ball, look to create 2 on 1 matchups you can exploit. You can then use ball reversal and a chance to hit an easy shot.

Next, another key principle is flashing to the middle in the middle of the zone. This can be done in a number of ways. When you flash into the middle, it doesn’t have to be for a shot. As you get the ball in the middle, the easiest thing to do is a hit a guy up top and he’s got a shot. You can also turn and reverse to the other side for a shot. But if you got a shot, take it.

Players can also flash to the middle of the zone from the wing, not just with the big men down low.

 

On the Court: The Final Two Principles

Next, it’s key to keep the big guys behind the zone. If a shooter takes a shot, who has inside positioning for a rebound? The bigs do. Also, you can look at posting the zone.

By being behind the zone, your players can see everything. If you can tell that a defensive player isn’t looking at me, you can come up and post the zone and you’re ready for a good shot opportunity. If you stand right next to the defense, they know you are right there. Also, if they come down to meet me, it creates a bigger gap on the floor.

Also, bigs should post up the middle of the zone if the bottom defender comes out to play the wing player. The big men must be able to make the read, but be sure that you make the play before the wing guy even receives the ball. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

KEY: Staying behind the zone allows you to post, flash, and rebound.

The next principle is screening the zone. An easy way is to screen (whether picking the top man or bottom man) when using angle penetration.

Attacking the 2-1-2 Zone Full-Speed

Any time we get the ball inside, perimeter players must be ready to shoot. Don’t toe the line. Get behind the line so if a player gets the ball, he can step into it and have momentum. The zone gives you an opportunity to get your feet set and ready to shoot it. Make sure you are reacting at all time and creating your passing lane if a teammate needs to kick it out, he can.

Tip: The jump stop is a great move when penetrating the middle.

 

The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Mike Krzyzewski: Duke Basketball – Attacking the Zone.” To check out more videos featuring zone principles, click here.

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