Follow along as Middle Tennessee State University head men’s basketball coach Kermit Davis breaks down some of the basics of his highly-effective Zone Motion Offense. Coach Davis first details the roles of each player in the offense before highlighting the basic continuity of the system. Each section is diagrammed for you on whiteboard before being played out live on the basketball court.
Basic Zone Motion
Coach Davis will run this zone motion against all of the defenses his team goes up against. His squad will end up in the same offense all the time. It all starts with a base movement. Players 4 and 5 are mid-post, straddling the first lane marker. The 2 and 3 wing players will start off low enough that the bottom defender will have to guard the wing player on initial passes or ball reversal.
Meanwhile, this offense is big on attacking the short corner area. This base movement moves our 4 and 5 players. We believe the short corner area (which is about 10-12 feet along the baseline) is a great angle to step through and score and gives you great chances to screen the zone from the short corner.
The initial movement begins when the ball goes from player 1 to 3 on the wing. Player 5 will be straddling the first lane marker and then the opposite post is sprinting hard to the short corner area with his/her backside facing the baseline. Be in a position to get off a quick shot or drive it to the basket.
However, let’s say we don’t have anything on the mid-post or short corner. Well, the ball is then reversed back to the 1, the post player steps in hard in the lane and looks for the ball. On ball reversal from 1 to 2, the short corner will assume the post position on the ball side. So upon reversal now, the 5 is sprinting to the short corner, and the 4 is coming hard to straddle the first lane marker. That continuity will continue.
Live on the court: In the video clip below, notice all of the good ball fakes, shot fakes, and hard sprints to the short corner. Everything is crisp and clean. This is the basic continuity of the offense.
Short Corner Mid Post
Now let’s take the offense one step further. So what can happen when the ball is entered to the short corner? Let’s start with the ball in player 2’s hands on the left side. 5 is in the short corner position. 4 is mid-post. 1 is at the top and 3 is on the opposite wing.
The goal for player 2 is to catch it low enough where the bottom defender must step up to guard him. We call this dragging the defender up to the T. The biggest thing you can do in a zone offense is have one defender have to guard two players. This will stretch the defense.
From here, the first option is for a pass to 5 and he will catch the ball with his/her backside parallel to the baseline. This player will catch and step through the move and go right at the rim.
Spice up your playbook this season with a pair of basketball plays that effectively attack zone defenses. After getting a breakdown of each play, watch as an actual team runs through them at full speed. This week’s collection offers a number of options for offenses and favor open shots from the perimeter.
Wolf Against Zone Defense
Submitted by Kevin Sivils, Houston Christian High School, Houston, Texas
Setup: Player 1 should be your point guard. Player 2 is your best three-point shooter. Player 5 is your best low post player. Player 4 is your best screener. Player 3 should be your other guard or small forward.
Player 1 takes the ball out on the sideline. Player 5 starts in the near corner while player 2 is on the nearside low block. Player 4 is a few feet from the sideline and close to the inbounder. Player 3 is in between the three-point line and half court.
Action: When the official hands player 1 the ball, player 5 screens down for 2 while player 4 screens down for 3. Player 2 comes off the screen and to the corner looking for a three-point shot. Player 3 goes into the backcourt as a safety option.
Options: If player 2 doesn’t have the shot, he should feed the post. Look for a lob if the situation presents it. Meanwhile, player 4 then backscreens 1’s defender and 1 cuts to the foul line. Player 2 can now hit 1 for a layup or 1 can hit 5.
If the ball is inbounded to player 3, player 4 backscreens for 1, who cuts to ballside off the screen. Player 3 hits 1 driving to the foul line. On 3’s pass to 1 , 5 backscreens to 2. Player 1 can now drive for layup or hit 2 cutting to the basket.
Finally, if player 2 gets the inbound pass but can’t hit the shot or feed to 5, player 1 steps inbounds and sets up for a return pass and shot against the zone.
Half-Court Set for a Three-Point Shot
Submitted by Keith Cooper, St. Martin’s College, Lacey, WA
Setup: Player 1 starts up top with the ball. Players 2 and 5 are stacked on the right low block. Players 3 and 4 are stacked on the left low block.
Action: Player 1 starts by dribbling to the right wing area. Players 2 and 5 immediately set a double screen for 3, who cuts to the corner. After the screen, 2 loops to the top of the key. 4 and 5 remain in the post.
The play continues as player 1 then passes to 2. After this, 4 breaks up and sets a diagonal backpick for 1, who cuts to the left low block. 5 remains on his block while 3 stays behind the three-point line.
Finish: Next, player 4 steps out after setting the backpick and receives the pass from 2. Players 3 and 5 set a double screen on the baseline for 1. 4 passes to 1 in the corner coming off the double screen on the baseline. Player 1 catches and shoots a quick three-pointer.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Over 50 Set Plays to Attack Zone Defenses.” Know of any effective plays to beat the zone? Tell us below or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll feature it in an upcoming article!
In this week’s team concepts feature, we take offensive principles learned in previous zone features and put them all together to successfully attack the 2-1-2 defense. With his Duke men’s basketball team on hand to simulate key coaching points, coach Mike Krzyzewski emphasizes perimeter techniques, options for bigs, and much more.
Meanwhile, check out our previous articles featuring Coach K talking about how to beat zone defenses, including “Five Essential Principles for Attacking the Zone” and “Dynamic Drills to Beat Zone Defense: Box Drill and Bigs Shooting.”
The action begins 5-on-5, with the offense going against a 2-1-2 defense in a half-court setting. First, it’s key for perimeter players to remember to use pass fakes and misdirection against the zone. Don’t be predictable. Perimeter guys must be ready to shoot at all times as well.
Meanwhile, a shot against the zone is also like a pass inside, so when you take those shots, the opposite wing should crash the boards. The goal is that you want three guys on the boards against the zone.
Next, look to put in a restriction about shooting. The reason is that against a zone you often don’t pass into the post unless you think there’s a chance for a shot. Therefore, don’t take a shot unless the post player touches the ball. As a result, instead of the zone just going out, it had to go in and out. That creates more stress on the defense. That’s why you must hit the middle as well. The result: Pass to the post to move the zone and create opportunities.
Zone Tip: Work the zone to create overloads and then exploit the defense.
Next, put a man on the foul line and then look for angle penetration. Also, take advantage of a fourth perimeter guy and an overloaded defense.
Remember, every time we hit the post, something good happens, so look to hit the post as much as you can. Call for the ball so your teammates know that you are flashing.
The previous clips can all be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Mike Krzyzewski: Duke Basketball – Attacking the Zone.” To check out more videos featuring zone principles, click here.
With Rutgers head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice as your guide, pick up two helpful passing drills to prepare for zone defenses this season. The following drills can improve overall decision-making, passing technique, player confidence, and moving without the ball. Also, Coach Rice details an effective baseline out-of-bounds play designed to beat zone defenses under the basket.
Zone defenses rely heavily on trapping and double teams in order to be effective. This first passing drill will teach your offensive players to be strong with the ball and make accurate passes when double teamed.
Start with a ball handler up top. Have them dribble as hard as they can inside the arc. Meanwhile, two defenders will set up on the elbows and then close in for the double team. Now the offensive player has three options (three players to pass to), two on wings and one down low. This player must pass out of the double team without turning it over. Don’t let the defenders deflect the ball.
Drill Tips: Remember, players can ball fake, fake high throw low, and step through to get out of the trap. Remind them of all of their options. Be strong with the ball. Don’t pass until the coach tells you to.
Also, you can practice this in a 1-3-1 zone defense set up where the wing and top players meet to double the ball.
This is a terrific drill to run with your bigs. It’s great for improving footwork and making passing instinctive out there.
Start with an outside pivot. When players get the ball, have them pivot, and then pass to a teammate. Get players to chase the ball. Players will receive it right back, pivot properly, and then pass to another teammate. Repeat. Be sure that players are really moving around the lane. Start in the high post, move to mid-post, and flash.
Now go with an inside pivot. Have players look down the floor. Give a pass fake to practice this concept. Then pass opposite.
Coach Rice is a big fan of this baseline out of bounds, especially against a 2-3 zone. This play really teaches your players how to read the defense. It also gives you four or five options out of one set.
Get players 2 through 5 in a stack, but have the first two separated a little bit from the back two. Have all players lined up on the ballside laneline. The first player in the stack breaks hard to the ballside corner. The second player breaks to the opposite low block and screens that nearest defender. The back two players will now attack the middle man in the defense, creating a 2-on-1 scenario.
Have the unit play things out from here, read the defense, and find ways to create mismatches in order to get high-percentage looks at the basket.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Drills and Concepts for Zone Offense Attacks” with Mike Rice. To check out our entire catalog of DVDs focusing on zone concepts, click here.
Add three new plays to your playbook this season designed to effectively attack zone defenses. First, you’ll receive an overview of each play and a full diagram. Then watch the play in action on the court with real players. This week’s collection of plays offer a variety of options for teams, against the zone, including easy lobs at the rim and wide open shots from the outside.
Submitted by Peter Moe, Washburn HS, Washburn, ND
Set-Up: This play starts with a double low post and can be run to either side. Player 1 is up top with the ball, 2 is on the right wing, 3 is on the left wing, 4 is on the opposite low block, and 5 is on the near low block.
Action: 1 enters to 2 and 2 takes a few dribbles to the baseline to force the zone to shift. 3 sets up high on the opposite wing. 2 returns the ball to 1 and immediately cuts across the baseline. As soon as 1 has the ball, 4 flashes into the lane and is working hard for the ball. Aftr pausing in the lane to occupy the backside zone defense, 4 continues to the high post. 2 sets a pick on the backside zone player down low.
Finish: 3 then cuts towards the low block behind 2’s screen for a lob pass and easy layup. Timing is key to prevent a 3-second violation or trigger defensive recognition. Both posts must actively work for positioning during the play. Also, 1 must not give away the lob pass with the eyes.
Submitted by Steve Mergelsberg, Rutgers University-Newark, Newark, NJ
Set-up: 1 drives down and makes a dribble entry to the right side. 2 is on the opposite low block, 3 is on the nearside low block, 4 is on the opposite elbow, and 5 is on the near elbow.
Action: As 1 drives past the free throw line extended, 3 sets a back screen for 5. 5 comes off the screen and rolls to the basket looking for a pass from 1 for a quick and easy layup. If 5 doesn’t get the pass, then he/she posts up on the ball-side low block. On the opposite side, 2 and 4 exchange positions to help create movement. If 5 gets a pass from 1 on the ball side, 4’s defender often slides over to provide defensive help. This could create an opening for 5 to dish to 4 (who’s cutting to the hoop).
Finish: If there’s nothing on the roll or quick post up, then 5 turns and screens away for 4, who breaks to the ball-side low block. Meanwhile, 3 sets a screen in the lane for the defender closest to 2. 2 uses the pick and sprints toward the ball side. 1 can hit 4 or a post up shot down low or pass to 2 for a short jumper at the elbow.
Submitted by Brent Lemond, Vanguard HS, Ocala, FL
Set-up: This play starts off in a 2-1-2 set. Players 1 and 2 start off up top and lane-line extended. 5 is at the free throw line. 4 is in the ballside corner. 3 is on the weakside low block.
Action: 5 steps out and screens for 1 and 2 moves into shooting position on the opposite wing. The defender X2 should be forced to help on 1, leaving 2 open for a shot on the wing. If defender X3 steps out to take the shooter, 2 looks for 3 in the short corner. 3 looks to score or drive and dish. If defender X5 moves to cover the short corner, then 2 can hit 5 after the screen.
The previous clips can be seen on Championship Productions’ DVD “Over 50 Set Plays to Attack Zone Defenses.” Check out our entire offensive collection by clicking here. Got any other effective plays to beat the zone? Tell us below or e-mail us at email@example.com.