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Zone defenses, at times, are our biggest nightmare. I once heard Larry Brown (Hall of Fame College and NBA Head Coach) say that when he plays a zone defense, he feels that the other team will make EVERY outside shot, and when the opponent plays a zone, he thinks that his team will NEVER make an outside shot. I feel the same way sometimes. Players need to understand WHY they are attacking a zone in a particular way. Concentrate on the SKILLS of the game, not just SYSTEMS. A good grasp of some of the following zone offensive "habits" will put your mind at ease (at least a little bit!).
To start your zone offense, it's a good idea to get in a "gap alignment." Against an even-front zone (2-1-2 or 2-3), get in an odd-front set (1-3-1,1-2-2, or 1-4). Against an odd-front zone, get in an even front set. This is to make two defenders think about which one should guard you. If a defender is in a direct line between you and the basket, MOVE. Basically, put players where the defense isn't.
Try to get some "gap penetration." Dribble into a gap and dish to the basket or kick out to a shooter, but look to pass to where the defender comes from. Only dribble to improve a passing angle into the post. The second time a player touches the ball on a possession is a good time to look for this type of penetration. Move the ball and move players to DISTORT THE ZONE. Dribble-drag a defender, drive a gap, improve passing angles, screen, skip, swing, cut, flash, or overload to shift the zone. FREEZE THE ZONE by taking one or two dribbles AT a defender--pass or kick it to the perimeter.
After the zone has shifted, use pass fakes and shot fakes.
Remember the Three D's: Drive, Draw, Dish. Inside players should look to SEAL THE ZONE. After the zone has shifted, the posts can seal high or low IF the defense is INSIDE the offense.
Reseal the next man in the zone after the defender BREAKS the seal. MAKE THE ZONE RUN via the PASS, move the ball quickly (don‘t hold it any longer than a ball fake), seal, skip, and swing. Show some PATIENCE AGAINST THE ZONE. Move the ball, move players, look for cutters, and check all options--in order. Take the high-percentage shots that you want to take WHEN you want to take them; however, the best way to combat a zone defense may be to BEAT THE ZONE UP THE FLOOR.
Defensive rebound and run your fast break BEFORE the zone can set up.
These zone principles should provide a good foundation for any zone offensive attack that you might run.