The Problem: Teams play zone defense to take away layups or other close/easy shots, forcing you to settle for longer jump shots (often outside the range of some of your players) and reducing your teams shooting percentage
Strategies: Help your players understand the key concepts that will make it easier to beat a zone
- Good perimeter shooting is the easiest way to beat a zone, but you need to develop proficient, confident shooters in practice (and generally outside of practice) to be successful
- Quick passing makes the zone move, and gets defenders out of position. The quicker your team passes the ball, the more openings you can find for open shots. Remind players that the ball moves fastest when it is passed (not dribbled) and that over-dribbling makes it easy for the defense to defend.
- Ball fakes (ex: pass fakes or shot fakes) will move the defense, creating better passing lanes and making it easier to get the defense scrambling
- One of the oldest sayings about beating a zone is “Put ’em where they ain’t”. If the zone has 3 players low (in the most common 2-3 zone defense), you can put just 1 offensive player low, and spread the other 4 offensive players where they have 2 (a very common 1-3-1 zone offense). Regardless of the configuration, the goal is to make one or more of the defenders “useless” (not really guarding anyone) so you can get a player open for a good shot.
Something to Try: In practice, have your defense set up in a zone, and run an offense where you constantly encourage (or require) ball fakes and dribble drives to initiate quick passes that lead to open shots. After a period of time you can put in a rule that each offensive player is allowed just 1 or 2 dribbles. Generally, the only need for a dribble verses a zone is to open passing lanes, as too much dribbling against a zone will allow the defense time to collapse on the ballhandler or recover to defend open offensive players. By reducing the number of dribbles, the ballhandlers will more likely find a passing lane to an open teammate, which will get the defense scrambling and result in good ball movement and an open shot.