Best Match Up Zone Defense

Earl Hamilton
• Saturday, 07 November, 2020
• 11 min read

X2 always assumes responsibility for the first offensive player to his or her right of X1 (defensive point guard). The small forward X3 usually possesses decent rebounding skills.

(Source: rememeberlessfool.blogspot.com)


X3 assumes defensive responsibility for the first offensive player to the left of X1. One of the two post defenders, X4 plays man-to-man defense for the entire possession against the second offensive player to the right of X1.

Disclosure: This page contains affiliate links, which means that Coach's Clipboard receives a small commission (at no cost to you) if you make a purchase using these links. The zone away from the ball resembles man-to-man “help side” defense.

The coverage pattern is identical to that in Diagram A, except that X5 drops to the low block and picks up O5. X4 picks up the opposite corner (O4) and X5 moves up to defend the high post (O5).

Both of these defenders can try to deny the pass to the wing and help when the ball gets to the post player at the elbow. Both X2 and X3 can attempt to deny the pass to the two offensive players they are gapping.

In Diagram G, when the cutter (O2) moves away from the ball (to the weak-side), X2 can stay with and bump the cutter, and deny the pass, and then switch with X4 once O2 moves to the corner. In Diagram H, a more threatening situation exists with the cutter moving ball-side.

(Source: rememeberlessfool.blogspot.com)

However, most opponents will deploy cutters and screens when attacking zone defenses. However, on certain cuts, defenders can stay with cutters and just interchange roles (assignments) instead of switching.

X1 denies point's basket cut, switches with X4 and then pops back out to elbow. X4 sagged off, switches with X1 and assumes a pass denial position on cutter O1.

When X4 and X5 are similar type players, instead of switching defenders X4 and X5 change roles. The 1-2-2 offensive alignment is used primarily to flash players into the middle.

X1 denies O1's initial basket cut, switching with weak side defender X4. X3 pressures ball handler while X5 denies low post O5.

Weak side wing defender X3 denies O3's flash into post, interchanging positions with X5. Weak side wing defender X2 denies O2's flash into middle.

(Source: rememeberlessfool.blogspot.com)

Defender X4 stays with O4 maintaining baseline role. However, in most cases, against a two guard alignment, by playing a straight 2-3 zone on the first defensive position, it will force the offense into a one guard offensive alignment.

Defenders X1 and X3 sags off on weak side while X4 pressures ball handler. Defender X2 becomes point and drops to elbow while X4 pressures the ball handler.

X3 pressures the ball handler while X5 takes O3 flashing into high post. When X3, X4 and X5 are physically similar, they can simply interchange positions rather than switching.

Interchanging positions affords easier match ups and can be very confusing to the offense. Defender X5 stays with O5 assuming baseline role.

Defender X5 stays with O5 assuming baseline role. The 1-4 offensive alignment takes advantage of two agile post players who can shoot from the outside.

(Source: rememeberlessfool.blogspot.com)

In matching up to the 1-4 alignment, according to rule, X5 will matchup with the post to right of point. Since the 1-4 alignment pulls the defense away from the basket and opens up the baseline for back cuts making it a good counter measure against pressure defense.

X1 denies O1's initial basket cut and switches with ball side post X5. X2 drops to a weak side help position on post O4 while X1 pops back out to elbow.

X1 denies O1's initial basket cut and switches with ball side post X4. Defender X3 drops to a weak side help position on post O5 while X1 pops back out to elbow.

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