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Best Zone Defense For Small Team

author
Earl Hamilton
• Tuesday, 22 December, 2020
• 16 min read

THIS STIFLING 1-2-2 zone defense which we call the “32 can give even good zone offensive teams a hard time. The zone takes advantage of offensive teams that are stronger in the paint than on the perimeter and really helps an undersized defensive team that is made up of more guards than dominant post players.

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Contents

With a concept similar but not identical to the Amoeba defense the point player will slide down through the paint to protect the lane where he will be two-thirds front the post players on offense. After the ball has moved to either side of the floor X1 slides to protect the middle of the paint and is called upon to help defend the opposing post players.

When the ball is at the top of the key both players must have their arms up and moving with at least one foot in the paint. DIAGRAM 3: Wings are responsible for defending the player with the ball as soon as one side is chosen by the opposing point guard.

DIAGRAM 5: The wing defender denies the reversal after the ball is passed into the corner. DIAGRAM 7: Post defenders use a one-half front with one foot in the paint when the ball is on top.

DIAGRAM 8: When the ball is passed into the corner all defensive players must adjust. In order for the zone defense to work properly each defensive player must hustle at all times to beat their opponents to the other end of the floor.

If you have a bigger, slower team the zone defense allows you to put your “Big” around the basket while your “Smalls” stay out on the perimeter. A classic example of when to use a zone defense can probably be best demonstrated when the Dallas Mavericks played the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

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Unfortunately, in this scenario LeBron James didn’t find his perimeter jump shot and the entire team struggled, which resulted in an NBA Finals loss for the Miami Heat. But if it gives your team the best chance to win at the end of the day in youth sports then that’s what counts for the most part.

Selecting the basic defense for your own team is a complex problem that only you can decide. The talent at hand, your own philosophy, and coaching ability determines your choice; however, choosing a defensive style to use against a particular opponent is much easier.

I will briefly generalize how a coach can alter defenses for a specific opponent or change the tempo of a game. First, for a coach to make the necessary defensive adjustments against a specific opponent, it is vital to have a good scouting report.

A good scouting report details the opponents pattern of play, their inside and outside game, and strengths and weaknesses of individual players. The coach must develop the knack to feel when adjustments cannot turn the tide and that a total change of defense is necessary.

I have found that a “Points per Possession Chart” gives the coach an idea of how effective the defense. As a rule of thumb, should the opponent score at the rate of one point per possession of the ball, they are doing quite well.

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My old college coach and hall of fame member, Arab McLuhan, used such a chart that helped him win five National Division II championships. I soon realized this chart was most helpful in keeping a coach aware of both the offensive and defensive momentum.

To give you an example, at the beginning of a game, Southern Illinois University was doing well against our shifting man-to-man defense. Coach McLuhan changed to a help and recover man-to-man defense, with about 10 minutes left in the half and took a 37 to 34 half-time lead.

LEGEND: RB = Rebounds, JB = Jump Ball, ST = Steal, DD = Double Dribble, TR = Travel, With experience as a basketball coach, you will develop the ability to take advantage of the opponent's weaknesses and your own team's strengths.

Have confidence and sell your players on the idea that no matter when the going gets tough, they will be able to make defensive adjustments to meet their threat Any team who takes pride in their multiple defensive tools are mighty hard to beat.

Here are a few suggestions of adjustments and changes in defense you might make to meet such threat: Use full-court presses against teams who run strict patterned offenses, or a half-court help and recover man-to-man defense.

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Seems like ball side high post, short corner and wing would really cause this defense problems. Brian says: 3/23/2018 at 2:48:22 PM If the ball is center court above the 3 line.

Brian says: 3/23/2018 at 2:48:22 PM If the ball is center court above the 3 line. Bill S. says: 12/21/2017 at 9:01:44 PM 3-2 Is effective against good outside shooting.

I coach AAU and the 1-3-1 Is a devastating defense for rebounding and wing traps. Playing man in basis a recipe for giving up 80 points per game in track meets.

I now coach youth basketball and only have 1 hour a week. I play zone as I simply don't have time to be effective coaching doing anything else.

We spend time covering things at a high level for shell and man principles, the nature of the youth basketball programs just doesn't allow man to be a focus for me. However, after I saw their high school careers unfold, I really regretted it.

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I've learned that it takes multiple years of teaching good defensive habits and instilling that defensive mindset to be really effective. I believe it's more than an understanding of how, it's also a mentality that needs to be developed from an early age.

I play a highly aggressive 1-3-1 trading zone that we teach proper close outs, playing screens properly (since we see the top guys get screened constantly), help side defense responsibilities, proper angels, and good communication. My guys an girl are constantly moving, anticipating passes playing passing lanes and putting pressure on the ball.

I play with teams where we are never fastest or tallest, but we try and dictate the pace of the game. I am slowly transitioning this style of play into man schemes.

But like I said if you do it right and emphasis good defensive principles it can be a great bridge. Joe Hefner says: 1/23/2015 at 10:14:08 AM One thing I know that other coaches in your situation have done is taught pack line man to man defense.

Tony Bennett at Virginia uses this defense, but his players are pretty talented. He also teaches a lot of man principles in his zone.

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Have a decent little team winning numerous tournaments (no cutting of players... my daughter picked her friends for the most part). For man to man defense, spend some time with mirror drill, 1on1 defense, and basic shell drill.

Then teach everyone else to get halfway between their player and the ball (always point your pistols at both). Lastly, tell them to make sure the ball doesn't get close to the basket (out of the lane).

And I will say we constantly emphasize defense, effort, and helping each other. But it's during games and other drills meant for offensive skills and what not.

The only other things we have done (mostly between games in the hallway... is we should players how to 3/4 front the post and how to switch ball screens). Dave says: 1/15/2021 at 6:50:19 PMI also coach a youth team (3rd grade) that only gets 2 – 1 hour practices a week.

We don't have any great athletes on the team, but the kids love the swarming defense that we play. Teaching kids to guard a space is not helping prepare them for the future.

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Becca says: 11/3/2014 at 11:47:21 PM Can someone help me with the rotation if the 1 drops to the post (like some of you have mentioned) and the 2 has to cover the skip pass up top? With a lights out shooting point guard it seems like I''''d want to keep my 1 close.

Fatso says: 2/24/2014 at 5:49:24 PM I like this zone works so good. The only problem was that in the third game we used it I fouled out for the first time since I started playing.

Don't lose any sleep over this one, next time you know, so go out and beat him.... and have FUN. My friend said that I couldn't count that point because I didn't take the ball out behind the 3-point line.

Levi Wall says: 3/13/2013 at 9:43:18 AM Well I believe this 3-2 works very well at containing the perimeter players. It can be difficult if the post guys aren't mobile enough to close out if the offense is in some type of overload, and they have a shooter in the corner.

That meaning the opposite wing defender will drop! Another defense that can help is running a 3-2 but go man after the first pass.

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Darren Johnson says: 3/12/2013 at 11:15:03 AM We have very good guards n post players n both sides of the ball. Clippers ticket says: 6/6/2012 at 3:24:20 AM I love to play basketball and really want to enhance my skills to be a great player someday.

Heron says: 6/30/2011 at 11:34:11 AM Thanks a lot pal. I really like this, I think that I am now ready to play the 3-2 zone. Ski Minnow says: 12/1/2010 at 8:48:24 PM I had homework in basket about defense and I didn't know most of where they are supposed to stand on the court.

We've been fortunate enough to make good teams look bad by mixing up defenses and using the 1-2-2 as our backbone. We just won a national exposure tourney giving up 9 pts in the second half of the championship game.

If you can get your players to buy into defensive philosophies, you'll be successful at any level. Stephon sanders says: 7/5/2010 at 11:18:37 PM Thank you for really braking this play down for me.

A 3-2 zone is typically used against a strong perimeter team to cover the outside shooters. Kevin says: 5/27/2010 at 3:35:27 PM Conventional wisdom is the zone defense favors a good three point shooting offense.

Leo says: 2/16/2010 at 5:37:11 PM I coach 7th grade boys and we recently lost to a team that runs a 3-2 defense with the 3 defenders on mid-court waiting for my ball handlers. My team panics and tends to make a bad pass.

Joe Hefner says: 1/7/2010 at 11:12:24 AM Eric, it sounds good to me, but I've played relatively little 3-2 match up zone in my coaching career, so you might be asking the wrong guy. I find it helpful and runs well WTH a solid man defense as our main two 1/2 court defenses. We try to double down using our 2 or 3(Wing) to help the post by having our post defend from behind taking away the drop step and lead the post player to the trap.

I don't have a lot of experience playing this type of zone defense. However, it probably wouldn't be wise to use a 3-2 zone against a good post player.

We'd do it a few times a game out of our normal set. Joe Hefner says: 12/9/2009 at 8:58:07 AM Rusty, I would say it depends on the post player.

If it is somebody who is not a threat, just leave the post player on him and have the the defenders maintain their position based on where the offensive players are located. If he is a that, you may want to drop 1 or 2 players on him to get the ball out of his hands.

Trey Thurston says: 12/4/2009 at 12:37:54 PM Doesn't the bottom guy need to move up across the middle of the lane, so he can slide over top of the low post? The point guy should drop to the bottom of the circle and the wing should come back to the high post when the ball is in the corner.

Coach Lawanda says: 8/28/2009 at 5:05:20 AM thanks .my players are developing skills each and everyday Coach J says: 7/17/2009 at 1:46:18 AM Coach Willy the best way to run matchup out of the 3-2 is to use man to man defense rules and start all players inside the 3 point line.

Ball side wing could deny return wing pass or clog the lane for penetration(that would put player in help position). Top player would be responsible for high post on ball side.

The opposite wing would drop to the midline in an open stance just like he would in help side man to man. This player would be responsible for the first skip pass to the weak side. The top player would be responsible for skip passes to the top.

The top player would guard the ball when ball is at the top and if that person dribble guard man to man until they can pass the dribbler over to the wing. The key to this mashup zone is to have one man guard the ball and the other 4 players play help defense.

Willy says: 7/2/2009 at 2:44:17 PM I ran the 1-2-2 or 3-2 last year. I found that it works fine versus a 1 guard front.

Our adjustment was to sink the point defender in the lane and have him stay between the ball and the basket. Our wings and post would be responsible for the slots and the corners.

We then ran into the problem of teams putting players in the gray areas and placing their corner players a little higher making the post cover more ground. When I watch teams in college their match-ups look nothing like the resources I have studied.

Says: 4/29/2009 at 10:39:07 PM I'm also wondering how to cover the skip pass because now I wouldn't trap now. As for the short corner I'm trapping hard and aggressive, it'll surprise most.

I'd be hesitant towards using zones with youth and junior high teams. I have been using a zone defense with small inexperienced 5th and 6th grade girls, and we hold the other teams to half of what they are used to doing.

Amy says: 1/1/2009 at 8:10:29 PM I also think that crap is a bad word Stefan says: 12/9/2008 at 10:37:53 AM I believe, though 3-2 and 2-3 zones are certainly the most frequently used sets, 2-2-1 and 1-3-1 patterns should also be covered.

Andy says: 11/19/2008 at 9:16:46 AM I hope I will adapt to this defense system because I've only played man-to-man and now I'm confused on the pitch. What can I say coach know's better than me.... Your 1 man will then drop to the block to take away post-entry.

This puts a lot of added pressure on the offense to make a skip pass. I have been able to get numerous steals this way, especially when the 1 man drops to the post.

2 players protects the high post and skip (like the above mentioned trap in the corner). We are going to the national championship final at end of November and will be meeting a team that has better guards than we have, but they are equal or worse on the forwards.

I'm LOADED WITH GREAT GUARD PLAY SO PRESSURING THE BALL FORCES BAD PASSES AND EASY POINTS. I LOVE THE 3-2 ZONE. Bill White says: 10/27/2008 at 9:38:00 AM I have also experimented with a defense called amoeba, which my players set up in a 1-3-1 zone and wherever the ball crosses the half court decides what defense we jump into.

It will either be 2-3, man or 1-3-1 trap. This has helped me to confuse the offense by changing the zones at each timeout. You could experiment with trapping high out of the zone.

You could also play man to man defense, extend the defense to half-court beyond, get in the passing lanes, and front the post. Bill says: 10/25/2008 at 11:46:09 PM Would you suggest trapping high if you don't't necessarily have great height, but blessed with total team speed.

Joe Hefner (Co-Founder of Breakthrough Basketball) says: 4/16/2008 at 3:03:11 PM Hi Frank, If they do not understand these fundamentals, they will trouble playing any type of defense.

This zone defense works well if the opposing team has strong guard players, because it puts an extra person on the perimeter. At the same time, it could help your slower guard players.

You have to be careful because this will put more pressure on your post players, and it also makes the post area vulnerable which could result in foul trouble for your best players which is the last thing you want to do. This can also cause you some trouble, if you play against an opposing team with strong post players.

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