Best Zone Offense Against 2-3

James Lee
• Friday, 15 January, 2021
• 7 min read

I want to preface this article with this statement: The 2-3zone defense should not be allowed in youth basketball. This formation is effective because it places your team in the gaps of the zone and forces the defense out of their ideal positions.

zone defense offense vs
(Source: www.youtube.com)


When a player receives the basketball on the perimeter, there will often be a clear lane to the basket in front of them that they can attack. Being in the gaps of the defense can also confuse them as to who should guard the basketball which can lead to open players all over the floor.

If a player receives the basketball and finds themselves with an open lane to the basket in front of them, they should immediately attack the gap. Players will find that, with good spacing, the quicker the basketball is passed around the more gaps will present themselves in the defense.

Pass fakes are super effective against a zone because the defense is always anticipating the next move they need to make. Often a single defender will have the difficult task of guarding two offensive players in their area.

When a pass fake is made, the defender will usually anticipate where they need to rotate to next and start leaning towards their next assignment. This slight movement can lead to open lanes and the defenders taking valuable time to get back into the correct position.

Make sure your players have been taught how to correctly fake a pass without coming off-balance so that they can explode to the ring if the defense goes for it. When the ball is at this position, the player with the basketball has many options to attack the defense.

nba 2k19 offense defense plays money zone sports
(Source: realsport101.com)

Nearly every time I watch a team play against a zone they put their center at the free-throw line in this position without even considering other options. The worst thing you can do against a zone is hold the basketball and allow the defense to fully recover and establish their ideal positions.

This is achieved by quick passing of the basketball, good spacing between players, and constantly looking for gaps in the defense that can be exploited. Explain to your players that when they have possession they have a maximum of one second to decide whether to pass, shoot, or dribble.

Shot fake and attack the rim for an easy basket or a foul. When the low zone defenders step up to help on dribble penetration, a simple drop-down pass to the baseline player will often result in an easy score.

One benefit of the opposing team running a zone is that the offense has the ability to decide the matchups on the court. When coaching against a 2-3zone, identify the weak links and target these defenders by forcing them to match up against your best offensive players.

As this matchup favors the offense, your guard can blow past them every time and get into the paint where they can score or create a shot their teammates. A great way to consistently get high-percentage shots against a zone is to overload one side of the court.

offense zone
(Source: robertdewit.wordpress.com)

This strategy exploits the fact that in a zone defense each defender has a specific area of the court to guard. As long as the three players have spaced themselves out along the three-point line, the two defenders will struggle to challenge the shooters while also preventing dribble penetration.

This is a difficult task for the zone defenders so there are frequent offensive rebound opportunities (especially from the weak-side) as long as you send players to the glass, and they’re relentless in pursuit of the ball. If your team gains an early lead in the game, consider holding the basketball near half-court so that the defense is forced to discard their 2-3zone and come out and play you man-to-man.

It’s a great idea to give your team some experience and confidence when competing against a 2-3zone prior to coming up against it during a game. Assign a few 10-15 minute blocks in your practices early in the season to teach your players the strategies in this article that you think will work best for your team.

Your players will enjoy changing things up at practice, and it will give them confidence when they face a 2-3zone during a game. It doesn’t matter how well you execute overloading the zone, how often the basketball into the hands of your best passer at the free throw line, or how good your spacing is if your players don’t knock down their shots.

When the basketball is passed inside, it forces the defense to collapse and will result in wide-open jump shots for your team. If you’re serious about being prepared, I encourage you to read my article on the 2-3zone defense to completely understand its strengths and weaknesses.

offense zone
(Source: www.youtube.com)

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Mostly we attack zones with a general zone offense and just work that offense. Usually that is all we need to do, as long as we execute well and are patient, make the zone shift, and work the ball inside. But at times, we will run a set zone play to get someone open for a good shot, whether an inside shot or a 3-pointer.

Also, an important part of any zone offense or zone play is offensive rebounding. Younger kids may have difficulty making the long skip pass and might find Zone -1X” below a better alternative. O1 passes to O2 (diagram A) and this causes the zone to shift.

O3 back-screens the outside low zone defender so that O5 is open for the skip pass from O2. This play is similar to Carolina above but without the long skip pass, and younger teams would find this easier to run.

Sometimes the middle low defender will cheat up to the high post to guard O4 and the 2-3zone now looks more like a 2-1-2. Use this play if your point guard is a good shooter.

offense zone
(Source: www.youtube.com)

The pass goes over the top to O1 on the wing, and assuming O4 makes a good screen, O1 will almost always be wide open for the outside shot. We run this play out of a 4-out zone offense, our Corners offense.

O4 makes two screens. The play starts with O4 screening the outside low defender X4 so that the pass can go to O2. O5 sets the inside screen and O4 cuts to the ball-side low post for the pass and lay-up.

Submitted by Coach Ken Martini, Arlington Heights, Inhere is another play attacking the 2-3zone defense. Or if unable to dunk, O3 catches the pass, gathers and scores off the glass.

O1 passes to O3 (diagram A) and they exchange as O1 moves to the left wing, and O3 dribbles to the top. O4 pin-screens the weak side low defender X3, and O2 skip passes to O1 who has dropped toward the left corner.

O4 will bump and delay the X3 defender just enough to make the skip pass to the corner open. Use this simple play vs the 2-3zone defense for an easy inside jump-shot.

zone offense
(Source: www.youtube.com)

Start with a low double stack set (diagram A), with guards O2 and O3 on the left lane line, and post players O4 and O5 on the right lane line. O4 looks at our good shooter O2 in the corner (diagram B) and might even pass fake (to get X3 aware of O2), but instead reverses the ball back to O1.

We want X1 guarding O1, and O1 takes a couple dribbles left (diagram C). From Eric Flannery, this 2-3zone play starts with a double low stack (diagram 1).

You can run it to either side and this is determined by the point guard dribbling to either wing. As O1 dribbles to the right wing, O2 cuts hard under O3 and O5's double-screen (screening the outside low zone defender X3).

The opposite post player O4 cuts around the double-screen for the pass inside from O1, and a lay-up. If the cutter O5 is not open, O4 flashes to the ball side elbow (diagram 6).

“Special-Down” This play starts with the same low double stack seen in “Special” (diagram 7). However, this time O2 and O3 crisscross and cut to the opposite corners, staying low and below the free-throw line extended (so that the low outside zone defender will have to come out to defend).

offense winninghoops
(Source: winninghoops.com)

The ball side post player O5 immediately finds and seals the middle zone defender X5. We look to make the quick pass to O5 inside for the post move and shot.

From Lindsay Gottlieb (University of California Women's Head Basketball Coach), this 2-3zone play gets you either an open 3-point shot for your best shooter, or a quick basket inside. O3 drops down toward the baseline (diagram 1). O1 dribbles a little to the left and O2 cuts underneath (diagram 2) and through to the left corner-wing area for a possible pass from O1 and a shot.

If the X3 defender moves outside to cover O2, then the quick pass from O1 to O4 is open for a lay-up (diagram 3). From Florida Gators head coach, Mike White, this 2-3zone play gets you a lob pass to your big man O5.

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