And a well-timed zone possession could be just what a defense needs to take the opponent out of its rhythm. “There’s a reason teams don’t run it all the time,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.
The Dallas Mavericks have been playing a healthy share of zone for several years now. When they won the championship nine years ago, the Mass played almost 800 possessions of zone in the regular season.
And this year, they’ve played almost twice as much zone (764 possessions, according to Synergy) as any other team. The game turned when Dallas went scoreless on its first five possessions (all against zone) of the fourth quarter, but that was with both Luka Ionic and Kris taps Mornings off the floor, and the Mass got some decent shots in that stretch.
The players at the top of the zone are high and active, running shooters off the 3-point line. The Toronto Raptors have played the second most possessions of zone this season.
And they’ve been slightly more successful with it (0.94 points allowed per possession, seventh in the league) than the Heat (0.97, 10th). Raptors coach Nick Nurse was asked about the personnel needed to be successful playing zone at a high volume.
Interestingly, Nurse’s Raptors are the team against whom zone defenses have been most effective. According to Synergy, the champs have scored just 0.76 points per possession against zone, compared to 0.97 against man-to-man.
The most common usage of a zone defense is in the first possession after a timeout. In those situations, the coach of the offense has often drawn up a play to get an open shot.
Over the last several weeks, the same question was posed to some coaches and players: “If you come out of a timeout and the opposing defense is in zone, do you run the play that you drew up, or do you audible into a zone set?” If it’s a team that that does it sporadically, and they do it to take away your timeout, you’d like to have one that works against man and zone.
“The hard thing to convince NBA players is that, even if they are in a zone, still run the play that we called. Brett Brown, Mixers head coach: I want to run, by and large, the same thing.
It’s ‘Run the play, and this is what you’re going to be looking at if they’re in a zone.’ Because toucan really scout and know if teams do that more than they don’t. Taylor Jenkins, Grizzlies head coach: “Obviously, when it’s thrown out as a surprise, I try to get the guys to just execute the play.
But here are a few where toucan see the “something” that they run, a “wheel” action to put pressure on the defenders on the left side of the floor… The Pacers got a wide-open corner three from Doug McDermott against the Spurs’ zone on Monday with a similar overload of the left side of the floor.
We may not see it for three quarters of a game (like when the Heat played the Raptors in early January), but every possession counts in the postseason and a few possessions of zone could affect the result of a game or two. John Chaney, former head coach of Temple University, is the most famous proponent of this defense.
The Dallas Mavericks under coach Rick Carlisle are an example of an NBA team that have regularly used zone defenses. Jim Botham, coach of the Syracuse Orange men's basketball team, is famous for using a 2-3 zone that is among the best in the NCAA.
His zone, which typically features athletic, disruptive, and aggressive defenders, has become a prototype for use on other teams including the United States men's national basketball team, where he has spent time as an assistant coach. Many zones pack defenders in the lane but allow the offensive team to take long-range shots.
This can allow the offense to use more time before a shot is attempted, an advantage for teams wanting to slow the tempo of a game. A poor defensive player can often be “hidden” in a zone because teammates can more easily help if he or she is beaten.
Against teams with inexperienced guards, trapping zones can disrupt the offense and force turnovers Zones tend to be weak on the perimeter, so they are not very effective against teams with good outside shooters.
If a team is behind in the game, playing a zone can be a poor strategy because zones usually allow the offense to take more time off the clock on each possession, which limits the time remaining for the losing team to reduce the lead. It also reduces the chances of stealing the ball from the attackers and attempting a quick counterstroke across open field.
This is not always true; there are pressure zone defenses that can often cause quicker shots by the opponent or result in turnovers. While strategies for countering zone defenses vary and often depend on the strengths and weaknesses of both the offensive and defensive teams, there are some general principles that are typically used by offensive teams when facing a zone.
To exploit this gap, many teams assign a forward to operate in the “high post” area near the free throw line to catch and distribute the ball. A forward in the high post area can also set screens on the players at the top of the zone to allow penetration by the guards.
If a guard can dribble into the gaps in the zone, multiple defenders must converge on the ball. This strategy illustrates why preventing dribble penetration is important in playing an effective zone defense.
Passing the ball to the interior of the zone can have similar effects as dribble penetration: as the defense collapses, a quick kick-out to the perimeter can result in either an open shot or continued quick passing, as the defense is now imbalanced. Screening the backside of the zone : this opens up weak side shooters off a skip pass or ball rotation.
This makes it easier for them to block leading players and forces the kick-in to be more precise, in effect increasing the margin for error which can cause a turnover and another shot at goal. As a result, the best ways to break the zone are for the full-back to bomb it long (over 50 meters), often requiring a low percentage torpedo punt, or to play a short chipping game out of defense and then to switch play as opposition players break the zone.
When teams are man down, many teams employ a “box and one” zone defense, where the four outside players stay in their designated zone while the fifth player follows the ball while staying on the crease man. Ultimate allows for a number of zone defense tactics, usually employed in poor (such as windy, rainy or snowy) conditions, to discourage long passes and slow the progress of the opposition's movement.
Good zones can limit the numbers of fouls you commit. This means you can keep your better players on the floor for a longer period of time.
Zone makes it easier to protect players in foul trouble. The zone requires good passing and few players possess the passing skills needed to effectively beat a zone.
There are fewer offenses against the zone, therefore it takes less time for you to prepare defensively. Certain players don't have to work as hard in the zone, making fatigue less of an issue.
The offense can take advantages of mismatches by putting their best player in the zone area” of the opponents' weakest defender. It's more difficult to figure out which person to block out when in a zone defense.
Playing in a zone defense will LIMIT your players' development. You might win more games by playing zone, but from a development standpoint do the right thing and play man to man defense with your youth team.
This in combination with the fact that it's hard to watch makes it very rarely called. But if the defensive zone player stays in the lane for more than five seconds it's penalized.
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