Can You Run Zone In The Nba

Elaine Sutton
• Tuesday, 03 November, 2020
• 8 min read

Making statements based on opinion; back them up with references or personal experience. A couple of years ago, a zone defense, unless it was being played by the Dallas Mavericks, looked completely bizarre in an NBA game.

(Source: gamefabrique.ru)


According to Synergy play-type tracking, 18 of the 30 teams have played at least 100 possessions of zone through Thursday. 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).

(Source: gamefabrique.ru)

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. In those situations, the coach of the offense has often drawn up a play to get an open shot.

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 if we see zone over a period of possessions, we definitely have two or three things that we go to, maybe some different screening angles.

(Source: gamefabrique.ru)

But for us, we kind of fall back on what we do and just emphasize something a little more, in terms of getting in and getting to the second side.” Steve Kerr, Warriors head coach: We usually just run the same play.

“So we just say, ‘Just play.’ And for the most part, if you play against a zone, toucan find an open shot.” Nick Nurse, Raptors head coach: “There’s some stuff youcanrun against both.

Frank Vogel, Lakers head coach: We typically audible to our zone set, our zone alignment, once we see that, and just play through that … There is value in just running the action and finding space.” Anthony Oliver, Grizzlies forward: “Most coaches that I’ve played for just say, ‘ Run the play.’ Keep it simple.

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.

nba abc commentators finals espn basketball list announcers 2009
(Source: basketballscores.us)

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.

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(Source: www.slideshare.net)

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.

(Source: www.theballzone.com)

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.

TmPlayerFGMFGAFG% SAC Mobley18 30.600SAC Stojakovic 19 33.576BOS Davis 19 33.576MIA D. Jones 26 49.531MEM Miller17 33.515 Some guys earn a nice living by hanging out in the corners and waiting for a pass to set them up with a catch-and-shoot three. Bruce Bowen, Joe Johnson and Donnell Marshall all basically ranked in the top five for attempts from both the left and right corner, and the shooting percentages were definitely impressive in many cases.

The question is canned these guys survive without other big time offensive weapons drawing a defense's attention? We will see how many good corner looks Joe Johnson gets in Atlanta as opposed to feasting of the Nash/Stoudemire leftovers in Phoenix.

TmPlayerFGMFGAFG% LAW Cook 27 53.509GS Murphy 26 52.500ORL Turkoglu23 46.500DET Billups38 78.487DAL Finley 24 51.471McGrady often likes to begin a play with the ball at the straightaway three-pointer zone -- giving him the triple threat option to pull up for the three, or drive left, or right to the basket. TmPlayerFGMFGAFG% DAL Terry 27 45.600CHI Harrington 27 50.540NY K. Thomas69129.535DEN Miller 23 43.535ATL Drobnjak24 46.522 Kurt Thomas shoots more baseline two's than anyone, and particularly from the right side he is very adept at making the shot.

Toronto seemed to run a lot of plays last year that wound up with Bosh and Rose taking a right baseline J. Minnesota likewise may have had an over-reliance perhaps on the mid range jumpers at the expense of more threes and inside looks. Meanwhile, his old teammate Dirk Nowitzki lives on the right side, taking a vastly higher number of shots from zone nine than anyone else in the league.

nba apr pm
(Source: twitter.com)

And yes, Minnesota has some great mid-range shooters, but when we get to correlating team shot selection by zone to wins and efficiency (in the next article) we'll have some comments to make about that... Locations on the court from which the league as a whole shot .389, .412, and .386 respectively saw Nash fire .573, .573, .557 -- the best midrange shooter period.

Now partly it's because he can create a good look by his omnipresent threat to drive or deliver a dazzling pass. Let's hope the year in Oklahoma City brings more team success to the Hornets and this “ultimate pro” especially.

Zone 13: Left block in the paint shots TmPlayerFGMFGAFG% MIA O'Neal 62149.416SA Duncan 54127.425MIN Garnett49120.408LAC Brand 46113.407CHA Fly 45110.409 Most accurate (Min 30 ATT) TmPlayerFGMFGAFG% MIN Szczerbiak18 31.581PHO Johnson 27 49.551TOR Rose 34 66.515BOS Blunt 17 34.500DAL Daniels 16 32.500 There's a keynote on these numbers -- we have separate breakouts for Dunks and 'at the rim' layups, which means the zone 13 and zone 14 shots are the ones which came short of point-blank range and usually are heavily contested.

TmPlayerFGMFGAFG% CLE James128130.985BOS Davis 59 60.983UTA Boozer 54 55.982LAC Brand 73 75.975DEN Johnson 61 63.968 These are the glamour zones -- the players who can get to the rim for layups and dunks are generally going to be your superstars: Iverson, LeBron, Wade, Shaw, Stoudemire. Let's not overlook the guys who may not get there as often but can finish when they do, like Grant Hill and his league leading zone 15 percentage.

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