“Zipper” starts in a 1-4 High, offensive set.

1 makes a dribble entry to the wing and the wing player (2) cuts to the basket. They may sink toward the baseline first before cutting to the basket or may step toward the ball handler (as if moving to a hand-off).

If possible, 1 passes to 2 as they cut to the basket.

2 then cuts from the basket up the key, using a screen from the strong side post player.

This is the “Zipper” cut. 1 dribbling to the wing “opens” the zipper, and 2 cutting up the key “closes” the zipper.

1 looks to pass to 5 in the low post position or to 2 for a shot at the top of the key.

If 2 does not receive the ball, they cut through to the opposite corner.

5 can set a ball screen for 1 at the wing.

Alternatively, 3 lifts to the point position to receive the pass from 1. 5 lifts back to the high post and 2 lifts from the corner to the wing.

The team is not in the initial alignment (1-4 High) and the play can continue by 3 dribbling to either wing. It is also possible to add other elements, such as:

  • 4 setting ball screen for 3 while 2 drops to the corner. 5 could also screen for 1
  • 3 passing to 2, 1 cutting to ballside corner and 3 cutting to weakside corner

The “Zipper” is a relatively unsophisticated structure that is easily “scouted” and accordingly is less likely to be used as a structured offence. Instead, it is common in professional leagues for the “zipper cut” to be integrated into their offensive structures, particularly being used as an “entry” into half court offence. Set out below are various options that utilize a zipper cut to start.

Coaches of junior teams in particular are encouraged to consider that these are examples of play, rather than a set structure to implement with their team. These options are probably most effective when they are the result of a “read” by the players, rather than a set rule.

Most professional teams that use a “zipper cut” do not have 1 dribble to the wing and instead they dribble to the side of the court. 2 still cuts to the basket, although some teams have the screen from 5 executed at the foul line rather than near the block.

1 still has options to pass into the post or to 2, however will usually need to dribble to a lower position in order to be able to pass to the post player.

After passing the ball, 1 may also cut to the basket. Commonly, 4 and 3 will move position to be able to screen.

1 pauses at the basket and then can either:

  1. Cut back to the perimeter using a screen from 5
  2. Cut off a staggered double screen from 3 and 4.

Whichever cut 1 makes, they must read their defensive opponent. This may mean they flare to the corners, or curl on a screen etc, depending upon how the cut is defended.

If 1 receives the ball on the wing, they may penetrate. Here, 3 moves out to the opposite corner (to receive a pass after penetration) which creates space for 4 to drop to the basket.

Alternatively, 4 could ball screen at the wing.

Another alternative is for 5 to screen for 2 to flare to the opposite wing to receive a pass from 1.

Rather than passing to 1 at the wing, 2 may clear toward the opposite side and pass to 1 as they lift to the point. 4 can then set a screen at the elbow extended.

If 2 does not pass to the wing, 3 can make a “turn out” to cut off the screen from 5.

After the initial “zipper cut”, 5 can back screen for 5 as they cut to the basket and can then re-screen as they cut back to the perimeter. 3 and 4 can still set the staggered double on the other side.

If 1 does not use the staggered double, 3 could then cut off 4’s screen.

After the initial “zipper” cut, if 1 passes to the post (instead of to 2), 1 can then set a screen for 2 to cut to the wing.

Another option after 1 passes to 2 (on the initial zipper cut) is for 1 to then make a horizontal cut to the opposite wing.

3 would clear that wing by moving to the corner and 5 would also step to the perimeter.

4 then steps across to set a ball screen and 2 penetrates.

3 lifts and 5 drops to the corner and 1 makes sure that they are in a position to receive a pass.