2.4.3 1-3-1 Alignment against zone defence
Many teams when facing a zone defence resort to shooting from the outside and this is a significant part of the reason why FIBA recommends that children do not play zone defence until the age of 14.
However, a well constructed offence against a zone should create:
- Opportunities for penetration off the dribble;
- Shots inside the key and both high and low post play;
- Opportunities to shoot from the perimeter.
Below is a 1-3-1 offensive alignment that can achieve this.
The 1-3-1 alignment is commonly seen. Against a zone it is particularly important for a player to be in a baseline position – behind the zone defenders.
If defenders “ball watch” it will often provide an opportunity for 4 to cut.
Whichever side that 1 dribbles has two players and the opposite side (“weak” side) has 2 perimeter players and the high post player.
This creates opportunities for the two perimeter players to have a 2x1 opportunity against one of the “frontline” defenders (e.g. 2 and 4 against x3).
Pass to the Wing
Many zone defences will defend a pass to the wing by having a frontline player rotate. By having Player 4 move to the corner, this can now create a 2x1 situation.
5 can also seal the high post defender or cut into the key to receive a pass. If x3 has moved to the perimeter, 5 can seal x5 rather than just cutting into space.
A third and similar way to create the 2x1 opportunity (at any time) is for the high post player to screen the guard on the pass to the wing forcing a frontline player to rotate and defend the wing player.
Pass to the High Post
The High Post will often be defended by one of the frontline players when they receive a pass. The perimeter players should move to the corners and wing.
The zone is effectively in”man to man” now, with each player responsible for one offensive player. Anytime a player moves to “help” against the high post player, the high post player can pass to that offensive player. For example, if x3 helps, pass to 4.
Screening or Freezing Rotating Defender
Another effective tactic can be to screen the defender that would normally rotate to defend the ball.
As 3 passes to 1, a screen on x2 forces x1 to be involved - any dribble should look to penetrate past x1. If x1 commits to 1, a pass to 2 creates a 2x1. If x1 slides across to 2, 1 can penetrate into the key.
“Reversing” the ball (passing from one side to the other) can create opportunities to penetrate or get an open shot.
Here as 2 cuts to the basket, 4 passes to 1, who reverses the ball to Player 3. Player 2 follows through to the corner.
Alternatively, 4 could pass to 2 and then “Swing” or cut through to the opposite corner. The cut is often most effective, if they pause in the key and then sprint to the corner.
There are many offences designed to be played against zone defences, and some coaches will create a specific offence for each different zone that they may encounter.
It is recommended, when coaching young people, to have an offensive approach that is more versatile and can be utilized against both zone defence and man to man.