The zone defense is one of the basic strategies of basketball. When a zone defense is employed, each defender, instead of guarding an offensive player exclusively, is assigned a portion of the court to cover. If the defense goes to a 3-2 zone, there are certain tactics the offense can choose that are likely to be more effective than others.
A good guard who can also hit the 3-point shot, sometimes referred to as a zone-buster, is the quickest answer to a 3-2 zone defense. Since the middle defender in the front part of the zone sags back into the high-post area, there should be a fair number of straight-on shots available from beyond the 3-point arc. Once the guard starts knocking down a few long-range shots, the defense must change strategy, which puts the offense in control of the flow of the game.
Another characteristic of the 3-2 zone is that it leaves only two defenders in the low-post area near the basket, and virtually no coverage for the corner court area on either side. Once again, the offense should be looking to get 3-point shots by having post men set screens for a shooter who continually runs the baseline, looking to get open. Once the shooter hits a few shots, a low-post defender will typically try to move out to get a hand in his face, which leaves the offensive post player open for a dump-in pass and close shot.
Often the offense uses a high-post and low-post approach, or maybe a double-low post, but neither is the best way to attack a 3-2 zone defense. Against this type of zone, most coaches will position their post players on either side of the free throw line, about halfway down the lane. This puts them between the lines of defense and makes them more likely to be open for a close to mid-range jump shot. Another benefit to this positioning is that front-line defenders might be tempted to sag back to help cover the post players, leaving the outside shooter with an even better look at the basket.
As with attacking a man-to-man defense, screens and picks set by the offense can be quite effective against a 3-2 zone. One approach would be to run the shooting guard through the lane so one of the offensive post players can set a pick. As the guard comes out in the wing area, the defender responsible for that zone should have been slowed by the pick enough to provide an unimpeded shot. Some coaches build an entire strategy for playing against a zone defense on nothing but screens, picks and shooters constantly moving to find an open spot.
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