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Basketball Defense - the Point-Zone Defense

By James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook, @ http://www.coachesclipboard.net

The "point-zone defense" is a zone defense devised by coaching legend Dean Smith at the University of North Carolina. It has been used down the years by succeeding coaches in that program. Coach Smith always maintained that it not only is an effective zone defense, but is also very easy to teach, requiring little practice time for your players to learn it.

The point-zone defense has the advantages of getting pressure on the ball while still protecting the paint, and it is confusing for the opposing players and coaches. It looks like a 2-3 zone defense initially, and at other times it has the appearance of a 1-3-1 zone. The point-zone defense can be used against both one-guard and two-guard zone offenses.

Coach Dean Smith

Partners

X1 and X4 work in a straight line as partners, and similarly X2 and X3 are partners. In diagram A below, the ball is on the top and X1 points to the ball while his partner X4 is on a straight line to the basket in the paint. We describe this as "point-partner-paint" (the partner of the pointer is in the paint). The X2 and X3 defenders are in a line perpendicular to X1 and X4 creating a defensive "X"... and if you can imagine X5 in the middle, our zone would look like a 1-3-1 zone.

Point-Zone Defense - rules, Partners Point-Zone Defense - rules, Partners

In diagram B, the ball is on the right wing, and X2 points the ball. X3 drops into the paint protecting the weakside block and has weakside box-out, rebounding responsibility. X1 drops to the free-throw line and denies the pass into the high-post, while X4 moves to the ball-side block - short corner area.

Diagram C shows the initial pass going to the left wing. X3 will point the ball here with X2 dropping to the weakside block. We use X3 here to point the ball rather than X1, as X1 has to be available to point to the top if the ball is passed back to the point. Again, X1 protects the high-post while X4 moves to the ball-side block - short corner area.

Point-Zone Defense - rules, Partners Point-Zone Defense - Center's Rules

The Center's (X5) Rules

In diagram D we see how X5 moves as the ball moves. X5 is always in a line between the ball and the basket and fronts the low-post player.

X5's four rules are:
  1. X5 is always in a line between the ball and the basket.
  2. X5 always fronts the low-post player.
  3. X5 keeps the ball out of the middle.
  4. If the O5 low-post player goes out on the perimeter (as in a 5-out offense), X5 moves out and plays O5 man-to-man.

Start in a 2-3 zone

At the beginning of each possession, we start in a typical 2-3 zone set. If the ball is dribbled to the middle or point (diagram E), X1 points the ball, players rotate as described in diagram A above, and we now look like a 1-3-1 zone defense.

Point-Zone Defense - Starting in a 2-3 zone Point-Zone Defense - Starting in a 2-3 zone Point-Zone Defense - Starting in a 2-3 zone

If the ball is passed to the right wing (diagram F), X2 points the ball, and players follow the rotation rules described in diagram B above. If the ball is passed to the left wing (diagram G), X3 points the ball and players rotate as described in diagram C above.

Offense in a two-guard front

If the offense attacks with a two-guard front, just stay in a typical 2-3 zone defense.

X4 defends corner to corner

If the ball is passed from the wing to the corner (diagram H), X4 points the ball in the corner. Notice that X5 fronts the low-post, X2 rebounds the backside, X1 keeps the ball out of the middle, and X3 defends or denies the pass back to the wing, and helps close the seam if O4 dribble-penetrates.

Point-Zone Defense - ball in the corner, and rotation on reversal Point-Zone Defense - ball in the corner, and rotation on reversal Point-Zone Defense - ball in the corner, and rotation on reversal

If the ball eventually reverses to the opposite side as seen in diagram J, and if it is passed into the right corner, X4 would again point the ball in the right corner.

X1 Points the Pass from the Wing to the Top

If the ball is passed from the wing back to the point... (more).

Defending the Dribble to the Wing and Corner

Instead of passing to the wing, the offense may dribble to either wing... (more).

Defending Skip-Passes

All good zone offenses will use skip-passes in their attack. Generally, we defend the skip-pass by having... (more).

Teaching the Point-Zone Defense

When teaching this defense, demonstrate the basic... (more).

Final Comments

The point-zone defense can be very effective and confusing to the offense... (more).

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Dean Smith's Point Zone Defense

Dean Smith's Point Zone Defense
with Dean Smith, legendary University of North Carolina head coach; 879 career wins; 2X NCAA Championship Coach; 4X National Coach of the Year; Basketball Hall of Fame ('83)
Coach Smith opens his "video vault" and welcomes you inside for an unprecedented look at the point zone. Fundamentally, the point zone is man-to-man pressure on the ball with a four-man zone in support. Disguising the defense is possible against baseline out-of-bounds plays and is a benefit of the point zone. Smith diagrams the two-man front to cover vulnerable areas along the baseline, the two-man trap against out-of-bounds plays and the 1-3-1 set. Rebounding coverage for guards is also thoroughly presented. Smith takes you through situational defensive coverages that come from years of experience with this zone... (more info)

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Copyright © 2001 - 2014, James A. Gels, all rights reserved.

Copyright © James A. Gels, all rights reserved.
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