Basketball Offense - 3-2 Zone Offense

By Dr. James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook

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The straight 3-2 zone defense is similar to the 1-2-2 zone, except that the middle defender sags into the high post area. See the 1-2-2 zone attack.

First, if your point guard can shoot the 3-pointer, he/she should get some open shots against this zone, since the middle defender is playing off the point.

Use a two guard front and put your best shooter in the ball-side corner, running the baseline. Put your two post players along both sides of the lane, in the gaps above the low defenders but below the outside defenders (diagram A). Attack this zone from the corners.

Let's assume the defense covers the corner by having their low defender come out. If your corner shooter hits a couple, the low post defender will have to come out to defend and then you should be able to pass into the low post or lane (diagram B).

3-2 zone offense - attack from the corners 3-2 zone offense - attack from the corners 3-2 zone offense - attack from the corners

If the opposite low post defender comes over to help, you can dump it to your weak-side low post (diagram C). But if he/she is being covered by the weak-side wing defender, then kick it out to O3 for the shot from the wing. Either the weak-side low post or weak-side wing should be open.

Now let's look at two options for inside screens. For success, you have to recognize how the zone covers the ball-side low block when the ball is in the corner. They can cover it by either:

(A) having the middle defender slide down from the high post area, or

(B) having the opposite low defender slide over to the ball-side block.

(A) As the ball goes into the corner, if the middle defender slides down to cover the ball-side low block, have your ball-side post screen the middle defender and seal him/her outside (diagram D). The opposite post can now cut over for the pass inside. If the weak-side post covers this, then your post player who set the screen (O4) should have inside position (if he/she sealed correctly) and should cut to the opposite block for the pass (diagram E).

3-2 zone offense - post movement 3-2 zone offense - post movement 3-2 zone offense - post movement

If their X3 defender is playing down, kick it out to the weak-side wing for a shot (diagram F).

(B) As the ball goes to the corner, if the opposite low defender slides over to the cover the ball-side block, have your ball-side post player set a screen on the opposite post defender, before he/she slides over (diagram G). Screen that opposite post so he/she can't get there and O5 should be open for the pass and lay-up (diagram H).

3-2 zone offense - post cross-screen 3-2 zone offense - post cross-screen

Now, let's assume the defense covers the corner by having the wing defender slide down. First of all, if the passing is crisp, your best shooter (O2) should get some open shots, as it will take time for the wing defender to get there. So look for the 3-pointer from O2 as the first option.

As the ball is passed into the corner (diagram I), O4 sets a down-screen on the low defender, and O5 cuts into the gap on the ball-side just outside the lane for the pass and shot (Diagram J).

3-2 zone offense - more options 3-2 zone offense - more options 3-2 zone offense - more options

Another option (diagram K) is to have O4 step out into the gap for the shot - if the O4 defender comes out to defend, pass underneath to O5 cutting to the ball-side low block. Skip passes to O3 on the opposite side are effective also.

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