Basketball Defense - the Point-Zone DefenseBy Dr. James Gels, from the Coach’s Clipboard Basketball Playbook
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.
PartnersX1 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.
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.
The Center's (X5) RulesIn 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:
- X5 is always in a line between the ball and the basket.
- X5 always fronts the low-post player.
- X5 keeps the ball out of the middle.
- 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 zoneAt 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.
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 frontIf the offense attacks with a two-guard front, just stay in a typical 2-3 zone defense.
X4 defends corner to cornerIf 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.
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 TopIf the ball is passed from the wing back to the point... (more).
Defending the Dribble to the Wing and CornerInstead of passing to the wing, the offense may dribble to either wing... (more).
Defending Skip-PassesAll good zone offenses will use skip-passes in their attack. Generally, we defend the skip-pass by having... (more).
Teaching the Point-Zone DefenseWhen teaching this defense, demonstrate the basic... (more).
Final CommentsThe point-zone defense can be very effective and confusing to the offense... (more).
See the complete article in the members section. The complete article also includes:
- X1 Points the Pass from the Wing to the Top
- Defending the Dribble to the Wing and Corner
- Defending Skip-Passes
- Teaching the Point-Zone Defense
- Final Comments
- An animation
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