Zone Offense Concepts

Updated: Dec 23, 2020

In this post, we took a look at how we attack Zone Defenses using our 'Gaps' and 'Ball Screen' Concepts.

I think it is safe to say that the majority of coaches' practice plans revolve around the build-up to a team's man-to-man offense, with their zone offensive scheme pushed to the back burner. This is a trap that I generally try to avoid. Given our two-week preseason and the likelihood that we will see zone defense early in the season, I think it becomes essential that we work on our zone offensive concepts right away. Two seasons ago (2018-19) we only zone defense on approximately 15% of our possessions. This past season (2019-20) that number jumped back up to about 35% of our total possessions. The vast majority of our zone possessions came against either 23 or 32 Zones, with the occasional 131 and Box & 1 sprinkled in.

The main thing I attempt to do with my zone offense is to keep it simple. In my opinion, having a few simple concepts that your players can use to read the defense will be more beneficial than implementing a bunch of Zone-Specific set plays. There are two main zone concepts that we are going to discuss in this post. One of them is our Gaps approach, which centers on Spacing, Ball Movement, and on occasion Drive & Space Reactions. The other is Head Tap, which is a high ball screen designed to bring two defenders to the basketball creating a small advantage on the first pass. We will also discuss a few options we have used in the past to incorporate off-ball screening as a means to pin "wing defenders" in certain zones.

The main zone offense concept that we are going to use is simply called 'Gaps'. This is a fairly common concept that will use great spacing, ball movement, and subtle adjustments to create advantages. We are going to position ourselves in the gaps of the zone defense and then attack those gaps with passing or dribble penetration.

Gaps Concept -


The first layer that we are going to teach in zone offense is gap alignment. We would like our offensive players to always align themselves in the gaps of a zone defense. We are trying to occupy the attention of two defenders at once with our spacing.

Given that the 23 Zone is the most common zone that we see I drew the diagram to reflect the gaps in that particular defense.

  • Point

  • Two Wings

  • Middle & Short Corner

Once our players are comfortable with our gap spacing versus an even fronted zone we would show our players how those gaps change when we are facing an odd fronted zone (131, 32). The concept of Gap Spacing is really simple but is perhaps the most critical for creating good shots versus zone defenses.

"Teaching Points" -