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What Is Zone Defense in Basketball?

Learn what zone defense is from the Harlem Wizards in this Howcast basketball video.


Swoop: Hey Broadway!

Broadway: What's up bro?

Swoop: You what man you know I'm a Cooker?

Broadway: Yes.

Swoop: And you know that I murder offenses? Nobody can play me man to man out here in these streets.

Broadway: So you're out in the streets?

Swoop: So you know what I'm trying to say to you right now bro? Is that defense is going to need to figure out another way to play a person like me. The Cooker.

Broadway: So they don't want to play you then?

Swoop: No, no man I'll cook them.

Broadway: So if I'm on defense-

Swoop: I'm like this, I'm cooking you. I'm cooking you! I'm cooking you.

Broadway: I just got cooked.

Swoop: You got cooked. By the Cooker. The Cooker.

Broadway: So if you play defense on the Cooker-

Swoop: That's why it's over, you're going to get cooked. So what do you do in a situation where you got the Cooker out here?

Broadway: You got to have a good coach.

Swoop: So you, what's a coach going to do though.

Broadway: You got to make an adjustment.

Swoop: What kind of adjustment can you do?

Broadway: I don't know.

Swoop: It's on defense.

Broadway: Yeah, it's on defense.

Swoop: You're a smart guy.

Broadway: We're going to teach the people at home how to play a solid zone defense with good principals.

Swoop: Okay.

Broadway: It's not even guarding a man, it's like guarding the area.

Swoop: Oh, guarding the area and that helps to help out on the Cooker.

Broadway: Yeah.

Swoop: Or-

Broadway: Yeah. Play it without trouble.

Swoop: Nice, nice.

Broadway: So we're going to go over to the court. Yeah, show people how to play us on defense.

Swoop: Let's do it man.

Broadway: Alright Swoop.

Swoop: Yeah.

Broadway: Alright swoop, now we're on the court, man. We're in a zone defense. So we're going to teach the people at home how to play a couple of different zone defenses.

Swoop: Okay.

Broadway: First we're going to work on a three-two zone.

Swoop: Three-two.

Broadway: So it's exactly how it sounds, it's three men up and two men back. So you've got to play that block area that little green block right there.

Swoop: Control the inside area.

Broadway: You're going to move back just a little bit and I'm going to be on whats called the wing. So as the ball moves around the court, everybody has a different area to guard. So Arthur is responsible for everything on the front of the court, on over to the right about the end of the free throw line right here on either side of the court. Now after the player or the ball moves past Arthur's given area, he's going to release the ball or the man over to me and my responsibility is to guard everything from this foul line area right down to about this red intersection right here. And after the ball goes down a little bit further, it's Swoop's job then come out and guard the basketball or the area.

DP will then slide over and rotate and cover Swoop's back, Marvin drops down, Arthur steps in the middle and what we want to give away is the pass furthest away from the ball. So if that basketball's in the corner, we want to give away what's called the skip pass on the top of the zone because we can recover in time.

Now, we'll distort the zone in a little bit and we'll give them a different look. Arthur will go over to the end, or the foul line extended right there. We want to keep our hands up at all times while playing the zone. Want to make sure we're big, that we distract the offensive players from getting an easy shot off. So now my area will be split down the middle of the court and each court there's a narrow right in the middle that splits the court so my area will be from the middle of the court on over to right about here, and I'll release my offensive player to Swoop. He'll go out this area, and as the ball shifts the players will shift as the ball moves and then we guard each area.

Now we'll give them a different look and we'll give them a one, three, one look. This is a one, three, one. So now each player responsibilities will change a little bit. Arthur will guard everything at the top. He'll release to me on the wings and sometimes out of a one, three, one you want to trap the ball in the corner so the ball comes down here. Swoop and I will then trap the basketball open, to force a loud pass and maybe get a steal out of it. So that's a one, three, one again, giving away the furthest pass away from the ball.

And the last zone look we'll do is a two, one, two. We'll extend this one up to the three point line or what's called the top of the key. Arthur and I will split the court in half on the sides of the free throw line. Swoop is going to come up just a little it, he's right in the middle of the free throw lane area. Marvin and DP will play the back blocks. Again we want to keep our hands up on the zone, on the defense and we'll have different areas that we can guard and have responsibilities for, to make sure that we contain the ball and the most important thing out of a zone, because you don't have a man, you want to guard an area and make sure you box out and get the rebound out of a zone defense.

Swoop: Now most importantly bro, we want to make sure the main weakness of a zone is you don't want to allow the ball inside the middle of the court. So, whenever you're playing a zone make sure that we always have somebody protecting the inside the middle of the [?] has the lane because once the ball gets inside there, the zone is done.

Broadway: You want to protect against dribble penetration because a good dribble penetration into the gaps of a zone can break down any zone so you have to have good communication, you have to have constant activity and you want to play an aggressive zone as opposed to a passive zone. And there you have it, your zone defense with the Harlem Wizards.

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