Offensive Structure Against The 2-3 Zone Defense

Basketball. Like you I get frustrated in losing games of basketball. But what shits me more than losing is playing with no real direction. We’re a good team which really puts in. There is no doubt the Badgers play hard. We just need to play smarter.  Having played a bit of basketball in the past as you all have,  I’m sure you’d agree its a much sweeter to pull off nice passages of team play. Winning or losing.

I thought I’d take a bit of time to get into some ideas for our offensive structure.  Ideally a practice session or “Badger Camp” would be a better way to do it.  I thought this might be a way of getting some of this across even initially. Tell me what you think.

The 2-3 zone defense is the most common defense we will come up against.  Beating this defense is all about finding and attacking open space. There are two main ways to beat this type of zone defense:

  1. ·         Penetrating Open Space
  2. ·         Shifting and Breaking Down the Zone

1) Penetrating Open Space

The 2-3 zone defense’s main weakness is that it ironically creates zones of open space for us greedy attacking HB-ers. . Each defender has a designated zone area to defend and is not guarding a single defender. Our objective should be to attack these free space zones with our offensive positioning (cutting), passing, dribble penetration and the open jump shot. For example:

The red losers are the defenders in a typical 2-3 zone set up.

The areas of open space to attack coincidentally will be the space between all of the defenders and the 3 point perimeter. The main areas to attack are shown in blue above.   Attacking the free space zones between defenders screws with their feeble minds because of the uncertainty as to which of them should be protecting this free space.  A defenders natural instinct is to move to protect this area so often an attack on a free space will also draw one or more defenders.

Getting the ball to these open space zones (blue zones) will either give us an open shot if defenders are slacking off; or when more than one defender is drawn to the attack,  leave unguarded and open HB-ers.


2) Shifting and Breaking Down the Zone Defense

The functioning 2-3 zone’s job is also to move and shift together across the court from side to side corresponding with the location of the ball.  Good ball movement and perimeter passing gives us better access to attack the blue zones in the first instance, but it also forces the zone to shuffle across the court.

Attacking the blue zones particularly from either the left or right side of the court not only breaks down the shifted 2-3 zone defense, it can also create massive open space on the “weak side”.  When defenders are drawn to these attacks and or heaps of ball movement, they either get slack or sucked into over-defending.  This is how the zone breaks down and creates more open space for us or leaves our players unguarded (or defenders who are guarding no one).

Being patient and moving the ball around the perimeter makes the defense work more than it should have to while allowing us to find openings and open SPACE! If they’re moving more they are more likely to screw up and get sucked into being out of position (and get tired). This is never going to happen if were are a one pass – shoot offense. We’ll get stuck with 4 defenders in the paint blocking everything up.   It would also give us a chance to spend more time in offense instead of hauling arse up and down the court all the time.

Badarse Badgers Offensive Setup 1

I think this should be our first basic offensive structure and setup.  If we can get it into our heads to always begin our offense in this manner it will open our thinking up to other specific setups and plays later (like the example below) But first, I think our main goal now is to develop and assign our offensive positions.

1G – Point Guard (ball carrier)
2G – Shooting Guard
3G – Shooting Guard
4P – Post
5P – Post

I’m gonna go through what I think are the offensive assignments for each of these player positions in more detail in a minute. Each of us may more naturally suited to certain positions but you should learn about other positions should you have to play them yourself. This will help you understand how they relate your assigned position.

The first step out on the court is to determine who is playing where and then to lock the key parts of position assignment in your mind.

Okay, so now onto the player position profiles and assignments.

1G -Point Guard

You are our ball carrier and play maker. Because we are old and unfit its important to remember when bringing the ball up into offense to wait for our POST players to be set in offense.  Well okay not just because of this reason. Doing this gives us a chance to work the ball inside and to position for offensive rebounds.

Don’t just dribble straight up into the front two defenders in the zone.  Let them come out to you. Hanging back a bit will give us even more space around the blue zone at the top of the key.  It also creates bigger angles for you to make passes to the other guards on the wings.

Its important you maintain your dribble.  If a defender comes out to you then you also have the option to more easily dribble and penetrate around them off your first step.  You don’t wanna get stuck having your only option being to pass.

Your first objective is to look to pass to either wing (2G + 3G).

This first pass tells us all if you are taking the play left or right.   This could be determined if the guard on your right comes out to you. The more easy option then becomes hitting your right wing Guard with the pass.


You also need to be ready to pop back out to the top (your starting position) to “help” receive passes from the wing if there is no offensive option taken from there. If the first pass inside is not available from the wing, hopefully the ball will swing back to you. You might be able to hit a cutting Post player through the free throw line.

If we are moving the ball well and their zone is breaking down look to drive between defenders.  If passes are not on its up to you to hold onto the ball and try return to the top of the arc to reset the play.

Sometimes there may also be space right in the middle of free throw line to hit a cutting post player through the zone. Especially if their guards come out to you and or their centre is deeper in the paint.

So, in summary:

1) Take the inbound pass and bring the ball into front court
2) Wait for defenders to come to you, maintaining your dribble
3) Pass to a wing
4) Patrol top of the 3 point arc
5) Be the Help Outlet receiver
6) Look to drive on the weak side if Zone breaks down
7) Reset the Play

2G & 3G – Shooting Guards

Your first position in offense is to set up on either wing just outside the three point line and about level with the free throw line. You may also have to first help 1G get the ball into the front court if one of the defenders is being a pain in the arse trying to nick it off him (it will usually be some angry moron who has just missed their shot down the other end out for revenge). A nice little screen set forward of 1G’s path usually sorts these suckers out.

But I digress..  okay setting up on the three point line on the wing.  Expect to be the first pass receiver from the point guard.  You may have to pop out a little wider or closer to out of bounds if your defender is pretty excitable and onto you.  This is good. The main thing to be thinking about is the gap between their guard at the top of the key and their forward on the base. Ideally our post players will be in positions inside cutting past this space.  Your first thought should be to get a bounce pass into these guys thru the gap in the defenders.  Sometimes a little lob over the top works as well.


However, you need to be thinking about being an offensive threat as well, particularly if the ball is returned to you (dished back out) from inside. You need to be thinking “TRIPLE THREAT”. The name “triple threat” comes from the idea that the offensive player with the basketball has three choices regarding what to do with the ball. Either dribble, pass, or shoot.

The key to the triple threat is getting yourself into an aggressive attacking stance when you receive the ball from where you could execute either of these three moves.  This means also getting your feet set with a lower stance while also protecting the ball from defenders before doing anything else. The dude in the video link above describes all this well – watch it.  Then its up to you to show us some razzle dazzle! If defenders are staying off you, take the open shot.  If they come at you fake the shot and burn their arses on the dribble.

When you don’t have the basketball its all about moving around the perimeter on your wing looking either to be in open space or to position yourself in the line of sight between whoever has the ball and defenders.  If you are on the “weak side” during the offensive play you may even be able to sneak in a little closer to the key way for some backdoor action or take a skip pass to you for an open shot.

3G is on the weak side

When the shot goes up, particularly if you’re on the weak side, head towards the free throw line for the long rebound clanger.

Okay so your key position assignment summary is:

1) Set up on either wing
2) be ready to receive pass from the top
3) Line of sight
4) Look inside to pass to Post players
5) Triple Threat
6) Long rebounds are at free throw line

  4P & 5P – Post Players

Playing in the Post you can start from several positions.  I think we should start our offense with two Post up players in the Low Post positions.  You need to position yourself facing the play with your back to the basket.  There will most likely be a low post defender right where you need to set up.

This is good because they are then caught up with the decision of either watching (guarding) you or watching the ball. Keep your focus on our Point Guard (1G) because whichever direction he/she decides to send that first pass will determine your next move.  If you are the left hand side post play (eg. 4P) and the first pass heads to the right wing, you gotta move! Cut diagonally across the key and up to the High Post position. Clock their dopey arse Centre in the back of the head on the way through too.


Timing your cut takes a bit to get the hang of when moving, but the main thing to think about is to make your cut to the high position into the “blue” zone.  One which gives you and the wing guard (2G) a direct open line of sight to each other through space between defenders.  Our 2G winger guard will be looking to you first for the pass inside.

If he/she hits you with the pass you immediately have a “Triple Threat” decision to make which will be dictated by your gut feel and the level of attention you get from defenders.  The main thing to remember is to always receive the ball with your back to the bucket.  Usually your first choice should be to spin either left or right and move aggressively to the hoop.

Here our girls have a great advantage to turn and take on the defenders and head to the hoop.  There will mostly be guys in the Centre and Forward defending positions who can’t do that much to stop your shot. Take them on.
If you draw lots of attention from the centre and or their low post defenders you can just as easily dish a quick outlet pass or dump to your other Post teammate. If the passing lane is blocked and you don’t receive the pass on the first instance, then your next cut is to the free throw line. Timing again is an issue and you need to remember the three second rule.  If the wing guard is stuck with the ball just step slightly out of the key way to reset the 3 second count. Here, also once we get fancy, you can even help out your winger guard if he is on the dribble with a high screen on their Defender (2).

So, anyway you want to quickly be available for a cheeky pass inside to  you at the free throw line once the ball hits the hands of our Point guard.  If its not there you need to head back to your original low post position.

Sometimes at the beginning of our offense there may be massive space at the free throw line, for example if our point guard is getting molested straight away by defenders.  You might be able to quickly cut there to get a sneaky pass.

So your cut “Flight path” if the ball goes to the left wing is normally something like this:

If you’re the Post player (5P) who stays at “home” in your initial low post position, be on the look out for either a pass from the guard or a quick dump pass from your fellow Post player to you. This happens if your defender gets sucked into trying to stop the high post and moves higher up the key.  Hopefully for you, both your defender and the centre may get sucked in to the high cutting Post up player. If that happens make sure you step back and drift closer towards the baseline and call loudly for the pass.

A sneaky maneuver is to fake going inside or higher on  your defender and spin behind this idiot.  A nice trick is if you see them leaving you, bump them a bit or even (push them forward hehe) touch them on their right shoulder/hip (in this instance..their side which is closest to the basket) and spin/head the opposite way to give yourself more space to take the dump pass from the high post.

Be ready too if the pass is not on for the ball to swing back outside and around to the top of the key. Because if it goes to the other wing its gonna be your turn to cut to your opposite high post in exactly the same manner above. Sometimes too there may be the option for you to nick out to the corner for the three point shot if everyone gets drawn high.  You also can help block out defenders to protect our winger guard if he/she ends up open in the corner for three.

Because you guys are in the paint you’re also in the best position to rebound for us.  When the shot goes up try get around your defender and get that rebound!

Your mission Jim:
1) Set up in a Low Post Position
2) Face the play with your back to the bucket on the outside of your defender
3) If the play goes to the wing opposite to you – you gotta cut high
4) Triple threat if the pass hits you
5) Follow your “Flight Path”
6) Crash the boards
7) Reset

Okay… that all make sense?  Got any questions or things to add? Mail me at

Team Rules!

The main movements we can take from this play and implement straight away are:
1) Set up the with the 3 guards and 2 post players formation.
2) First pass is to the wing
3) Post player cuts from low post to opposite high post.
4) Look to hit Post players with passes through gaps in defenders
5) If pass is not there – RESET to Point Guard (swing to opposite wing)

I think we should adopt an approach of at least always having one attempt on getting the ball inside via the wing before ANYONE SHOOTS! Why be in such a rush all the time?

This is not only because its better to play team basketball, but we’ll also have no fuken chance of getting an easier rebound (or open space) if their zone is in its original position with five of them in the key way.  And it totally sucks balls having to haul ya butt back into defense after only 10 seconds spent in offense.  We gotta make all these other fools spend more time in defense. Play smarter Badgers!!

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