Save Time in Practice by Adjusting Your Inbounds
Plays to Work Against Zone

I'm not a big fan of running lots of set plays. I think they take way too much practice time to teach and our time is better spent on defense, motion offense, fundamentals, and player development.

With that said, we do spend some time on inbounds plays because they have such a big pay off.

To be more efficient and reduce the time it takes players to learn, we use inbounds plays that work against both man to man and zone defenses.

This is a big time saver!

Actually we just make simple adjustments to our M2M inbounds plays.

I'll give you an example. We'll take the common cross screen play from the box set. First the man to man version...

Cross Inbound Play vs Man to Man

  • 5 and 2 cross screen.

  • After screening, 5 looks to seal and use his hips to move the defender either left or right -- holding their hand out giving the passer a target.
  • 2 cuts to the right wing for spacing.


  • If needed, 1 screens down for 4, as a pressure release.


Now let's see how we take the same play and make a small adjustment to score against zone defense.

Cross Inbound Play vs Zone Defense

  • 5 and 2 screen across. 5 should find the center of the zone and screen. 2 can screen either top defender (X1 or X2). It doesn't really matter.

  • 4 cuts to the corner and 1 cuts to the wing.

  • 5 needs to seal the center defender and push him/her out of their area by boxing out and sealing. 2 then dives to the open spot looking for a short jump or hook shot.

    It's important for 5 to screen the middle defender (X5 for the play to work).
  • Either 4 will be open or 2 will be open almost every time you run the play.


As you can see, the play starts out identical to the man to man version. We just make a small adjustment at the end to take advantage of the 2-3 zone defense.


How to Make Adjustments to Your Own Plays

Making adjustments is simple. As long as you understand the slides and defensive responsibilities of a zone, it's easy to keep defenders from covering their responsibilities.

X5 is responsible for the blocks and area near the basket. X4 is responsible for the left block and left corner. X3 is responsible for the right block and right corner. And so on.

Now figure out a way to keep X5 from covering his area of responsibility, then put one of your offensive players in that spot.

Or figure out how to keep X4 from covering his area, then put one of your players in that spot.

And so on. You get the idea.... right?


Keep it Simple and Save Time

We only have 3 (sometimes 4) inbounds plays. One of them is the "cross" play above, which is surprisingly effective at every age level I have tried it (youth to high school).

I just picked out 3 man to man box plays that I thought were simple and effective. Then I figured out zone adjustments for those 3 plays. We don't spend much time teaching inbounds plays, but we do score a lot of points from them!

I hope this gives you a few ideas on how you can save time and make your practices more efficient.

Related Pages & Resources

60 Baseline Out of Bounds Scoring Plays
75 Set Plays to Score Against Zone Defense
6 Baseline Out Of Bounds Plays From The Box Set
Zone Offense - Strategies and Plays

What do you think? Let us know by leaving your comments, suggestions, and questions...


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Ryan says:
3/29/2017 at 9:21:15 AM

Winning dead ball situations is crucial and I agree with the concept. You need to use BLOB''''''''''''''''s that can be used against either man or zone. However I am not a big fan of the box alignment. I feel like it allows the defense to pack in the paint making it difficult to get open around the hoop, but easier for shots on the perimeter.. I use a flat set on all on all of our BLOB''''''''''''''''s. This spreads out the defense and allows myself and my players an opportunity to make a pre-play read. Also, it allows me to see what defensive alignment teams are playing allowing me to adjust the play if I have one I think is more effective against a man or zone.


Paul says:
1/26/2017 at 1:17:53 PM

I have been using the box with either the cross option you show or an "up" option, with the bottom of the box back-picking the top which is particularly effective vs man with the pickers either rolling to the hoop if there's a switch or floating to midcourt for a release. Both provide, as you say, simple but effective options to get the ball in and also score off the inbound. Thanks for the tip with the 2 filling between the 4 and 5 vs the zone. It's a nice variation that I'm looking forward to trying out!


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