How Do You Handle Slow Players In The Back Of Your Zone Defense?

Question: How do you handle slow players in the back of your 2-3 zone defense? I have players in the back of the zone that are good size, but extremely slow footed. We practice moving on the flight of the ball, but even with that, they just can't get there because they are so slow. Any suggestions? What adjustment would you make? Move those players a little higher? Go to a 3-2 look?


As with a lot of things it depends on a series of factors and the team you are playing. Here are some ideas that might help you...

1) Play your quicker guard on the same side as your slowest forward.

2) Make sure the forwards are ALWAYS in their stance or they will be slower in movement.

3) If the opposition is more dangerous on the perimeter than inside, then move the forwards wider to start.

4) If the opposition is more dangerous on the inside than on the outside, then be late to the shooters but still have a hand up.

5) Are the perimeter players mainly shooters or drivers? One of the bigger problems with slower players in trying so hard to get to the shooter is that they give up penetration for better shots or foul trouble for the center.

6) If they are tall they do not have to get as close to the shooters as long as they have a hands up on the shooter. However, if they are both slow and short that can be a deadly combination.

7) Work on anticipation. It is easier to improve mental quickness than foot quickness.

8) Develop and/or recruit better athletes!!

Hope this helps.

Al Marshall

Related Pages and Helpful Resources

Zone Defense Concepts & Tips
2-3 Zone Defense Basic Rotations
1-3-1 "Lob Pass" Zone Defense
Thoughts on Rebounding in the Zone

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


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liv says:
4/14/2018 at 9:27:24 PM

Simply teaching them how to stay low and anticipate the pass or ball and slide their feet is enough. Not everyone is fast, not everyone is tall, not everyone is 100% the perfect athlete. Telling him to "recruit better players" is a damn insult to ALL athletes. The game of basketball is no more than a chess game. Everyone has their strengths and weaknesses and as a coach you have to know how to combine these into one team that can be a unit on the court together. They are slower on their feet, so what? You think everyone in the NBA and WNBA made it there because they are as fast as John Wall? Anticipate the pass, Do NOT go for the steal unless you are 200% sure you are getting the steal, slide you feet keep your hands up, if you get beat off the dribble then you should be able to trust your teammate to be in help side. Even the pros stay in help side defense in case their teammate gets beat. And keep them confident, being slower on your feet doesn't mean they aren't good in other ways whether they are a big man or a guard, tall or short, strong or skinny.


Colleen says:
2/3/2015 at 9:54:00 AM

I coach 6th grade and have some slower kids on the team. We run man to man only and have used the 3 point line as a reference point for them. They are not allowed to defend outside the 3 point line unless the player has picked up his dribble. For my bigs they are not allowed past the free throw line when defending a bigger kid screening up. This prevents the big kids from being pulled to far away from the basket for the quicker guards to burn their man and then score. This has helped tremendously. My big slow kid is one of my better defenders because of his rules he has to follow. Sometimes kids get the 3 point shot off in the corner on him, but this is 6th grade so it doesn't happened often.

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jim says:
5/27/2014 at 1:26:37 AM

Teach man to man


Peter says:
11/8/2013 at 9:01:47 PM



t mann says:
1/19/2012 at 12:03:46 PM

I like this question.
Every team has this situation at some point.
We offset this with more man-to-man defense
More full court pressure
Switch to zone defenses that allow the big man to patrol the key area
Also go smaller with only one big slow player. Usually offenses don't post up two bigs at the same time.
These work for us


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