Beat Zone Defenses by Using Relentless Pass Fakes

Using pass fakes might sound like a really simple concept -- but few teams use the fake properly or often enough. And believe it or not, pass fakes have been one of our biggest keys to success against good zone defenses.

Using relentless pass fakes against a zone will create gaps, slow down defenders, and get you open shots. The key word here is "relentless". You need MULITPLE pass fakes on EVERY possession.

Here's why it works surprising well when you emphasize it relentlessly...

A good zone defense will anticipate and move on the pass (not on the catch). Good defensive coaches teach their players to move on the pass -- as the ball is leaving the passers finger tips. Quite often these zone defenses are very tough because they quickly close out on shooters, cover up gaps, and make it tough to find a good shot.

The way you counteract the tough zone defense is with pass fakes. With each pass fake, the defense moves in that direction (because they are trying to anticipate like their coach teaches them to). And then after the fake, you move the ball in another direction. This obviously gets the defense out of position and gives you opportunities for open shots, penetration on close outs, and passes into seams.

Now the interesting part is what happens as the game continues. It might take a few possessions but by the time your zone offense makes around their 15th pass fake, the defense becomes frustrated and adjusts. They start waiting. In fact many times it seems like the defenders are stuck in the mud. They aren't sure what you are going to do, so they wait to see where the ball goes and then they react.

Now you have the advantage and you have neutralized the quickness of their zone defense.

If you're a "plays coach" and you use set zone plays to attack a zone, you should still teach players to use pass fakes. In fact, you can teach players when to use fakes in the context of your set play to improve timing and keep the defenders off balance.

In order for "pass fakes" to work effectively in your zone offense, you need to remind players more than once or twice. You need to constantly emphasize pass fakes and make it a piece of your zone offense.

You need to tell them in practice, before the game, during timeouts, at half time, and after the game. If you tell them 50 times, then they should start using enough pass fakes for it to be effective.

It's very simple and easy to implement, yet works extremely well against zone defenses. It has made a big difference in our zone attack and I hope it works for you too.

Related Pages & Helpful Resources

Beating the Zone - 75 Set Plays to Score Against Zone Defense
Basketball Press Offense: How to Break Any Type of Press and Avoid Turnovers
3 Simple Strategies to Attack a Zone Defense

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


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Basketballogy says:
2/7/2013 at 7:41:08 PM

Finally! It is so good to see someone else, especially with the clout and credibility of Breakthrough Basketball, preaching the benefits of pass fakes.

I call them, "No pass looks."

It is great for moving a zone, and for freezing a zone (as you wrote), but also to take advantage of an overplaying man defense as well.

A no pass look (or pass fake) can get an overplaying man to man defender jumping and allow a cut or drive that otherwise would not have been open.

Thank you for writing this. Maybe the next time I tell a team to do this, they won't look at me like, "Are you kidding?!"


Coach Joe says:
2/7/2013 at 11:19:08 AM

We work pass fakes into our Machine Gun Drill. Same with "No Looks". Its still a work in progress.


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