Breakthrough Basketball Newsletter:
Biggest Key to Beating Zone Defenses

January 21st, 2022

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 MULTIPLE pass fakes on EVERY possession.

Here’s something my brother Jeff wrote - how pass fakes made a big difference in his zone attack...

Why using relentless pass fakes works surprisingly well against zone defenses...

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 passer’s fingertips.
  • 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 closeouts, and passes into seams.

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.

You need to remind players more than once or twice in order for "pass fakes" to work effectively in your zone offense. 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.

And 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.

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

And Youth Coaches, we included you in this newsletter because (unfortunately) you encounter teams who play zone defense, but we urge you to stay the course and teach man to man. Once players master man to man concepts, then they’re ready to move on to other defenses when they’re older.

Here are a couple of other helpful articles and resources:

3 Simple Strategies to Attack a Zone Defense

What Defense Should You Teach Youth Players (Zone, Man, Press)??

A Quick Note On an Exciting New Resource for Youth Programs Coming Next Week...

It’s been a long time in the works, but finally…we are so excited to introduce a brand new, one-of-a-kind comprehensive YOUTH coaching system to you next week...

Offense, defense, philosophy, skills & drills, and plug-and-play practice plans coming soon!

We’ll be sharing more details shortly...

All the Best,

-Joe Haefner
Breakthrough Basketball