Why NBA teams should consider playing a 3-2 zone


Playing a zone defense in the NBA today is a major rarity. Some teams may play a match-up zone for a possession or two just to show something different, but it barely happens. Zone defenses were allowed in 2001 but with the defensive three-second rule being implemented, it took away from teams playing a traditional zone because defenders couldn’t stand in the paint longer than 3 seconds.

There’s a percentage of NBA fans that want no zone existence in the league. The NBA is a sport but also a business and at the end of the day it thrives on the superstars. Zone defenses take away from superstars because it causes less isolation, which in the eyes of some deflates the entertainment aspect of it.

Not all fans are basketball junkies. Some casual fans just want to see dunks, crossovers, and alley-oops. Even though I see the game as being more than that, you have to respect the desires of other fans to. There are a lot of entertaining things that can be done offensively and defensively when a zone set is being played, but a casual eye may not catch on. With not much zone being played today, those casual fans have nothing to worry about.

A quick description of the 3-2 zone given by basketballwiki.net.

However, I’m looking to pick minds of NBA coaches and GM’s out there. With a surgence of threes being taken and the lack of post presence in the league, some teams that defend the deep threat poorly may want to consider implementing a 3-2 zone into their strategy.

Rise of the 3 pointer since the 1979-1980 season. Graph via ESPN.comRise of the 3 pointer since the 1979-1980 season.
Graph via ESPN.com

The 3-2 zone is mostly used against teams with poor low post talent and great outside shooting. This type of defense can help teams who struggle against the three by forcing teams to score inside. 3 players defend the perimeter while the two post players hold down the paint. Like in any zone, the middle is vulnerable, but that’s why communication and proper rotation is important.

KD DefenseWith the athleticism of guys in the league, I believe they could produce some great zone defenses. We’re seeing bigs become more agile and guards more versatile, making them capable of covering more ground which is what you need.  Just imagine a 6-foot-10 Kevin Durant at the top of the key in a 3-2 zone — how are you getting past that?

When you see teams that like to make it rain like Golden State or Houston coming up on the schedule, the thought of a 3-2 zone sounds very appealing. I’m not suggesting that teams play zone the entire game, but it’s a different look to throw at teams to minimize their three-point attempts. At the end of the day you want to win ball games, and I believe this scheme could be an effective way in beginning to slow down these great shooting teams.


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