Building A Complete Zone Offense Attack

By Matt Hackenberg

Building A Complete Zone Offense Attack

Coach Matt Hackenberg shares his tips for a complete zone offense attack (base, motion, set plays & more) with FastDraw diagrams & video.

When cruising the web for basketball content, it feels like 90% of the stuff I see are concepts for offense. Only a small percent is related to defense. Then out of all that offensive content, it seems the vast majority is on man-to-man concepts. Now, I’m not going to be the person to champion defensive concepts on the internet. But I will lay out a plan for having a complete zone offense attack for nearly every situation. Let’s dive in.


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Building A Complete Zone Offense Attack – Concepts, Diagrams & Videos

[Click on a diagram to view more details and to download it to your FastDraw library.]

Zone Motion (Base Zone Offense)


You need to have a “base zone offense.” This is the term I use to define the concept that you’ve chosen to be your default zone offense. When your team sees a zone, we all know we are in “Gaps,” or “Titan,” or “Cowboy” – whatever you call your base zone offense. Your team shouldn’t be waiting for you to call something when the opponent flips to a zone. It should already know.

A base zone offense concept should have flexibility and adaptability to play against most quarter court zone defenses, whether it be an even front like a 2-3,  or an odd front like a 3-2 or 1-3-1. It may not be a perfect scheme, but you can trust the scheme to create an offensive approach your team is comfortable with. This “Zone Motion” can be a staple for your program, and can be a good start to having organization and strategy to attack zones. 

“Gaps” Conceptual Zone Offense

If you don’t like having that much movement, you can opt for something more stationary. There are pros and cons to players being more stationary in zone offense. Yet, there’s a reason why many coaches choose less movement against zones than in their man-to-man attack. Something like “Gaps” or “Triangle” accomplish the same function as a base zone offense, but provide less movement. 

Triangle Continuity Zone Offense

Have a “safety blanket” concept for when teams extend zones out to half court and try to trap. An offensive concept that works in the quarter court may not work as well against a zone extended to half court. I’ve always liked having “Corners” installed. It can be used as an odd front quarter court zone attack, but also provides great spacing for when teams extend into half court traps. While this concept is a bit passive against quarter court zones, I always thought it to be a great solution to run against more extended 1-3-1 defenses.

Zone Offense Set Plays

You should to have set plays ready for when you need a basket, or want to hurt a particular style of zone defense. A base zone offense gets your team organized against zones. A safety blanket concept prevents zone traps from bothering you. Now, you can start to think about how to get a specific player a shot against zone defense and how to hurt a particular style of zone defense.

I prefer having around five zone sets per season, and they may change from year to year depending on personnel. I wouldn’t just pick five random sets, but I’d think about how we wanted to attack the zones categorically. We’d have a lob set, a screen in or flair set, a baseline overload set and a ball screen set. Then for the last set, we would pick something that complimented our personnel. So if you have high flyers, it may be a second lob set. If you have solid post players, it may be a duck in set. If you have more shooters, it might be another flair set. You get the idea. 

For a lob play, I like “Irish”:

For a screen in or flair set, I like “Ohio”:

For a baseline overload set, I like “Kentucky”:

For a ball screen set, I like “Wave”:

There are a zillion zone sets out there, so go find the ones you like. You may also want a zone BLOB if your BLOB package doesn’t include a concept or two that functions well against zone. 


Check out Coach Hackenberg’s Playbank page for all of his submitted plays and drills!

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