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Coaches such as Roy Williams, Dean Smith, and Clarence "Big House" Gaines have been known for a defense called the point zone defense.  This defense was designed to run like a zone, but to adjust to the alignment of the offense.  In a sense, it could be considered to be a defense that would fall into the family of match-up zone defenses.

Because of the complexity of the defense, it has been proven to be very effective to give offenses fits as to how they can best attack the defense.  Coaches Williams, Smith, and Gaines as well as many other coaches who have run the point zone defense have found themselves winning games against teams who have found themselves befuddled by the flexibility of this defense.

Advantages of the Point Zone Defense

The point zone defense has many advantages that should be considered by coaches who wish the utilize this defense for their teams.  They include, but are not limited to the following:

Because the point zone is a type of match-up zone defense, teams have a difficult time running a particular type of zone offense.  Most zone offenses are designed to be run against straight zones that present gaps.  The problem with the point zone for offenses is that they will eliminate the gaps by pointing the ball with one defender and the remaining four defenders rotating to adjust.

Second, the point zone defense will keep the center in a position to rebound the basketball.  Because the point zone keeps the center in the middle of the zone, he will not have to guard on the perimeter and, as a result, he will always be close to get rebounds.

Finally, the point zone does a good job of taking away the interior from an offense.  Because of this, teams are not able to play inside-out which leads to teams shooting from over the top of the zone.  Offenses do better when they are able to penetrate the defense and attack the middle before shooting.  The point zone's design takes that option away from the offense and makes teams play more on the perimeter.

Disadvantages of the Point Zone Defense

Many of the disadvantages that one would find with a traditional zone defense can also be found with the point zone defense.  These include, but are not limited to the following:

Like all traditional zones, the offense has the advantage of dictating the match-ups.  While the point zone may make this more difficult, it is still a very real possibility.  With all zone defenses, the defense can dictate where the defenders play, but the offense can dictate who the defensive players have to guard.

The other big disadvantage is with defensive rebounding.  The point zone is effective in taking an offense out of its rhythm, but with long shots come long rebounds.  Also, it should be noted that help-side rebounding is hurt by the point zone because the defense will be on one side of the floor and 70 percent of all misses will be rebounded on the other side of the floor.

Initial Alignments of the Point Zone Defense

There are three ways that the point zone can be aligned initially.  The first of these is from a 1-3-1 alignment shown in Diagram 1.  X1 will be at the top of the zone with X2 and X3 at the wings just inside the three-point line.  X4 will be positioned just in front of the basket with X5 in the middle of the other four defenders.

The second alignment shown in Diagram 2 is from a 2-1-2 look.  Here, X1 and X2 will be on opposite side and X3 and X4 will be on opposite sides with X5 in the middle.  X1 and X2 will start on the lane line-extended just inside the three-point line.  X3 and X4 will start on the low blocks.

Diagram 1

Diagram 2

The last possible alignment is the 1-1-2-1 alignment in Diagram 3.  For the remainder of this article, we will start the point zone defense from this alignment to give an idea as to how the slides of the point zone work.  Here, X1 will position himself just inside the top of the three-point line with X2 behind him at the middle of the free throw line.  X3 and X4 position themselves just above the first marker above the low block while X5 will start just in front of the basket.


Zone Slides vs. an Even-Guard Front Offense

To initiate the point zone defense, there are two types of passes that cause such an event: guard-to-guard passes or point-to-wing passes.  Diagram 4 shows the defense being initiated by a guard-to-guard pass from an even-guard front.  When this happens, we will have #2 close out on the ball.  X5 will position himself between the ball and the basket with X3 being between the basket and the middle marker of the free throw lane on help side.  X4 sets up just above the low post area.

Diagram 5 shows the slides of an even-guard front offense passing the ball to the corner.  X4 will have the closeout and X5 will front the low post.  We will drop X3 to a spot just to the help-side of the basket while X2 will try to prevent the return pass and X1 will cover the high post area.


Diagram 5

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