- BEAT THE DEFENSE DOWN THE FLOOR
Push the tempo to catch the defense off guard to create quick easy scoring chances.
- IDENTIFY THE ZONE
If there is no initial scoring opportunity in transition, you must properly identify what zone is being played (ie, 1-2-2, 3-2, 2-3, 1-3-1 match-up, etc.) and set up the offense accordingly.
- MAINTAIN GOOD SPACING
Spacing is vital on offense and even more so vs zone. Poor spacing allows the defense to guard two offensive players with one defensive player. Proper spacing will spread out the zone and open up scoring opportunities.
- CRISP PASSING AND BALL MOVEMENT
The quicker the ball moves the harder it is for a zone to keep up and adjust. “Skip” passes are particularly effective and force the zone into long rotations.
- BE READY TO MAKE A PLAY
Offensive players must be in triple threat position on the catch ready to attack. You cannot simply pass the ball around the perimeter holding the ball above our head.
- ATTACK THE GAPS WITH LIMITED DRIBBLING
Unnecessary dribbling allows the defense time to adjust or reset and slows down ball movement. The best time to drive a gap is when the zone is in rotation. Penetrate and protect the ball.
- GET THE BALL INSIDE
Zones are designed to force outside shots. You must attack inside out by penetrating the zone with low and high post passes. Often the best outside scoring opportunities come from inside out play.
- OUT NUMBER AND OVERLOAD
Depending on the zone being played you must identify the weak areas and attack those weaknesses by working to get a numbers advantage. You can accomplish this by screening as well.
- BE PATIENT
You want to be aggressive but you also cannot settle for the first quick shot. Work the zone to create GREAT not GOOD scoring opportunities.
- PURSUE OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS
Zones offer excellent offensive rebound opportunities due to the lack of direct man-to-man responsibilities. You have to exploit this weakness with relentless pursuit of the ball.
10 KEYS TO BEATING A ZONE
During the summer I like to go back through my coaching notes and reread some of my favorite ones. Below are my bullet points from John Maxwell's book "The 17 Essential Qualities of a Team Player: Becoming the Kind of Person Every Team Wants".
No matter what type of defense you play, these are some important concepts that will help a team and individual players be more effective.
COMMIT …. be willing to sacrifice yourself for the good of the team
COMMUNICATE .... open your mouth and talk effectively
CONSTANT .… always be aware and in a stance, especially when off the ball
CONTEST…. challenge everything - shots, positioning, dribbling, and passing
CONVERT …. from offense to defense, don’t get beat in transition. Sprint back!
CONTAIN …. the ball handler, never give up a straight line drive
CLOSE OUT …. under control on every shooter giving no open shots
CHASE …. all rebounds and loose balls, be willing to get on the floor for the ball
I often compare shooting a basketball to a golf swing. The biggest similarity of both a golf swing and jump shot is that repetition, rhythm and muscle memory are vitally important. While every player has a unique shot, there are some basic fundamentals that good shooters have in common.
When it comes to shooting mechanics there are lots of little details that go into developing great form. Earlier in my blog I discussed footwork which is where proper form starts and it should build from there. A player must always have his hands ready to shoot. Catching the ball with the finger tips and quickly getting the ball on the palm (not heel) of the hands helps to speed up the shot. When hands are properly on the ball the thumbs should be about 1-2 inches apart and form a "T".
The next step is critically important and where many players falter. As the shot begins, the ball should be brought up into the shooting pocket which is just off the shooting hand side of the head. For me as a right handed shooter, my right thumb is pointing at my right side temple or forehead when the ball is in my shooting pocket. At this point the shooting elbow should come up underneath the ball forming a 90 degree bend in the arm. A key point here is that the elbow should be pointing at your target. The big mistake I see players making is that they never get the ball out to their shooting pocket correctly. They let the ball rest on their off hand which usually puts the ball closer to the middle of their forehead. With the ball in this position it is almost impossible to get your elbow underneath the ball. This is why I am a big proponent of one handed practice shooting because it forces correct ball and elbow placement.
At this point it all boils down to the single most important part of the shot, the follow through. From the shooting pocket the first movement should be up, extending the elbow above the eyes and finishing with a flick of the wrist. It's important on follow through to put your fingers in the rim. Depending on how you hold the ball you may be more inclined to finish more with your middle or pointer finger. Also a good practice is to envision a spot in the middle of the rim and shoot the ball to land on that spot instead of straight at the spot. This will help get the arc needed to develop a shooters touch.
This was a brief overview of proper shooting mechanics and some important points that are key for any shooter. As I mentioned before, shooting is like a golf swing. Every day I see guys without perfect form make shots. Why? They practiced the same way over and over - repetition, rhythm, and muscle memory.
Every shot starts with footwork and therefore it is critically important. Proper footwork builds a foundation for the rest of a players mechanics. In a perfect world, like a free throw, every shot would be taken with a player having perfect technique and balance. Here are a few key points.
Once a player has mastered this basic technique, he must move on to more advanced footwork. This is the point where I may differ from many coaches. I truly believe most players hurt their ability to shoot in a game because they do not experiment and practice different footwork. I especially like to use warm up and spot shooting to practice different steps. For example if I was going to shoot 10 spot shots I would try not to use the same footwork more than twice. Here is what the footwork on the ten shots might look like:
Advancing from spot shooting to shooting game shots off the move is where great shooters separate themselves. Being able to master the footwork of shooting off the dribble and coming off of screens will take a player's game to another level. The only way to get better at the different game shots is to practice them at game speed. Incorporate specific game situation shots such as one two step off the dribble or curl step off a down screen into every workout. The most important thing is to be creative and do it at game speed. Have a little imagination - If a player can make tough shots in practice, he will make tough shots in the game!
Being a consistent perimeter shooter is developed through hours of correct and focused practice. Taking 100 shots the right way is better than 400 the wrong way. Great shooters have consistent technique and excellent muscle memory developed by being intensely focused on details. One of the biggest mistakes I see players making is how they approach practicing their shoot. Every single shot that is taken will either be enforcing correct technique or creating bad habits. Many players walk into the gym and just start shooting without any thought to a warm up or a progression to create consistent shooting mechanics. The warm up time is important because it allows you to focus on the fundamentals while at the same time building confidence as you see the ball go through the net.
Developing a consistent warm up routine is important for any shooter. I used one myself as a player and coach. I simple call it "100". It is designed to help reinforce good habits as well as allow a player to get 100 made shots in before he even breaks a sweat. With a rebounder and one or two basketballs it only takes about 15 minutes. The key is to focus on every detail and fundamental of each shot during this time. It's not about how fast it gets done but that it's done right.
"100" WARM UP
At the end of this routine, a shooter should be fully warmed up and ready to start shooting at a faster pace and on the move. This routine is not complicated but is very effective. Nothing like starting a practice having made 100 shots to boost a players confidence.
The newest trend in basketball is the use of advanced statistics not only to evaluate teams but individual players as well. Player Efficiency Ratings strive to drill all the stats a player accumulates down to one number that represents their effect on the game and individual productivity. The amount of statistical information and ratings available on the NBA is mind boggling. If you visit the NBA Stats Glossary you can see all the available stats and ratings. As a coach, I have often utilized player efficiency ratings as a way to motivate and track a player's progress.
Back when I played in the NBA the EFF rating was used the most and often included on the box score. The NBA's Efficiency Rating is a single number measure of a player's overall contribution (both positive and negative) to a game he plays in. It is calculated as follows: (Points + Rebounds + Assists + Steals + Blocks) - ((Field Goals Att. - Field Goals Made) + (Free Throws Att. -Free Throws Made) + Turnovers). The biggest problem with the EFF rating is it does not factor in minutes played so therefore measures productivity but not really efficiency. Players who play more minutes are more than likely going to have a higher number. The positive to the EFF is that it is very easy to calculate.
The newest efficiency rating in the NBA is the Player Impact Estimate (PIE). PIE measures a player's overall statistical contribution against the total statistics in games they play in. PIE yields results which are comparable to other advanced statistics (e.g. PER which I discuss below) using the following formula: (PTS + FGM + FTM - FGA - FTA + DREB + (.5 * OREB) + AST + STL + (.5 * BLK) - PF - TO) / (GmPTS + GmFGM + GmFTM - GmFGA - GmFTA + GmDREB + (.5 * GmOREB) + GmAST + GmSTL + (.5 * GmBLK) - GmPF - GmTO). While I have never used PIE with any of my teams I do like that it creates a statistic relative to the game. Basically it is giving you a percentage showing how much of a positive or negative impact a player had on a game.
One of the simplest efficiency stats which is now shown on all NBA box scores is the +/-. The +/- stat looks at point differential when players are in and out of a game, demonstrating how teams perform with various combinations. While I like and use this statistic, I don't feel it truly represents a single player's impact on the game.
If you want to take player efficiency stats to an even more detailed analysis you can take a look at John Hollinger's PER on ESPN. The PER is an extremely complicated formula based on minutes played, pace and other factors. Due to how complicated it is, PER is not a stat coaches outside of the NBA and NCAA can use with their players because it's nearly impossible to calculate.
Because of this, I created a much simpler PER which I oddly enough named "Simple PER". Simple PER is calculated as follows: (2FG Made*2) - (2FG Attempted*.75) + (3FG Made*3) – (3FG Attempted*.84) + (FT Made) - (FT Attempted*-.65) + Rebounds + Assists + Blocks + Steals - Turnovers. Similar to PER, the Simple PER only gives positives for scoring if you shoot a decent percentage (see picture for breakeven shooting percentages). If a player scores a ton of points but shoots a very low percentage then they would not have a positive Simple PER. I chose a relatively low breakeven shooting percentage but that can be adjusted as needed. I like this formula because it is simple to calculate but factors in shooting percentages.
No player efficiency rating is perfect because it is practically impossible to drill down a player's impact into one number. However, these formulas and numbers if used consistently can be a great way to evaluate, motivate and educate players on the game and their impact on helping the team win.
The full page headline in The Oklahoman, Kevin Durant's home town newspaper, read "Mr. Unreliable". Seriously, you write that before an elimination game? Of course the paper has back pedaled some and stated the headline was just talking about his play this series against Memphis. Let's look at a few career stats for Kevin Durant:
For the record I am a huge Kevin Durant fan. Not only for the way he plays, but because of how he carries himself and what he stands for. Last night, KD dropped 36 points and pulled 10 boards while leading the Thunder to a game 6 road win. The series now will head back to OKC for game 7. If the Thunder win, The Oklahoman should run a big headline on the front page reading "Apologies to Mr. Reliable". Regardless of what happens, kudos to KD for how he handled the headline as well as his teammates and coaches for speaking out on his behalf.
I love quotes and I will leave you with one of my favorites which fits perfectly for this situation:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt
One of the biggest factors for basketball players finding success when they move up from high school to college or college to pro is their ability to adapt and adjust their roles. As players go from being the star player in high school or college to having a limited or different role at the next level, the guys who understand the transition and adapt are the ones who succeed.
There are very few players who get to go from one level to the next without changing their role. The Lebrons and Durants of the world are so talented that they are the man at every level. But most players have to figure out what role they will fill and often it is vastly different from what they are used to. I have seen players throughout my career who were big time talents in college never make it in the NBA. Why? Because they were used to that role and could not or would not change their game to fill a certain need. I played with and against some great players in the minor leagues and overseas who probably were good enough to be in the NBA. They chose to go play at a level that did not require them to adapt their role or at least only required minor changes.
The same thing is happening today at the college level and in my opinion is why we have so many transfers. It is easier to switch schools and try to find somewhere that allows you to stay in your comfort zone instead of changing your role to fit what the team needs. I was not a starter in college until my senior year at Wake Forest. My role on the team grew every year, primarily because I accepted my given role and tried to excel in it. A piece of advice to all the players out there, embrace the role you are given. By doing so you will not only get more playing time, but you will earn the trust of the coach and your role will grow. And if you work hard enough you may actually get the role you wanted in the first place.
Semi-random thoughts on life, leadership, and the game I love.