The Mikan Drill

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Duke easily handles the 2-3 zone of Princeton

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Many teams are going to have trouble defending Duke this season. After watching tonight’s game, I do not think it will be smart for many teams to play a 2-3 zone for extended periods of time. Duke carved Princeton’s zone up pretty easily and I will show you how.

Strong penetrators

The key to all these points is that there are multiple players on Duke that can fill these roles. Nolan Smith, Kyrie Irving, Seth Curry, Andre Dawkins and even Kyle Singler are dangerous penetrators that can carve up a zone.

Here, Nolan Smith plays the role of penetrator as he shrugs off the screen from Singler and cuts to the heart of the zone to hit the floater.

What will make Duke tough to stop here is the number of guys that can put the ball on the floor. Ball movement will make the zone move and the perimeter players will have the opportunity to find the openings to drive.

Finding the opening

I have no doubts that Duke has been drilled on how to beat a zone. Watching them today, they did not look hesitant at all once Princeton went to a zone. All 5 players knew their role and executed it flawlessly, for the most part.

Kyle Singler’s role here is to flash to the foul line, which is an open spot in the zone. After catching the ball at the foul line, he turns and faces the basket. He can either drive to the basket,  take the 15 footer or kick out for a three.

The defense takes a step off of him to prevent the drive, so Singler calmly knocks down the jump shot. Again, it is the variety of options in this situation that makes Duke tough to defend. You can’t defend all the options and Duke is going to find the open one more often than not.

Three point shooting

With all the three point shooters for Duke, it just seems like a terrible idea to zone Duke. Guard them close in the zone and they drive by you. Sag off to prevent the drive and they shoot right over the zone.

This is the next possession after Singler’s mid range jumper above. Nolan Smith can’t get him the ball in the paint because the Princeton defender is taking that away.


Singler adjusts and flashes to the top of the three point line, where Smith can get him the ball. The defense cannot recover in time and Singler hits the deep shot.

Duke pushes the ball in this final clip and beats the zone before it can get set up. Curry is open and Irving recognizes the situation. Curry has no hesitation and buries the open three.

I would be surprised to see any teams play a 2-3 zone and have it be effective in slowing Duke. They can beat it in a variety of ways, as we saw above. While many teams will struggle with Duke on defense, a 2-3 zone is not the way to beat them.

Written by Joshua Riddell

November 15, 2010 at 3:39 am

One Response

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  1. […] Zone Offense aka Don’t zone Duke, ever […]


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