On a glorious Wednesday afternoon, NBA basketball returned as teams played their first scrimmages inside the Orlando bubble.
The Wizards played the Nuggets in the second game of the day, and while Bol Bol stole headlines for being a seven-foot monster who can block shots and hit pull-up threes in transition, Bradley Beal tried to help his team from home.
Great D so far! Must attack the zone, be ready to shoot!! #wiz— Bradley Beal (@RealDealBeal23) July 22, 2020
In a surprise move, the Nuggets deployed the biggest starting lineup of all time. Seven-foot Nikola Jokic played point guard, 6'7 Jerami Grant played the two, the 7'2 Bol played small forward, 6'8 Paul Millsap played the four and 6'11 Mason Plumlee played center.
Now, Denver did this in part out of necessity since they only had eight players available and we'll assume some of the decision was made so everyone could enjoy Jokic playing point guard.
But when you play a bunch of bigs, you don't have a ton enough defensive versatility to play man to man defense. So head coach Mike Malone went with a zone that gave the Wizards some problems early on. So Beal told his teammates via Twitter, "attack the zone" and "be ready to shoot."
He couldn't be more on point. The worst thing to do against a zone is to stay on the perimeter. You typically need a player to flash to the free-throw line area, right in the soft spot of the zone. That player needs to decide quickly on whether to shoot, drive or find an open man when the zone collapses on him. If you find success doing that a few times down the floor, you can force a team out of a zone and back to man coverage.
NBA coaches like Nick Nurse, Brad Stevens and Erik Spoelstra are utilizing zones more these days as a form of disrupting their opponent's rhythm on offense. Since playoff games can sometimes come down to superstar players hunting mismatches on switches, a zone late in games may be a decent way to win in crunch time.
That is if fewer players are like Beal and know exactly what to do against them.
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