When zone defense is brought up in reference to USA basketball, it usually has a
negative undertone. However, after watching Team USA’s 86-85 win over a scrappy
Spain team, maybe the zone defense benefits all.
In the closing seconds of the game, Team USA switched to a zone and completely
confused Spain. Kevin Durant was able to use his lankiness to his advantage and
blocked a possible game-winning jump shot. With all the size and length on the
court, Spain looked rattled and never appeared to get into the designed play.
But how shocked should Spain or anyone else actually be? After all Team USA does
have the “zone guru”, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, on their bench.
With all the athletic ability Team USA possesses, maybe Boeheim’s defense is
what’s best for the team. The zone is designed to force the opponent to shoot
the outside shot and move the ball or make an extra pass. So with all the
athletic ability that the team possesses, they may perform better in the zone
rather than man to man defense.
Think about a lineup with Derrick Rose and Andre Iguodala at the guard spots inthe zone. Both guys are very active on the defense end and could possibly createtons of steals and fast break points by playing the passing lanes. Then put Kevin Durant, Lamar Odom, and Rudy Gay on the blocks/center positions, and opposing teams will not only have a tough time shooting over them, they’ll also struggle snagging rebounds over those three giants.
The zone also allows Team USA to mask a very big problem they will have, and that’s the lack of a “true big man.” And when they run into more physical teams, the lack of a Tim Duncan or Dwight Howard type of player may catch up to them.
The next “big” guy on the bench is Tyson Chandler and after him it’s Kevin Love. Although, both are very capable NBA players, the less we see of them the better it is for Team USA.
Team USA should know that there aren’t too many teams in the world that can match up with their speed or their athletic ability and if they switched to zone, they would eliminate almost every shot besides a jumper for their opponent. Now in the past that may have been to the opposing teams advantage, but not this year. So far not too many teams have shown that they can
consistently knock down a jump shot.
So if Team USA properly executes the zone, they should become a nightmare for other teams.
However, that is a big “if.” For most of the players on Team USA, they probably have not played zone since they were in high school, because the zone has become a lost art on the college level and hardly used in the NBA. However, since the NBA allegedly hosts the best talent in the world, and Team USA has the “Michelangelo” of the defense painting the perfect picture, they
should be fine.