I've probably utilized all the basic zone defense formations in all the years that I've coached, but the one that I haven't used was the Point Zone. I've seen it run a couple of times and always wanted to learn more about it. Of course, one of the other reasons is because Dean Smith is known to have used it at North Carolina back in the day.

From what I've gathered, the point zone is similar to the amoeba zone defense. It's designed to put pressure on the ball while protecting the basket area. It's similar to a matchup zone in that the players and coverage shifts depending on where the ball is, this creates a lot of confusion for the offense and opposing coaches because they often are unsure whether to run their man offense or zone offense against it.

Basics of the Point Zone:

The basic idea of the point zone is to pair up defenders in a T formation. The top and bottom defenders form a pair (the buddy system), and the wings form a pair. When X1 is on the ball, X4 is at the goal, X2 and X3 are the wings in help position,

When the ball goes to the wing, above the free-throw line extended, either through a dribble-replace or a pass, the T shifts such that X2 is now on the ball, X3 is at the goal, X4 and X1 are the wings in help position,

If the ball goes to the corner, the T shifts once again such that X4 is now on the ball. But because the corner is treated slightly differently (explained in more depth below), X2 is the wing covering the wing, X3 is the buddy to X2 covering the goal, and X1 is the bottom of the T but is now splitting the weak side anticipating the skip pass. X3 and X2 are lower because as you see, X5 is on the strong-side low block,

The position of X5 in this defense is governed by the principle of "defender between the ball and the basket at all times." So, wherever the ball goes, X5 shadows the ball keeping the body in line between the ball and basket. When the offense has their foward/center, X5 should front when the ball is below the free-throw line,

If you are familiar with other zone defenses, this won't be difficult to adapt to. Shell drills should be done with the 4 defenders in the T formation to get the hang of how the players shift.

Defending the Corner and Ball Reversal:

Like the amoeba defense, the most vulnerable spot in the point zone is in the corner, especially when the ball is reversed from corner to corner. According to the orthodox, X4 must sprint from corner to corner to cover. You can easily wear out the defense in 2 or 3 possessions simply by continuous ball reversal such that X4 might simply give up running,

An adjustment you can make against teams that do this is to trap the corner. Either with X2 from the wing or X5 from the bottom, along with X4. Trap the corner, force a few turnovers, and the offense will most likely back down from the corners,


In thinking about the different zone defenses you can use to switch up tempo, momentum, etc, I think the point zone is great to have since you can also put a lot of ball pressure, something not all zones do. It should do well against dribble-penetration leaving only skip passes and long 3-pointers as possible zone busters. You can easily adapt the point zone to a box and 1 or a triangle and 2 if you want as well.

For more info on the point zone, the definitive guide is Dean Smith's Point Zone DVD from the legendary UNC head coach himself, but Paul Hewitt's DVD on his 3-2 Point Zone is worth look at as well.


  1. Matt Johns  

    July 5, 2009 at 12:52 PM

    I have used the point zone for the past 3 years. One consideration is if the ball moves on two passes, and quickly, or is skipped, the closest person to the ball covers and partners readjust. Often times the 4 man gets the first corner then 3 gets it on ball reversal. One other teaching point: Players must learn to follow the dribbler. Unlike most traditional zones, if you "bump" a dribbler to the next player, you are leaving men open on either side of the ball. Players must stay on a dribbler even if it means the entire defense "wheels" in a circle.

  2. John  

    July 8, 2009 at 6:44 AM

    You describe the problem of corner to corner reversal and say that X4 would have the responsibility. Why wouldn't the defense just shift and X3 have the responsibility for the opposite corner? X5 would move around to front O5 from the other side, X1 would move out to the wing, X2 would replace X1, X4 would replace X3?

  3. bruchu  

    July 8, 2009 at 11:08 AM

    Thanks for the comments. I've never run the point zone myself so I can't say from my own experience but what others have told me is that you can move X3 to cover the skip pass, but then players tend to get mixed up as the whole zone is rotated such that X2-X3 are vertical and X1-X4 are horizontal.

    If the team reverses the ball a couple of times, the defense can get confused in this way, and you may end up with nobody on the wing or nobody up top.