On the Sidelines: Zone to NBA Connection

In a country where professional basketball seems to sometimes take the route of one-on-five, this Syracuse assistant coach sees how what the Orange are doing can help bridge the gap into the NBA. More inside.

One of the questions the Syracuse Orange men's basketball has had come their way is how the 2-3 zone can help alum be successful in the NBA where players seem to focus more on man-to-man.

As Michael Carter-Williams, Brandon Triche, and James Southerland prepare for the NBA Draft on June 27th, their former assistant coach Adrian Autry takes a deeper look at Syracuse's signature defense.

"Well I think when you look at our zone...we have a lot of man-to-man principles and the reason our zone is effective is because we have those man-to-man principles," said Autry. "The ball is gonna move. You have to close out. You have to do that in man-to-man. You gotta be able t slide your feet when someone is driving, so you're still doing man-to-man and slides, defensively things like that."

"Certain things may be a little different," Autry admitted. "Certain closeouts are a little different based on that (the 2-3 zone) and that may be something that sometimes it takes them [time] to adjust, but the bottom line is the quickness. Defense is based on quickness. Being able to closeout and keep a guy in front of you. Those things don't change, so where a lot of people may say, 'Well a zone doesn't really prepare you,' well our zone does because you have to cover a lot of ground and you have to be able to closeout. That's the same thing a man-to-man defense, especially in the NBA, with all the rules [has to do]."

Looking from a different angle at Syracuse's defense compared to that of the NBA, Autry shared. "If you look at man-to-man in the NBA, it's sorta like a zone but you can't go but so far but you still have to be able to help when the ball is moving, you have to be able to get back and closeout and keep a guy in front of you. Those are the same concepts that we have in our zone."

At the top of the Orange 2-3 zone for the past season was Carter-Williams. Autry and the rest of the staff knew Triche and Southerland were leaving after the 2012-13 campaign because they had used their entire eligibility. Carter-Williams still had two seasons to go when he made his decision to enter the NBA Draft. With the potential of a professional career in front of him, Carter-Williams has been given a positive nod from his former coach. "Michael Carter[-Williams], he was that guy that...you just didn't know but you knew you had a good player," Autry expressed. "You just didn't know the impact that he was gonna have. I don't think you can replace a 6'6" guy that disrupted the game and affected the game in so many ways."


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