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Avoid the Mismatch : Switching Part 1

If you are a coach who uses a switching defense scheme you need to be prepared for teams that hunt for mismatches and who’s set plays will often put you in poor matchups. There are a few counters to this problem and today we will be looking into a pretty uncommon one: the Zone Alignment.

In this adjustment, you have your big or your worst defender always matchup with a spot instead of a player. The Phoenix Suns broke this idea out in the 2020-21 Playoffs on their way to the NBA finals. Instead of trying to find matchups that would favor them before or after switching, they ran Ayton opposite corner from the ball on made shots (and sometimes even slow misses).

In this way, Ayton was always going to be opposite initial actions with drag screens, step ups, flares, pin aways, etc. Instead Ayton could stay opposite the action and protect the rim from help side position.

This was a key defensive adjustments for the Suns as in the regular season the Clippers found success hunting Ayton in simple actions.

Now there wasn’t going to be any simple actions to get an easy switch from Ayton. This allows Phoenix’s perimeter players to switch all actions up top and scramble around the 3pt line to keep Ayton at the rim, blocking shots and rebounding.

This is a perfect idea for teams with great rim protecting big man who want to use switching but don’t want to sacrifice that rim protection and rebounding advantage. Now you do need to have a semi-high IQ team to utilize this strategy, as well as an opponent who runs players to corners and doesn’t involve them in their primary actions.

Of course no adjustment is perfect, but this is a great counter to have at the ready or in preparation for a big-seeking opponent. This concept will also pair well with the Switch-Out concept we will be covering tomorrow. The switch-out will further allow you to hide players from switching actions.

Lastly, no scheme is solid without the execution of great technique. And the #1 technique for switching defenses is steering screeners and being physical switchers.

See you next time.

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