Your coach has to help you counter changing defenses by giving you offenses to run against various defenses, or by giving you an offense that you know you can run against both a man-for-man and a zone. But you still have to recognize the changes, and besides, a team often may try to fool you by showing one “look” while actually being in another defense.
The best way to counter any confusion over what defense your opponent is using is to run through the lane to the other side (or send someone through to the other side) and swing the ball. You might want to call this a cut and a swing. If you have an offense that includes a quick cut and a swing of the ball, then use it and you will know immediately what they are playing. Are they going through with that cutter, playing man, or are they letting him cut and picking up, playing zone?
A defense can be cute when a point guard or any player is standing around in a nondangerous position with the ball and doing nothing. But regardless of what defense the other team is in, if you send a cutter through and swing the ball and threaten, that team will show you immediately what they are up to, or, if they are still in the process of disguising, there should be openings all over the court.
“Should be?” you might be saying, “but what if there aren’t?” If you cut from one side and quickly swing the ball and threaten from the other side, and you still don’t know what they are in, then it has to be a zone—or else you don’t know the meaning of “threaten.”
In fact, if you know how to threaten, every defense is a zone. This thought might not initially make sense, but it is simple when you think about it.
Every time you get the ball, if you can beat one man enough to force another to help out, then whether the other team calls it a zone or not, they are playing you three to four—a zone—or else they are leaving a man open, in which case their defense is neither man nor zone, it is “poor!”
In other words, if you can threaten a defense, it doesn’t matter what they call their thing, they are in a scramble to prevent you from scoring.
Don’t try to recognize a defense by studying it from afar. Call an offense or make a movement with a cut in it, and pass the ball and threaten. You can never go wrong by taking the ball forward and engaging two defenders. When you have a 4-on-3, you don’t care what defense they are in.
From Dick’s book Stuff