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Zone defense may not just be for college basketball anymore

“Trash?” More like... “NOT Trash.”

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Syracuse v Notre Dame Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

You, John Q. Syracuse Fan, have heard all of the criticisms of zone defenses over the years. Bomani Jones says it’s for cowards (and even sells a shirt saying as much). Syracuse Orange opponents and Jim Boeheim haters alike have derided it for being “lazy” and a way to shield poor defending (despite SU teams regularly ranking highly in defensive efficiency while using a 2-3 zone).

Since Syracuse joined the ACC, the use of the zone has only grown to include many-a-top-team, even if they don’t utilize it as exclusively as the Orange do. Mike Hopkins installed it out at Washington. You see it at various other outposts around college hoops, too. Still, the critiques will continue, as the New York Times pointed out a couple weeks back.

Gary Payton referred to the zone as “trash” and seems to despise it. This all stems from a recent increase in zone defense usage at the NBA level. As teams shoot more threes, defenses are trying to guard the perimeter better and a zone potentially helps cover more ground. As of last night’s games — per Synergy Sports — seven different teams utilize the zone at least 4% of the time, with the Miami Heat leading the way at 12.3% of the time (how else do you think they’ll get the most out of Dion Waiters, after all?).

The Wizards (8.6%), Raptors (6.9%), Nets (5.6%), Mavericks (4.8%), Hornets (4%) and Clippers (4%) all a fair amount of zone, but it’s also far from a league-wide trend as the piece points out.

We also know that the zone isn’t necessarily a way to hide bad defenders if you have a team full of good, long defenders that specifically fit the scheme. Syracuse has leaned into this fact over the last 10 years or so — this year aside, perhaps. Several of the teams above utilize better, longer defenders, so the zone is a capable way to actually maximize what you’re getting out of those players. The Clippers, in particular, fall under this category, as do the Raptors.

So does this mean the zone’s coming to the NBA en masse? Hardly. But perhaps this is the beginning of those lazy critiques of Syracuse players’ defensive abilities slowly disappearing.

The NBA embraces a ‘trash’ defense (The New York Times)

Payton retired in 2007, but the smothering guard unforgettably known as “The Glove” remains a passionate critic of zones at the pro level — even though his son Gary Payton II of the Washington Wizards happens to play for the N.B.A. team using more zone than anyone (9.8 percent of the time, per Synergy). “Trash,” Gary Payton said in a phone interview. “That’s a cop-out. Why do college teams go to a zone? Because they can’t guard anybody.”

Coach: What Syracuse football is getting in Texas QB commit Dillon Markiewicz (Syracuse.com)

Fecci believes the Orange coaching staff saw potential in Markiewicz’s size, arm strength and demeanor. After missing out on priority targets early this cycle, SU was going to have to find prospects it believes were underrecruited and have the tools to play in Babers’ tempo, multiple offense. Markiewicz, like fellow quarterback pledge Jacobian Morgan — who his coach called a “diamond in the rough” — fit that bill.

Donovin Darius took 20-30 pills, said he was suicidal, arrest record shows (Syracuse.com)

Last Sunday, police found two bottles of the antidepressant Trazodone prescribed to Darius inside the center console his Kia Optima. A field sobriety test could not be performed because Darius was unable to stand on his own. He had slurred speech and could barely open his eyes, according to the arrest report.

Syracuse needs Quincy Guerrier to turn his potential into production (The Athletic)

“This summer in Italy he was at his best,” adds assistant coach Allen Griffin. “He was so physical. It wasn’t about 3s. He got to the basket and finished around the rim. He’s still learning how to play pick-and-roll and learn help-side defense. He’s always here early and one of the last guys to leave. He works at his craft. With him, it may be that his first year is tough for you, then you take off your second year.”

Beacon’s Elijah Hughes refines game, leads ACC in scoring with lofty goals in mind (Poughkeepsie Journal)

“You can tell he really worked this summer,” said Tyler Lydon, Hughes’ friend and a former Orange standout. “You can definitely tell there are some smaller things that he’s tweaked that have made a huge difference in the way he’s shooting the ball and the way he’s playing in general.”

Bad Idea Time: Make ADs do all their non-conference scheduling in public (Banner Society)

Six Orange named to All-ACC Academic Football Team (Cuse.com)

Drake Porter may be the key to Syracuse men’s lacrosse’s defensive success (Daily Orange)

How Jerami Grant has stepped up for Denver (Nuggets.com)

Carmelo Anthony: Portland ‘is the place for me to end my career’ (Yahoo Sports)