I've blogged a few times over the last couple of years on the book "Attacking The Zone Defenses" by Del Harris and Ken Shields. It is simply the best book I've read on attacking zone defenses. It is over 300 pages and breaks down zone offensive principles but simply and with great detail. If you are a basketball coach, this book is a must for your library!
One of the topics they went over in detail was spacing (or lack there of):
Most of the winning coaches over the last 70 years thrived on three aspects of the game -- spacing with ball and player movement. There are not new concepts and will never go away.
The more spread the scoring area becomes, the more territory the defense has to cover.
However, many players, constantly do the defense a favor by crowding in closer to the goal, the longer the possession lasts. We call that "the Incredible Shrinking Offense."
The reason spacing is a problem is likely due to each player's subconscious desire to get himself into the easiest shooting range; therefore he creeps in from the weak side or mashes down from the top of the cricle. While this may seem to carry the player player into a better range, it actually does three things to limit his team's offensive potential.
1. It allows his man to sag in on the inside players and render the inside game less effective.
2. It gives the weak side defender a shorter run back to his assigned man when the ball is reversed, actually making the player less open by moving in.
3. It compacts the cutting and driving lanes, making it much more difficult to penetrate the compacted defense with dribble penetration or good cuts for catches.
One obvious problem posed by proper spacing concerns the perimeter player who has limited shooting range. Defenders will not respect this player's shooting range so will sag off him anyway and take a chance on the outside shot. However, by being well spaced, he may become a better ball mover as a quick relay man, and can look for opportunities as a cutter and/or a screener. Still, if he has the ability to do so, he may be able to catch out wide and then back his way into a scoring or playmaking situation closer to the goal. Or, he may be able to attack a man seeking to close him out with a dribble penetration.