Spain pick-and-roll is one of the flavors of the day in the NBA right now. Most teams have some sort of Spain action in their playbooks but as defenses are more experienced against it, the base version of the play isn’t enough anymore. Since Spain pick-and-roll forces defenses to play a slightly different coverage than they traditionally do, it’s important for the three players involved to communicate well and set up adequately in the various positions needed to take away all three options. For offenses, this means they need to be more creative about the deceptive pre-action before they work the Spain pick-and-roll.
The NBA features many different ways to get into this set, from simple to complex. The Portland Trail Blazers are no exception to that rule. Early in the season, I covered how they get into Spain pick-and-roll out of a base Horns formation and now I’m back with another one, this time highlighting how Terry Stotts’ men get into Spain action out of their Weave series.
Weave is a popular action at every level of basketball because it gets the defense moving laterally without much risk of a turnover. Teams with multiple high-level ball handlers can get a lot of use out of a Weave set at the top of the key because if the defense tries to anticipate a handoff or jumps the gun on expected motion, a player can cut the play off and drive to the rim for a layup or to collapse the defense. The Trail Blazers run a bit of Weave when Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum are on the floor together and in certain instances, this action can flow directly into a Spain pick-and-roll.
Check out an annotated version of the play, which ends in Leonard getting fouled at the rim:
On this set, McCollum brings the ball down along the right side of the floor and enters it to Zach Collins at the top of the key. Collins hands to Evan Turner, who in turn hands to Lillard, completing the Weave. Meyers Leonard steps up into a ball screen for Lillard and McCollum, who hasn’t touched the ball since the beginning of the play, hangs out in the paint to screen Leonard’s man and pop to the perimeter.
Montrezl Harrell is already in a difficult position when he has to contain Lillard’s drive and Leonard’s roll to the rim, but McCollum’s back screen makes that task nearly impossible. Tobias Harris has to stick closely to McCollum when he pops to the perimeter, so he’s not a ton of help either. In a perfect world, Harris would jump out to Lillard while Patrick Beverley, Lillard’s original defender, would take McCollum on the pop, but the Weave action at the beginning takes Los Angeles out of their communication and it’s far too late when they realize the Spain action is coming.
One more time at full speed, so you can see how difficult it is for the Clippers to communicate everything defensively:
There’s simply no way for the defense to react to everything properly against this set because it can look like exactly the same Weave action at the top without McCollum’s back screen and if Beverley were to jump out to the perimeter without McCollum actually being there, he gives up a wide-open driving lane to Lillard. Harris won’t be there unless McCollum is and if McCollum’s only there once in a while, it would take perfect communication among the defense to get the switches right each time. It’s not a common call from Stotts for Portland to run this particular play, but when he breaks it out, it can be devastating to the defense.