Why the Spain pick-and-roll action is confusing for defences

C.J. Miles explains what NBA offences are trying to accomplish when they run the Spain pick-and-roll, why personnel in the set is important and how the Raptors would run it.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: The Spain pick and roll is one of the more complicated and toughest scheme sets to defend in the NBA because there's just so much happening at once. Personnel, I would imagine, is really important when it comes to this. So, for you, CJ, in your experience, why is the Spain pick and roll so hard to defend?

CJ MILES: The biggest thing that makes it so hard to defend is the personnel.


CJ MILES: The guys that do the certain actions. So the guy setting the back screen for the roller, after he sets the pick and roll, is so important in that play because if it's a shooter, now it's like, do we switch this? Do I kind of hedge and leave? If the guy setting the back screen slips it, you know, I mess up the communication. There's so much that can go wrong for the defense in this space.

Then you have a guy on the back, backside in the corner, if he's a shooter, now that guy's got to be closer because the pick and rolls come in towards the middle downhill. Or if it's going away, depending on which way you run it, creates a spacing problem to be on the blocks and elbows. They've got to be closer to their men because things are happening. And in the pick and roll--

AMIT MANN: Sure. Sure, sure.

CJ MILES: --that guy's a real live threat. We can do a lot of things.

AMIT MANN: So if you, for instance, were involved in this kind of action, you would be the secondary screener, the person screening for the big?

CJ MILES: I would be the second screener, or I would be the guy in the corner. One of those two, depending on the match-ups and who we wanted. So, like, if I had this smaller guy, I would probably be the screener because if they do switch, then you got a smaller on a big. Or even if they don't switch, the lob pass, that can be thrown over the top, the guy can't contest it.

If we're running for a guy that's kind of a mid-range guy, and you want to get him to like a-- say we want to get Pascal to like an isolation spot without just coming down and throwing it right to him, and he was a secondary screener just to get the switch or something, I would be the guy in the corner so they can't be in the middle to muck up the play.

AMIT MANN: What about the ball handler? Why are they important on the initial action?

CJ MILES: They have to be willing to accept if the defense messes up in their part of the play, too. So they have to be aggressive coming off the screen. If we know you're just running Spain, and you're just coming off the screen just to get ready to throw it back, the play's never going to work. So I need that guy to come off of there being open to the idea of driving or taking the opening shot and turning a corner because if I can't engage the defense, none of the other stuff works.


CJ MILES: The other stuff only works because we engage the big to have to show on the first pick and roll where they're spacing me to back screen.


CJ MILES: If I don't have space to the back screen, then if he doesn't have to ever go stop the ball, then nothing-- you know, we're just standing in the middle of the floor with each other.


CJ MILES: There's no space to screen each other. There's no space to do anything.

AMIT MANN: And the person who is guarding the big, you need this ball handler to be able to attack that person?


AMIT MANN: So whoever is guarding the five. Because that is-- if the team isn't scared of that, then they're able to probably make a few quick switches, and then they're going to be OK with just where things are. But you need the other team to be scared of--

CJ MILES: Exactly.

AMIT MANN: --that kind of match-up.

CJ MILES: Because the whole point of the Spain is to make them make a decision so then we can make our decisions based off that decision. So all right, so if the big stays on the ball, I know I'm going to be able to go back screen this guy that's rolling. If he doesn't, if he decides to like, kind of short show, that guard's got to turn the corner.


CJ MILES: If they want to switch everything, then we just work it around to the back side to get the big the ball on the pull. Like, we make the defense have to make these certain decisions so we can make the next one. We're going to play off of whatever you give us.

AMIT MANN: So with the Raptors, if they were to be running this, just based off what we're talking about, I think we're talking Pascal or Fred is the ball handler. You probably have Scottie. Or I guess Scottie or Pascal or OG-- it's kind of the beauty of the Raptors-- would be the screener for the initial action. And then you're probably looking at like Gary Trent, Jr. or Fred being that secondary--


AMIT MANN: --screener, your role.

CJ MILES: And Gary and Fred was what I was thinking. I think the idea of OG being the roller is great because he's a live threat. He jumps well enough and he's athletic enough for him to throw it out to him. So he presents a faster roller, a guy that's getting out and really trying to get that lob, so now the defense has got to react to that. If you get a slow big rolling in that action, everybody kind of just takes a couple of steps back and falls back into their home space. You need that. It's got to be ran with pace.

AMIT MANN: Yeah. But if Scottie Barnes is on the court for this, you probably need him to be the initial screener, slash, roller because you need the players in the corners to be decent 3-point shooters to keep--


AMIT MANN: --the defense honest.

CJ MILES: I would even play him as the ball handler sometimes.

AMIT MANN: True. Now we're getting funky.

CJ MILES: Because now-- yeah, we get funky with that. Now you put two bigs or two bigger guys in the first pick and roll, and they're bound to mess that up. They're going to feel like they can switch it, and then-- or they're going to have to because they're not quick enough to get through it, or whatever, show, and get back. I think you present some different problems.