Let Me Explain the Spain (Pick and Roll)

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Published: February 12, 2018

Intro

It’s not easy to reinvent your offense mid season after a component as big DeMarcus Cousins goes down. Yet the Pelicans are trying to transform on the fly all while trying to accommodate Nikola Mirotic and a changing roster. In this post, I will walk you through a set the Pelicans have started using with increasing frequency.  This set is popularly known as the Spain Pick and Roll and has found it’s way into offenses across the league. Let’s dive straight in, shall we?

What Is It?

I have compiled film from the Nets game to help us understand how the Pelicans execute this play. Their opening play is an example of near perfect execution. Let’s take a watch.

 

Seems relatively simple right? That’s because it is – the simplicity is what makes it so beautiful. The play initiates with a high middle pick and roll with Rondo as the ball-handler and Davis as the screener. The Nets opt to “ICE” this coverage, meaning Jarrett Allen drops to contain the drive while Spencer Dinwiddie goes over the top of the screen. This makes sense as a coverage because Rondo is a non shooter and you want to force him in to a mid range shot. But the Pelicans are one step ahead. As Davis begins to roll, Moore sets a screen on Allen who is in drop coverage.

Notice how the Nets are glued on to Mirotic and Jrue in the corner. The Pelicans have leveraged the spacing those two guys provide into a 3 man game. Moore darts to the 3 point line after setting the screen. Joe Harris is supposed to be the tagger for the roll man, but this small amount of confusion gives Rondo all the time he needs to make the lob to Davis.

The next possession down, the Pelicans run the same play again.

 

This time around Dinwiddie decides to go under the screen. This mucks up Davis’s roll but the confusion for the Nets is still there. Moore screens Allen, Harris is late to contest, and Rondo has a red carpet to the rim. The Pelicans run many different variations of this set, reading and reacting to what the defense gives them. Here are all of the variations I caught, including the first two shown above.

 

Through the video above, you can see that Davis gets a lob look again and Rondo gets an easy layup like the opening two plays (This time Mirotic sets the back screen). However, there are two variations sprinkled in there as the Pelicans react to the Nets defense. The first is where Rondo rejects Davis’s screen because he sees Dinwiddie out of position. Rondo has an easy path to the paint and finds a cutting Mirotic backdoor. The second is a variation run by Jrue in which Rondo is in the weakside corner. Here the Nets decide to switch on all the screens and Jrue makes the read to pull up for a free throw line jumper. This type of defense recognition and ability to play the in-between game is crucial for lead guards.

Thoughts

The Pelicans are morphing into a pick and roll heavy team once again. With such a commanding presence in Cousins no longer on the floor, the Pelicans have to adjust and play to their strengths. What are their strengths? They have the best pick and roll threat in the league with Anthony Davis, a visionary playmaker in Rondo, and credible shooters in Mirotic, Moore, and even Jrue. Adding a wrinkle to their traditional pick and roll is the type of creativity the Pelicans need to sustain success on the offensive end of the floor without Cousins.

Full disclosure, the coaches don’t really call this the Spain Pick and Roll – this is a name that has been popularized on the internet because it was first observed in the Spanish League. 

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