“Spain Pick-and-Roll”


Term: Spain Pick-and-Roll

Definition: a pick-and-roll combined with a backscreen for the picker as they roll to the hoop

Synonyms: Stack (the more common term in the NBA), backscreen pick-and-roll

See Also: Spain Veer (a two-person ball screen that combines Spain and Veer action; a fourth teammate sets a backscreen from one picker and then receives a down screen from the other picker)

Origin of the Name: @Halfcourthoops named the Spain PnR after watching the Spanish national team run this play.

How It Works: In the diagram above, 5 sets a ballscreen for 1 and then receives a backscreen from 3 while rolling to the hoop.

Why It Works: Spain PnRs are a nightmare to defend, especially if the defense uses a drop coverage against pick-and-rolls. If the defense is caught unprepared, the roller is wide open for a lob. In the first clip, the Milwaukee Bucks defend the pick-and-roll with drop coverage: As Miles Bridges sets a ballscreen, his defender is dropped back to the free throw line. Then, as Bridges ghosts the ballscreen, his teammate sets a backscreen to free up Bridges for the lob:

In this next clip, also against a drop coverage, the Miami Heat run Spain via a Dive PnR look:

Part of the reason Bam Adebayo is so open for the lob in the previous clip is that Duncan Robinson, who sets the backscreen, is an excellent shooter, and his defender does not want to let go of him. If that happened, the backscreener can pop out for a wide-open 3, as he does in the following clips:

One variation of a Spain PnR is veer action: Instead of the guard setting a backscreen for the roller, the roller sets a down screen for the guard to pop out for a 3:

Or the would-be backscreener can slip the screen and be open for his own lob:

And sometimes the defense is so concerned with the backscreen that they forget to defend the ball. In this clip, Joel Embiid recognizes the Spain PnR, retreats, and smacks his fists together, making the universal NBA hand signal for a stack PnR. Meanwhile, Donovan Mitchell walks into a pull-up 3:

Earlier in the same game, Utah faked a Spain PnR to the same result (notice Joe Ingles approaching Embiid for a backscreen before leaking out to the weakside wing), in a variation known as Spain Leak.

Ram Spain PnR:

Spain PnR is often paired with ram, which is when a player receives an off-ball screen before setting a ballscreen, like so:

A drawback of ram is that the ram screener’s defender is close to the hoop, taking away driving and rolling lanes. Ram Spain fixes that problem by having the ram screener become the backscreener:

But there’s another reason to run a Ram Spain: Spain PnR works best against drop coverage, and a ram screen often forces the defense to run a drop (the defender who gets ram-screened is recovering from that and therefore trailing too far behind for a more aggressive PnR coverage, such as a blitz or a hedge).

If the defense switches the initial ballscreen, the Spain/backscreen becomes, in all intents and purposes, simply a second ballscreen, à la Double Drag, or the offense can abandon the second screen entirely:

How to Defend It:

As the Spain PnR has become increasingly popular, defenses have found new ways to defend it. One option is to have the backscreener’s defender bump the roller before recovering to his man.

Another option is to for a switch between the ballhandler’s and the backscreener’s defenders, as Chris Oliver explains here:


Chin DHO Spain:

Ram Spain PnR (the player who sets the Ram screen also sets the backscreen):

Double Drag Spain PnR:

Flip Alley Spain:

See More:

The great Evin Gualberto wrote extensively and insightfully about the Spain PnR.

He and Samson Folk, his cohost on the Bouncing Around video podcast, have also devoted a 34-minute video to the play: