The SB Nation NBA 3 on 3 Tournament has entered the Conference Semi-Final round. So far one team has advanced to the Conference Finals, and it's not one that anyone would have expected, nor really that should even exist. To round out the Eastern Conference field, we created an extra team from leftover players left off of their own teams. The conversation went something like this:
"Should we just give the number one seeds a bye?"
"No, what fun is that. We'll make an extra team. It's not like they'll impact the outcome of the tournament significantly."
Well, the conference East Leftovers are now two wins away from the title, and the West Leftovers are still alive as well, in action today against the equally surprising Minnesota Timberwolves.
The West Leftovers, the 9 seed coming into the tournament, are actually the better seed for the first time. They dispatched 8 seed Utah in the first round and then upset the top seeded Spurs in round two. The decision to include this team in the tournament was hotly debated, but now that they're here, it's not really shocking that they've done well -- not with reigning Sixth Man of the Year James Harden joining All Star bigs Zach Randolph and Pau Gasol. This is a very talented squad that presents major matchup problems for the opposition. They don't have a true point guard, but in many ways Harden is a better playmaker than his Thunder teammate Russell Westbrook, and Gasol is perhaps the best playmaker at the power forward position in the league. This team is trouble for any opponent.
The Timberwolves on the other hand are the worst seed still alive in the tournament at 13, but like the Leftovers, they are not here by pure dumb luck (though that does help). The squad features Ricky Rubio, Andrei Kirilenko and Kevin Love and that's a trio that can cause problems for anybody. Rubio proved last season before his injury what a tremendous talent he was, and with wide open passing lanes in 3 on 3 he could be spectacular. Kirilenko may not have been in the NBA last year, but he proved in the Olympics this summer what an impact player he still is, especially when he's asked to do a bit of everything for his team, as he would have to in 3 on 3. Meanwhile, Love is Love, one of the most statistically dominant players in the entire league.
Let's see what our panel of experts has to say.
I totally would have given the nod to Minnesota if Jonny Flynn and Wes Johnson were available. -- Ziller
The Wolves dream is alive! This is actually a dangerous matchup for Minny, because Kirilenko can't handle either Pau or Z-Bo, and Kevin Love wouldn't be much better. Throw in Harden running things at the point and inevitably running circles around Rubio, and things could get a little dicey for the Wolves on D. On the other hand... They would get even dicier for the West team trying to guard Love and Rubio. And who are we kidding? Nobody's picking against this Wolves team until we absolutely have to, mostly because it never stops being fun imagining Love and Rubio in a game of 3-on-3. LET'S GO MINNY. -- Sharp
AK47 has played plenty of 4 in his day, and I think he'll do fine on Gasol. But doesn't Love dominate his matchup with Randolph? Actually, it probably comes down to whether we're talking about 2011 playoffs Z-Bo or 2012 playoffs Z-Bo; I gotta go with the guy I saw most recently, and that means T-Wolves win. -- Perrin
This would be a true inside vs outside match-up. Neither Gasol nor Randolph can stay with Love on the perimeter, and neither Love nor Kirilenko can hold off Randolph on the blocks. Since we count free throws in this tournament, I'm going to go with the West Leftovers simply because Z-Bo and Harden are extremely adept at getting to the free throw line, which should prove to be the difference. -- Sherman
This West Leftover team is a beast. Who needs a true PG when Harden can just dump it into his two multi-skilled big men? Individually Randolph or Gasol could be handled by Love but he can't take both. And with both able to spread the floor, it's just a very tough match-up for Minny no matter how well Rubio plays. -- Francis
The Bottom Line
This is the closest decision the panel has had in a while. Split 3 panelists to 2 on the winner, with a very slight edge given to the Leftovers overall, deemed 53 percent like to win any given game. And really, it's hard to argue with anything there. These are two evenly matched teams.
Ultimately it's up to the dice to decide. The Leftovers will be looking for smallish rolls of 53 or lower, while the Timberwolves want to see bigger numbers, 54 or higher.
Who do you think would win this one?
The results will be posted at 5 p.m. ET.
For a complete look at the SB Nation 3 on 3 Tournament, check back with this StoryStream.