clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Here's all 30 NBA teams' best 3-on-3 lineups, ranked

New, comments

Here’s a hint: The Warriors would still win.

NBA All-Star Game 2015 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) introduced 15 new events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. One of those events is 3-on-3 basketball.

That got us at SB Nation thinking: Which three players would each NBA team send to compete in a 3-on-3 tournament? And which team would have the best shot at winning?

Here’s our list:

30. Los Angeles Lakers

D’Angelo Russell
Jordan Clarkson
Larry Nance Jr.

I’m only here for the Russel-to-Nance lob passes. If the Lakers could have Lou Williams back, they’d move up to 29.

29. Dallas Mavericks

Seth Curry
Harrison Barnes
Nerlens Noel

I deferred to our in-house Mavericks expert, Tim Cato, who hand-picked these guys. I had Wesley Matthews, Barnes, and Dirk Nowitzki. Here’s why he chose his lineup:

... All right, Tim isn’t available, so I’m speaking for him. These three guys are the youngest talents on the team and provide more athleticism than my lineup would have. That’s about all I’ve got, though.

28. Sacramento Kings

Tyreke Evans
Buddy Hield
Rudy Gay

I tried to figure out which players would have the best shot at winning a game. Yes, Skal Labissiere is gonna be good some day, and Darren Collison is the starting point guard. But these three guys give the Kings the best shot at pulling an upset, especially if Hield is the second coming of Stephen Curry.

27. Orlando Magic

Evan Fournier
Terrence Ross
Aaron Gordon

This would be fun solely because we get to watch Terrence Ross and Aaron Gordon trade poster dunks. Wouldn’t be so much fun when their opponents start playing defense.

26. Phoenix Suns

Eric Bledsoe
Devin Booker
Brandon Knight

It would be very Phoenix of the Suns to trot out a three-guard lineup with Bledsoe, Booker, and Knight. That might just give them the edge — everyone’s quick, small and can shoot. But that’s about it with this team.

25. Brooklyn Nets

Jeremy Lin
Caris LeVert
Brook Lopez

Lin and Lopez were the easy picks. I was tempted to go with Rondae Hollis-Jefferson because of his defense. I was tempted to go with Sean Kilpatrick because of his offense. I chose LeVert because he’s the best rookie you’ve never heard of. Still a lot of Ls, though.

24. Charlotte Hornets

Kemba Walker
Nic Batum
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

This team really doesn’t stand much of a chance against the tougher competition, but hoooomygod, just clear it out and give the ball to Kemba.

23. Atlanta Hawks

Dennis Schroder
Kent Bazemore
Paul Millsap

I was tempted to go with Taurean Prince over Bazemore, and Tim Hardaway Jr. may be more suitable for a 3-on-3 setting. But Bazemore is Atlanta’s best wing player. Can’t see this team winning more than two games though.

22. New Orleans Pelicans

Jrue Holiday
DeMarcus Cousins
Anthony Davis

Not sure the two big man thing works in a 3-on-3, but they can each handle the ball and shoot. Don’t think they’re gonna win very many games though.

21. Detroit Pistons

Reggie Jackson
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope
Andre Drummond

In a 5-on-5, I wouldn’t dare take Reggie Jackson. In a 3-on-3, however, you need a guy who can create a shot out of thin air. Jackson’s that guy — sometimes to a fault — and giving him a shooter and a lob option is a great mix for this competition.

20. Miami Heat

Goran Dragic
Dion Waiters
Hassan Whiteside

Give the ball to Dion Waiters and get out of the way.

19. New York Knicks

Derrick Rose
Carmelo Anthony
Kristaps Porzingis

This team looks great on paper, but we know how this story ends.

18. Philadelphia 76ers

Ben Simmons
Dario Saric
Joel Embiid

We don’t know what Ben Simmons looks like on an NBA court yet. So for 3-on-3 blacktop purposes, let’s say he’s a mix between LeBron James, Magic Johnson, and Oscar Robertson all in their primes. Yup, I’ve got Philly, too.

17. Denver Nuggets

Wilson Chandler
Danilo Gallinari
Nikola Jokic

Who needs a point guard in a 3-on-3 when you’ve got The Joker? I can see Chandler and Gallo running action among themselves while Jokic either makes the right pass or gets an easy post-up bucket. They could be unstoppable ... or really bad. Who knows?

16. Indiana Pacers

Jeff Teague
Paul George
Myles Turner

Is this team convincing enough for you to pick them in a 3-on-3 tournament?

15. Memphis Grizzlies

Mike Conley
Chandler Parsons Tony Allen
Marc Gasol

The Grizzlies play one way and one way only: with grit. No need to change that for a 3-on-3 game. We wanted Chandler Parsons on the floor for spacing, but he’s out four to six months nursing a pinky toe injury. So we replaced him with First Team All-Defense.

14. Oklahoma City Thunder

Russell Westbrook
Victor Oladipo
Enes Kanter

This is really a 1-on-3, but I put two other guys next to Westbrook just for fun.

13. Portland Trail Blazers

Damian Lillard
C.J. McCollum
Jusuf Nurkic

This is my dark horse because you have three playmakers on the floor. Imagine Lillard and McCollum getting each other open for Nurkic’s pinpoint passes? Or just a straight up iso for McCollum on the wing? Maybe a Lillard stutter-step pull-up three?

This is a fun team.

12. Utah Jazz

George Hill
Gordon Hayward
Rudy Gobert

Gobert’s a really good shot-blocker and rebounder, but he’s also an extraordinary screen setter. That’ll give defenses problems, especially with Hill and Hayward.

11. Chicago Bulls

Rajon Rondo
Dwyane Wade
Jimmy Butler

These guys showed you can’t count them out in the first round against the Celtics. With a healthy Rondo, anything is possible.

10. Milwaukee Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo
Khris Middleton
Jabari Parker

With a healthy Parker, this team is about as good as any the NBA has to offer. If you’re not the Warriors (KD), Cavs (LeBron), or Spurs (Kawhi), you don’t really have an answer for Giannis. And that’s game right there.

9. Washington Wizards

John Wall
Bradley Beal
Markieff Morris

John Wall and Bradley Beal are a duo tailor-made for 2-on-2 basketball. I thought to add Otto Porter here, but he’s mostly a corner three-point shooter. You can add Markieff Morris, who can shoot the three but also create his own shot, instead.

8. Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry
DeMar DeRozan
Serge Ibaka

These guys are good up until they run into Cleveland.

7. Minnesota Timberwolves

Zach LaVine
Andrew Wiggins
Karl-Anthony Towns

This team would be really fun to watch. They’re conditioned to play 50-minute games. They can shoot, and they’re all young and athletic. Bets on this squad to upset someone.

6. Boston Celtics

Isaiah Thomas
Avery Bradley
Al Horford

This 3-on-3 team perfectly exemplifies the Celtics’ current situation. Avery Bradley is a stud, but against top-level talent, Boston needs a third All-Star. Imagine this team with Jimmy Butler, Gordon Hayward, or Paul George? That’s a different conversation.

5. Los Angeles Clippers

Chris Paul
Jamal Crawford
Blake Griffin

I’m not sure you need two big men in a 3-on-3 tournament. And while DeAndre Jordan is a vaunted rim protector, our own Harry Lyles agrees: can roll the dice in a halfcourt setting and task Griffin with that responsibility.

What you DO need, though, is a guy like Jamal Crawford who can get his shot at any time, from any place. Him breaking ankles is only an added bonus.

4. Houston Rockets

James Harden
Eric Gordon
Ryan Anderson

You know why Houston’s here. Space the floor to clear the paint. Pick your poison: Defend James Harden 1-on-1 or give Gordon or Anderson an open look at a three. Sheesh.

3. San Antonio Spurs

Jonathon Simmons
Kawhi Leonard
LaMarcus Aldridge

Part of what makes the Spurs so good in 5-on-5 is Gregg Popovich. Most of that game planning goes out the window in a 3-on-3, so it’ll be hard for the Spurs to match up against a superior team.

Still, any time you’ve got Kawhi, you’ve got a shot.

2. Cleveland Cavaliers

Kyrie Irving
LeBron James
Kevin Love

We know why these guys are here.

1. Golden State Warriors

Stephen Curry
Klay Thompson
Kevin Durant

It only took me about four seconds to choose Klay Thompson over Draymond Green here. Why? Because this is a 3-on-3, and I’m not sure Draymond is as important in a halfcourt pickup game as Klay is.

**

There you have it. I think the Warriors (surprise) are the most unstoppable team, and if we’re breaking it up by East vs. West, the T’Wolves, Spurs, and Rockets are their top competition. In the end, they’re just too versatile of a team with three shooters and two lock-down defenders.

Things in the East are a bit more complicated. It’s hard to bet against LeBron and the Cavaliers, but Giannis’ Bucks are scary, as are the Bulls and even the Knicks. I’m gonna take the Bucks in a game against the Cavs.

That sets the table for Giannis vs. KD, with a bigger Khris Middleton on Steph and Jabari Parker checking Klay Thompson. In my humble opinion, that game could go either way.

Did we get something wrong? Let us know in the comments.