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:
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
Give the ball to Dion Waiters and get out of the way.
19. New York Knicks
This team looks great on paper, but we know how this story ends.
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
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
Is this team convincing enough for you to pick them in a 3-on-3 tournament?
Chandler Parsons Tony Allen
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.
This is really a 1-on-3, but I put two other guys next to Westbrook just for fun.
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
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
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
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.
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.
These guys are good up until they run into Cleveland.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
We know why these guys are here.
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.