Constructing the perfect Olympic 3-on-3 tournament
I just watched one full game of international 3-on-3 basketball (above) and I’m ready to call myself an expert. So with 3-on-3, sanctioned by FIBA as “3x3,” set to make its Olympic debut in 2020, I feel qualified to construct the perfect field of teams for the tournament.
Unfortunately, this is purely fantasy. 3x3 is already an established game at the international and even if they were allowed to, there are plenty of reasons why the NBA’s biggest stars wouldn’t want to play in the streetball tournament.
Can’t we dream, though? These are the eight best teams of four that I could construct to form the greatest tournament ever.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook
In 3x3, you need guys who can drive to hoop, handle the ball, rebound and play strong man-on-man defense. If you’re the Americans, you can fill out your squad with guys who do all those better than anybody.
Ricky Rubio, Sergio Llull, Rudy Fernandez, Juan Hernangomez
Ricky Rubio was made for this style of play, and now the public would finally get to see why basketball obsessives freak out over Sergio Llull.
Ben Simmons, Dante Exum, Patty Mills, Joe Ingles
Ingles is probably the last guy that comes to mind when you think of streetball, but his slick passing makes him a perfect fit for the fast-moving game. Pair him with the impossibly long Simmons and Exum’s offensive versatility and you have yourself a squad.
Nic Batum, Nando de Colo, Tony Parker, Boris Diaw
France is in trouble because its best player, Rudy Gobert, doesn’t fit the 3x3 style. Neither do Parker and Diaw, honestly, but I hope they could be like two 50-year-old guys at the Y just outsmarting everybody on the court while moving in slow-motion.
Marcelo Heurtas, Leandro Barbosa, Bruno Caboclo, Raul Neto
Brazil has a few really talented guards, and Caboclo—the “Brazilian Kevin Durant”—is the only answer for the real KD.
Bogdan Bogdanovic, Milos Teodisic, Dusan Bulut, Marko Savic
Remember when Teodisic took the Olympics by storm last summer with his jaw-dropping passes? Tell me that doesn’t look perfect for streetball. Combine him with Bulut and Savic, the No. 1 and No. 3 3x3 players in the world, respectively, and you have a dark horse gold medal contender.
Goran Dragic, Zoran Dragic, Jasmin Hercegovac, Tomo Cajic
Slovenia ranks just 12th in the full-court FIBA rankings but comes in at No. 2 in 3x3, and Hercegovac and Cajic are in the top five among all 3x3 players. Putting them with the Dragic brothers sounds like the formula for creating a sleeper team.
Giannis Antetokounmpo, Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Nick Calathes, Kostas Sloukas
Greece didn’t qualify for the last Olympics and is No. 46 in the world 3x3 rankings but we need an excuse to get Giannis in this tournament. With no big guy guarding the lane, there would be absolutely no way to stop him on a drive to the hoop. And good luck driving past those long arms when he’s on D.