by Rob Joyce
Three-on-three is all the rage right now in basketball. Allen Iverson and Ice Cube just launched the BIG3 league, featuring former NBA players in a three-on-three pro setting. Then last week the International Olympic Committee announced the addition of three-on-three for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, among other events.
The eight-team event, on both the men’s and women’s side, will likely not exclusively boast All-Stars, as it’s unclear if participation in both 3-on-3 and the normal national team will be allowed, or if players will even want to partake in both. LeBron James has already come out and say while he likes the addition, the veteran won’t get involved. Still, it’s fun to imagine the best possible three-team combinations by country.
Regardless of whether they come to fruition or not, here are the five best teams we’d love to see:
1) USA – LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard:
The only player who could stop James or Durant one-on-one for an extended period of time is Leonard. You could pair LeBron or KD with Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, James Harden or really any other American megastar and they’d likely cruise to a gold medal. But with the Spurs’ Leonard, you’d have an all-world offense and a suffocating defense. It’d be awfully fun on both ends to watch.
2) Serbia – Nikola Jokic, Dusan Bulut, Marko Savic:
Jokic made the leap into a bonafide star this year with the Nuggets, but who are the people he’s paired with? The silver medalists in Rio, Bulut and Savic get the nod over more recognized names like Bogdan Bogdanovic or Milos Teodosic. The reason? Bulut and Savic are ranked first and third in the world, respectively, in three-on-three competition.
3) Dominican Republic – Al Horford, Karl-Anthony Towns, Francisco Garcia:
They would be a longshot to medal in the standard basketball tournament (if they even qualified at all) because beyond these three they aren’t deep. But in the three-on-three setting, they’re awfully dangerous. There’s the Celtics’ veteran in Horford, the former number one overall pick in Towns, who had a stupid-silly stat line this year in Minnesota. Add in former NBA wing Garcia, or maybe another former Louisville Cardinal in Edgar Sosa for some guard play, and you have yourself a fun and talented team for which to root.
4) Spain – Ricky Rubio, Marc Gasol, Juan Hernangomez:
If this were four years ago Pau Gasol would join Rubio and his brother – alas, he’s in the twilight of his career (he’d still be a fine option, though). Rubio is the kind of playmaker that would make Twitter explode in the open space of three-on-three, Gasol has the versatility to score in any way, and then there’s the 21-year-old Hernangomez. The 15th overall pick in last year’s draft, he had a decent rookie season. His length and ability to shoot would allow for a slash-and-kick offense with Rubio.
5) France – Nicolas Batum, Rudy Gobert, Tony Parker:
France has a few guys – Parker and Boris Diaw, namely – that would have been far more exciting to watch in 2008 than 2020. Gobert’s style didn’t great for a three-on-three format but he just made the All-NBA Second Team this year and is the country’s best player right now. Parker can outsmart anyone on a basketball court, and Batum can stretch out a defense.