Anyone who’s grown up playing Blacktop on NBA 2K or NBA Street has dreamed of that style of basketball being played at a high level.
That dream just came true this past week, as the Olympics have finally added 3-on-3 competition to the Games’s basketball events. I’ve always felt like this should have been a thing, considering how many other sports have multiple events squeezed out of it. Swimming has enough events to last an entire week and volleyball has both the standard 6-on-6 competition and a 2-on-2 beach volleyball event. The stadiums are playing music, the athletes are wearing bikinis or other summer outfits, and everyone’s having a great time. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem at all with this. I’m just saying we need a basketball version of this fun event, and it’s here.
As a hoops addict, it always bothered me how they were unable to make a similar event out of basketball. Three-on-three is one of the most popular forms of basketball. When I turn on NBA 2K with a friend, we’ll play a standard 5-on-5 game, and then almost always will follow that up with a game of 3-on-3 on the street ball mode called Blacktop, so this is a style of basketball I’ve become very familiar with over the year. The rules are a little different than traditional basketball.
There will be a 12-second shot clock (as opposed to 24), a 10 minute game clock, and the game is played in a half court. Additionally, similar to most games of 3-on-3, they are counting points as ones and twos, as opposed to twos and threes in a traditional basketball game. So, a shot behind the arch is worth two times as much as a normal shot, while they are normally only worth 1.5 times as many points. This means that the ability to shoot from deep is even more important than it already is, which is going to favor outside shooters more simply because their basketballs count by a very high margin.
It’s always interesting to see which players are chosen first in these games. In the games I have partaken in and watched happen on NBA 2K, the first two players chosen are almost always LeBron James and Michael Jordan. These are arguably the two most well-rounded players in the history of the NBA and because of that, they give their teams the best chance to win, especially because they represent one-third of their respective teams. Michael Jordan isn’t an active player, anymore, obviously, although he did beat 2012 No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist in a game of 1-on-1 as recently as 2013 (!). However, he isn’t going to be matched up with him at the Olympics.
This addition of 3-on-3 to the Olympics has me wondering what teams of three would be the most successful.
I think the obvious first pick would have to be LeBron, at least in 2017. LeBron has been the best player in the league for a solid decade now and he should have no problem translating that to 3-on-3. He’d be able to defend any player on the court, rebound like a power forward, can get to the rim with ease, and passes as well as anybody in the NBA. That sounds like somebody that you’d want to build a team around.
The second player I’d pick, and in many games is the first player I have chosen, is Kevin Durant. Durant is coming off his first NBA Championship and Finals MVP in a series where he averaged 35-8-5 on 55-47-93 shooting splits. That’s absurd. I don’t think he’s a better player than LeBron, but I think by being on the Warriors with such great teammates surrounding him, he is put in a position where he is able to play at a higher level than anybody else in the league right now. He also played a lot of his minutes in the Finals at center and is now capable of defending the rim, too. He’s a 7-footer who has skills as good as any guard in the NBA. There’s really never been anyone like him. Every Bucks fan right now is hoping that Giannis is spending his summer working on his jump shot so that he can make the leap to Durant’s level. Durant’s playing as good of offensive basketball as I’ve ever seen while also showing ability to protect the rim, and because of that, he’s a lock for my Team USA 3-on-3 team.
Now that we have LeBron and Durant, who fulfill our distributing, scoring and perimeter defending and rim protection needs, this team is going to need a ball handler and a guy to get the ball to these guys while also stretching the floor. I think ultimately, due to the increased importance of deep shooting in a game of ones and twos, this third spot should go to Steph Curry. Curry can handle as well as anybody in the NBA and is the best shooter in NBA history and just put up a 28-6-6 for the playoffs. He and Durant just proved that they’re the best duo in the NBA, and with LeBron as their third man (playing a Draymond Green type of role), they’d be unstoppable.
If this league ends up being run like the beach volleyball event, then there would be a possibility of two teams per country, which opens up the door for all of the players not selected for the Olympic team. For that, I’d consider a Kyrie-Kawhi-KAT threesome or maybe a John Wall-Harden-Davis team. Personally, I’d prefer KAT as my center due to his deep shooting abilities for aforementioned reasons.
Amazingly enough, this Olympic event might be even more lopsided than actual basketball games. This creates for even more top-heavy teams that will be harder to stop for countries that are only capable of fielding a couple of NBA players, much less a Curry-Durant-LeBron team that has seven combined MVPs between them. Kristaps Porzingis from Latvia would be fun, as would Australia’s Ben Simmons and Serbia’s Nikola Jokic, amongst plenty of others. I really can’t imagine a scenario where Team USA gets beaten, unless Manu Ginobili finds access to a time machine, but this will be a blast to watch regardless. Please come soon, 2020.