The International Olympic Committee is considering adding 3-on-3 basketball as an Olympic sport in time for the 2016 Games in Rio, which is a fantastic idea. Go here to see some highlights from the Youth Olympics in 2010.
Though the decision won’t be made on the addition until August, it got us thinking: If we could only have three players from each country team up to play a half-court game, who gets the nod? Chemistry and a style suited for such tight conditions are even more critical than in regular Olympic games. And in the inaugural year of the competition, each nation will look to become the first to grab gold.
We took the top five teams from 2012’s medal table and put squads together. Here goes:
The United States of America.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Tyson Chandler. (Alternate: Carmelo Anthony)
Is there any possible universe in which LeBron James is not the first, second and third pick for this team? As we saw earlier, he doesn’t even really need teammates. He can play point as well as center. But by rule he’d have to play with two other Americans. Kevin Durant is the only other dude in the league who can sniff the title of best player, and his bucket-getting ability is perhaps greater than ‘Bron’s. But the team will need some size to handle the likes of Spain, and that’s where Chandler comes in. Dwight Howard could have been the one, but he doesn’t seem super into the whole “playing as a team” concept. Chandler will be happy to grab boards, block shots and throw down the occasional put-back dunk. Alternate Carmelo Anthony can be substituted for either of the scorers should one of them pull a hammy.
Tony Parker, Nicolas Batum, Ronny Turiaf. (Alternate: Boris Diaw)
This team would be a lot of fun. Even at his age, Parker is one of the best point guards in the world and arguably the best floor general in the tournament. Batum is a floor stretcher by nature that could keep the likes of LeBron and Serge Ibaka away from the rim, while Ronny Turiaf… well, he tries really hard. He’s got energy, at least. He can crash a board or two. He’s had experience playing as the only big man for his team, both internationally and in the NBA, so at least he’s used to being the little guy amongst centers. This team’s combined speed and athleticism would make up for its height deficiency — to a point. And then maybe get Diaw in there to do a little dirty work every once in awhile. Boom. Bronze medal.
Ricky Rubio, Serge Ibaka, Marc Gasol. (Alternate: Pau Gasol)
As tempting as it would be to just throw Pau and Marc onto the court together, Pau is clearly slipping as of late and having the two of them on the floor would hamstring their ability to stretch the floor. Good thing Ibaka is as stout a defensive presence as anyone on any of these teams. Between Rubio — who missed the 2012 Summer Olympics and would be dynamite in the half-court — and the younger Gasol, who has a deft touch for a big man, this squad would be fantastic at sharing the rock, a necessity for any successful 3-on-3 game.
Patrick Mills, Joe Ingles, Andrew Bogut. (Alternate: Aleks Marić)
Quickly: Who had the highest scoring average in the 2012 Olympics? Nope, not Kevin Durant — that title belongs to Patty Mills, who dropped 21.2 points a game last summer. Considering the smaller time frame of each game, all it takes is one hot streak for Mills spark an upset. He’ll be joined by Joe Ingles, a scoring forward with the handles to play point should Mills go down. Andrew Bogut also makes the cut, but with the understanding that he will inevitably break some part of his body and miss the next two years of organized league play. That’s why Aleks Marić is the alternate. Because he’s tall. That’s really all I can say about him. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, too.
Alexey Shved, Andrei Kirilenko, Timofey Mozgov. (Alternate: Alexander Khan)
The three NBA-caliber Russian ballers get the nod here, if only because they know how to compete with that level of talent. Interestingly, all three of these guys play in cold weather climates (Shved and Kirilenko in Minnesota, Mozgov in Denver), which makes me think they might all shrivel up and die in the hot Brazilian weather. Khan, who played for the Kansas Jayhawks in college, knows a little bit about heat, so he comes along in case sudden heat stroke fells one of his teammates and/or if Mozgov gets Mozgov’d again.
If you disagree with these choices, let us know who you’d send out there — or which national trios could oust any of these five countries.