Olympic Basketball: Three-on-Three at Rio 2016?
Hours after Team USA knocked off Spain to claim gold in its second consecutive Olympics, FIBA began to express interest in including a three-on-three basketball tournament at the 2016 Games in Rio.
Much like volleyball has beach volleyball, three-on-three hoops would not replace the current form of basketball used in the Olympics but rather serve as an alternative to it.
It is unclear whether or not the competition would feature NBA stars or amateur street-ballers that compete in a professional league of their own.
The amount of different super-teams that could be formed to compete for the men’s three-on-three gold in Rio is infinite. This being said, in this slideshow, I will list the trios that I believe have the best shot at reaching the medal podium in 2016.
Gold: Team USA
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Rajon Rondo, 6'1", Age 30 in 2016
Le Bron James, 6'8", Age 31 in 2016
Kevin Durant, 6'9", Age 27 in 2016
Team USA dominated the field for the second consecutive Olympics on its way to yet another gold medal.
There are plenty of American players that would put on a clinic in a three-on-three tournament against other countries' squads, but for the sake of fairness, I will put together the one trio that I believe would have the most success.
There is no question that LeBron James and Kevin Durant were the two top players in London and are the two best ballers in the world today. They are still both very young, and although there are rumors that James, the NBA Finals and regular season MVP, will retire from international play before Rio, let us just assume that both of these players will still be just as dominant at all levels in 2016.
LeBron and KD could probably do fine without a third player, but to get them the ball and contribute on the defensive side of the competition, I would select Rajon Rondo. There are plenty of other point guards that could probably help the United States put on more of a show, but Rondo is selfless enough to let his teammates take over.
Unless a major scandal occurs in the upcoming years, it is hard to believe that any other country could produce a squad that would rival that of Team USA.
Silver: Team Spain
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Ricky Rubio, 6'4", Age 25 in 2016
Rudy Fernandez, 6'5", Age 31 in 2016
Marc Gasol, 7'1", Age 31 in 2016
Team Spain put up a fight against the United States in London but fell seven points short of the gold and settled for a silver medal in the second consecutive Olympics.
The breakout performer for the Spaniards at the 2008 Games was teen sensation Ricky Rubio. After being selected by the Timberwolves in 2009, the young point guard decided to continue playing in his home country for the next two seasons.
This past year, he finally made the jump to the United States. He was an instant success for Minnesota and won the Western Conference Rookie of the Month Award in his first few months. Unfortunately, Rubio tore his ACL after the All-Star break, causing him to sit-out the rest of the season and the Olympics.
A healthy Rubio is often regarded as the best ball-handler in the entire world, a quality that would create quite a show in a three-on-three tournament.
Around Rubio, the Spaniards would be best off selecting Marc Gasol as their big man and Rudy Fernandez as their sharpshooter. Marc has quietly eclipsed the aging Pau as the best member of his family in the NBA by earning his first ever All-Star selection this past year for the Grizzlies.
Meanwhile, Fernandez, the former Portland Trail Blazer and Denver Nugget, who has opted to play professionally for Real Madrid, has always excelled from the field in international competition.
If this trio could get on the same page, Spain would once again have a legitimate shot at claiming gold on the basketball court.
Bronze: Team Australia
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Patrick Mills, 5'11", Age 28 in 2016
Kyrie Irving, 6'3", Age 24 in 2016
Andrew Bogut, 7'0", Age 31 in 2016
In 2012, Team Australia had a different look than it did in Beijing, due to the injury of center Andrew Bogut. This being said, the Boomers were left with just one NBA player on their active roster, Patty Mills of the San Antonio Spurs.
The Saint Mary’s product thrived in his position as his team’s star, scoring an Olympic-high 21.2 points per game.
A solidified Mills and a healthy Bogut would give Australia a competitive team in Rio on their own. However, if they could land the Melbourne-born Kyrie Irving, they would have a legitimate shot at reaching the podium with a medal.
The first pick in the 2011 NBA draft and the reigning Rookie of the Year could have competed for the Boomers this year, but he decided to take the year off to keep himself eligible for Team USA in the future, as he spent his childhood in the states.
With Irving’s spectacular ball-handling skills, Mills’ sharpshooting at the international level, and Bogut’s presence in the post, Australia’s three-player squad could put up a fight against any American team.
Best of the Rest: Team France
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Tony Parker, 6'1", Age 34 in 2016
Nicolas Batum, 6'8", Age 27 in 2016
Joakim Noah, 6'11", Age 31 in 2016
Team France finished in sixth place at the London games with a squad featuring six current NBA players. Tony Parker anchored a team that featured two of his San Antonio teammates, Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo.
Parker, who turned 30 this past May, does not seem to show any signs of slowing down after an MVP-worthy season for the Spurs.
Joakim Noah did not make the trip to London because of an ankle injury, but he has continued to excel in extended playing time for the Bulls. He averaged nearly a double-double per game at center this past season, after doing so the previous two years.
At only 23 years of age, Nicolas Batum is coming off of the best year of his career as a starter for the Blazers and earned a four-year $43-million contract over the offseason.
The French team would definitely go far in the tournament, but they might not have enough three-on-three, street-ball-like skills to make it onto the podium in the end.