The Top 10 Players Who Would Be Perfect for the BIG3 Next Season

Dan Favale@@danfavaleFeatured ColumnistAugust 29, 2017

The Top 10 Players Who Would Be Perfect for the BIG3 Next Season

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    The inaugural season of Ice Cube's BIG3 league is officially in the books, so, naturally, we need to start making a wish list of participants its second year.

    Sure, we could take a moment to reflect on Team Trilogy winning the BIG3's first-ever championship. Rashad McCants collected lots of buckets. It was fun.

    But the hope is that this league will continue to attract larger names and different contributors. Getting a head start on some cameos we'd like to see just feels right. 

    These rankings are not necessarily a reflection of how well players would fare while suiting up for a BIG3 squad. They're based almost solely on entertainment value. Premiums will be placed on marquee talent, but we're here to have fun and, above all else, dream like expert dreamers.

    Only one rule guided the selection process: Players must be out of the NBA. It would be spectacular times infinity to see Vince Carter or Dirk Nowitzki join the party if they retire next year, but we're not in the business of predicting swan songs. It's presumptive and, in most cases, just too dang painful.


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10. Ben Wallace

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    Age: 42

    Years Experience (NBA): 16

    Career Per-Game Stats: 5.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.3 steals, 2.0 blocks, 47.4 percent shooting

    Narrowing down this spot to Ben Wallace proved difficult. So many other fun options appeared under the consideration microscope.

    Jason Richardson came closest to stealing the shine, because the BIG3 needs more reverse dunks from people over the age of 35. Shawn Marion gets a shout-out as one of the most underrated players in NBA history. Ricky Davis lookalike Gerald Wallace would be loads of fun.

    Tim Duncan has zero business being in this league, because fundamentals aren't for the glorified playground. But he has a kickboxing mean streak, and I'd pay five figures to see him play competitive basketball again, so it took an unreasonably impassioned appeal from Bleacher Report's Adam Fromal to table his eligibility.

    Wallace earns the nod, even though Duncan has the cartoon eyes. The BIG3, unlike the NBA, still has room for gritty and physical bigs who don't look to shoot jumpers. Reggie Evans cleaned up on the glass for the Killer 3s, and he's essentially the clearance-rack version of Big Ben. 

    Give us Wallace's screen-setting, glass-crashing, shot-blocking and general defensive chutzpah. He'll (probably) put people on the floor, as if he's competing for that second ring. And anyone who approaches these games with the physicality of a more mobile, under-50 Charles Oakley would be a treat to watch.

9. Metta World Peace

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    Age: 37

    Years Experience: 17

    Career Per-Game Stats: 13.2 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 1.7 steals, 0.5 blocks, 41.4 percent shooting

    That's New Orleans Gators superstar Metta World Peace to you. And me. And everyone else.

    Metta World Peace has already signed on to play in Master P's Global Mixed Gender Basketball league, because this is 2017, and both Master P and Ice Cube absolutely, positively need to be the faces for separate competitive round-ball assemblies.

    Including World Peace is a risk. We don't know whether his contract allows for dual-participation. (Games for GMGB are set to tip off on Sept. 23 in Las Vegas.) TMZ didn't specify in its news break. Let's just assume the agreement is a one-off and that he'll be good to roll with the BIG3 next summer.

    Players who recently appeared in NBA games are good to have in this environment. It heightens the level of competition, and you don't have to worry as much about the stamina or freak-injury factors.

    Although World Peace only took the floor in 60 games during his final two seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, he's at least spent the past couple of years around NBA talent. He's maintained the frame of that hard-nosed, older-school wing and, as someone who genuinely appears to love balling in general, seems like he'd take the stakes seriously.

    Plus, who isn't in love with the idea of World Peace as a player-coach? For all his oddities, the Lakers liked having him around their kiddies.

    “We’d love to have him back,” head coach Luke Walton said in April, per the Los Angeles Times' Lindsey Thiry. “Come back and talk to us and see how we can have you be around and continue to help these young guys.”

    Even if World Peace doesn't play a second for BIG3, he belongs on the sidelines in an official capacity. The people deserve to see him drawing up plays on a clipboard, arguing calls and motivating his troops in timeout huddles with animated finger-puppet shows.

8. Matt Bonner

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    Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images

    Age: 37

    Years Experience: 12

    Career Per-Game Stats: 5.8 points, 3.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.4 steals, 0.3 blocks, 46.4 percent shooting

    The BIG3 needs a four-point specialist. Mike Bibby led the field in made quadruples, with six through 10 appearances. More 30-foot buckets must fall.

    Assuming Stephen Curry doesn't retire before the start of training camp to pursue a professional golf career, who better to fill this void than Matt Bonner?

    Granted, he attempted all of two shots from 30 or more feet through 2014-15 and 2015-16. And he missed them both.

    Still, he's got this.

    Among every player who jacked 1,500 or more threes during Bonner's 12-year career, only Curry, Kyle Korver, Mike Miller, Anthony Morrow, Steve Nash and Klay Thompson posted a higher success rate. The Red Rocket's average shot distance over his final five campaigns checked in at just over 19 feet.

    Throw in the decade he spent surviving under San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, his awesome-sauce retirement announcement and an immense appreciation for sandwiches, and this just make sense.

    The Sandwich Hunter should ride again.

7. Gilbert Arenas

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    Bernstein Associates/Getty Images

    Age: 35

    Years Experience: 11

    Career Per-Game Stats: 20.7 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 1.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 42.1 percent shooting

    After a years-long span in which Gilbert Arenas seemed bent on returning to the NBA, it now appears he'll consider a more realistic end goal.

    "Hopefully next year," Agent Zero said when asked by TMZ whether he'll ever join the BIG3. "We're still working out the details."

    Hammering out a partnership between Life Recovery Water and the BIG3 is, apparently, chief among those details. "I'm a businessman," he told TMZ.

    Cross your fingers for this brand alliance to reach completion, or for Arenas to overlook the technical side of this three-on-three showdown. He hasn't played in the NBA since 2012, after his career was derailed by knee injuries and a 2009 incident in which he and then-Washington Wizards teammate Javaris Crittenton brought guns inside the locker room. But...he posted an Instagram video of himself dribbling on a treadmill back in March.

    So, clearly, he's ready to rock on the hardwood.

    Basically, it comes down to this: Do you want to see 10 years into CJ McCollum's basketball future or not? 

    If you answer no, first off, you're a criminal. But surely you'll still be able to talk yourself into watching someone who's bound to nab the "Most Likely to Take a Mid-Game Selfie" award I just made up.

6. Steve Nash

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    Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 43

    Years Experience: 18

    Career Per-Game Stats: 14.3 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 0.7 steals, 0.1 blocks, 49 percent shooting

    Nerve damage and back problems muddied the final two years of Steve Nash's NBA career, so this might be whimsical thinking. But it's not like we're asking him to, you know, extend the Lakers' championship window or anything.

    Besides, he's been healthy enough since leaving the Association to play some soccer and serve as a player development consultant with the Golden State Warriors since 2015. The smart money is on him being in good-to-great shape to get through a BIG3 slate without any issues.

    Aside from potentially leading the league in accuracy from four-point range (sorry, Sandwich Hunter), Nash beefs up the voodoo-playmaking factor. The BIG3 lost that when Jason Williams went down with a knee injury on opening day and didn't have anyone to the fill the void.

    Nash never played with that type of flash, but his blend of vision and anticipation is more playground-style than not. He'll play reckless angles without the rampant follies that tend to accompany them. He's like the miniature hybrid of Manu Ginobili and Nikola Jokic. 

    Stick him on a team with one rim-runner, preferably as the player-coach, and he'll tear through this league with recess risk-taking and surgical precision.

5. Ray Allen

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    Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

    Age: 42

    Years Experience: 18

    Career Per-Game Stats: 18.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.1 steals, 0.2 blocks, 45.2 percent shooting

    A new four-point king will not be crowned with every new addition. This will be the last time. Promise.

    Ray Allen is more than three years removed from his last NBA game. Yes, it has been that long. But he can still get buckets. He reminded everyone as much, on Instagram, back in February.

    Selecting Allen isn't just about his shooting, though. Are we about to turn down a possible barrage of 30-footers from the greatest shooter not named Wardell Stephen Curry II? Obviously not. But Allen was so much more than a long-range specialist before joining the Boston Celtics in 2007.

    Syncing up with the BIG3 will allow for more on-ball freelancing. He can drive, pull up, kick out to another shooter—whatever. The (loosely fastened) puppet strings attached to him during his Celtics and Miami Heat days would be no more.

    Try convincing yourself that wouldn't be a gargantuan delight. It can't be done.

    Because, subconsciously or overtly, you've been wondering whether the 6'5", 40-something flamethrower can still dunk in a competitive setting. The BIG3 can deliver that answer if Allen is willing.

4. Paul Pierce

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    Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Age: 39

    Years Experience: 19

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.7 points, 5.6 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.3 steals, 0.6 blocks, 44.5 percent shooting

    Paul Pierce needs to put his own skills where his recruiting efforts lie.

    Back in June, The Truth hinted to Michael Rapaport on Fox Sports 1 that he might try convincing Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett to lace 'em up for the BIG3 next year. Televised hedges are legally binding in the state of Between Our Ears, so now he has no choice. He'll need to peer pressure Bryant and Garnett into playing while guaranteeing his own participation. It's only fair.

    Pierce will barely be one year into his own retirement once the BIG3 tips off again. Perhaps that's too soon for a return.

    Or maybe it's perfect.

    Quitting something you love cold turkey is tough. He should gradually ween off competitive basketball. He can rest when he's 50.

    This bullish stance, for the record, comes from a place of appreciation. Pierce's one-on-one chops would be a great fit in a scaled-down half-court game. His final two seasons in the NBA—both of which came with the Los Angeles Clippers—weren't pretty, but the step-back arsenal can still play, and the Clutch Gene isn't something that fades with time.

3. Kevin Garnett

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    Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

    Age: 41

    Years Experience: 21

    Career Per-Game Stats: 17.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.4 blocks, 49.7 percent shooting

    Based off nothing in particular, it feels like pitching Garnett on playing in the BIG3 would be a trying endeavor. He's always been more outspoken and available than someone like Duncan, but at the same time it seems as if he shares a similar regard for solitude.

    And yet, Garnett's starring role on TNT's Area 21 segment has opened a door, even if that wasn't his intention. He was fun and light and chatty from its inception. He is not riding off into the sunset, away from prying eyes. He remains visible, in plain sight, under a different spotlight but a spotlight all the same.

    Perhaps he'll consider some post-career hooping should Pierce and Ice Cube ask him nicely while promising he won't be on the same team as Allen.

    If it helps, they can sell him on the fact no one is expecting him to play like the MVP. The relative nastiness and legendary trash talk he'll provide are enough.

    Any emphatic swats, pin-down boards, elbow jumpers, surprise four-pointers and vociferous jams would strictly be considered a bonus.

2. Tracy McGrady

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    Age: 38

    Years Experience: 15

    Career Per-Game Stats: 19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1.2 steals, 0.9 blocks, 43.5 percent shooting

    At least one BIG3 player every season is bound to perform well enough for people to start talking about how he could still hang in the NBA. Rashard Lewis, 38, earned that honor this year while piling on points for the 3 Headed Monsters.

    Tracy McGrady is definitely among the (hypothetical) candidates who could drum up that pie-in-the-sky hype next time around.

    Hall of Famers don't typically leave behind a trail of what-ifs when they walk away. McGrady, who will be inducted in September, is an exception. Back and knee injuries derailed what should have been one of the greatest career arcs ever, and he still mesmerized us enough to secure the ultimate post-career distinction.

    Put prime McGrady in today's NBA, and he's instantly one of the most coveted commodities. Playmaking wings with the tools to switch on defense, even as a situational rim protector, are crowning cornerstones if they can also hit threes and play off the ball. McGrady's outside efficiency fluctuated throughout his career, but his jumper was still a weapon, and he didn't shy away from volume.

    Gravity-defying slams are a memento of his past. The BIG3 won't be getting the iteration of McGrady the NBA enjoyed for a brief time. But his pure scoring ability alone would render him worth the cost of admission.

1. Kobe Bryant

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    Taylor Hill/Getty Images

    Age: 39

    Years Experience: 20

    Career Per-Game Stats: 25.0 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.5 blocks, 44.7 percent shooting

    Bryant better get used to appearing on these lists. Twenty years of Mamba Mentality from the source itself wasn't enough for everyone—including Ice Cube.

    "I hope his competitive juices get the itch in him and he wants to, you know, come in the league and score 50 and win the game," he said while making an appearance KTLA in Los Angeles (via TMZ Sports). "We hope he'll play one day. But if not you know we still got some great players. Still competitive guys that want to play." 

    Now, this may be a coincidence, but Bryant posted, then deleted, a picture back in early August that mocked his "#mambathick" dad bod and hinted at some sort of self-imposed 30-day challenge. He has since started issuing challenges to current NBA stars like Giannis Antetokounmpo, DeMar DeRozan and Isaiah Thomas.

    Might these public displays of persisting competitive drive portend a return to organized basketball, perhaps via the BIG3?

    "Who the frick knows" is the default response for players as remotely polarizing as Bryant. Neither he nor future Hall of Famers such as Allen, Garnett and Pierce have anything to gain from signing up. They may instead fear doing damage to their legacy, in the meme-ing age, by laying an Allen Iverson-esque egg.

    But that does nothing to curb demand.

    Joining the BIG3 lets Bryant prosper as the one-man offensive act for which he was eventually criticized. His shot selection won't be questioned by those around him, and few, if any players, would take the games as seriously. Best of all: He might get a crack at catching Michael Jordan with that elusive sixth championship. 

    Hear that?

    It's the tales of his exhaustive 12-hour training sessions that begin at 3 a.m. already writing themselves.

         

    Dan Favale covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter (@danfavale) and listen to his Hardwood Knocks podcast, co-hosted by B/R's Andrew Bailey.

    Stats courtesy of Basketball Reference and TurboStats.com.