How would Olympic 3 vs. 3 basketball look with NBA players?


At the Tokyo Olympics this summer, the Olympic Games will feature 3 vs. 3 basketball as a medal sport for the very first time. While no NBA players will participate in the event, there is a world of international talent in the pro game – 107 players from outside the US were on opening night rosters to start the season.

With that in mind, we speculated how a 16-team international 3 vs. 3 tournament might look, using only pro players.

16-seed: Italy

  • Nico Mannion, Santa Cruz Warriors (G League)
  • Danilo Gallinari, Hawks
  • Nicolo Melli, Pelicans

Italy had to dip into the G League for Mannion, who plays for the Santa Cruz Warriors. Not enough size, not enough scoring to make any noise in this tournament.

15-seed: Germany

  • Dennis Schroder, Lakers
  • Mo Wagner, Wizards
  • Daniel Theis, Celtics

Germany would have been a top-4 seed... if Dirk Nowitzki was willing to lace ‘em up again for this event. Alas, they have a versatile big in Theis, but he’ll get eaten up by some of the other big men in the bracket.

14-seed: Turkey

  • Cedi Osman, Cavaliers
  • Furkan Korkmaz, 76ers
  • Enes Kanter, Trail Blazers

Where Kanter gives the Turks an advantage over several of the teams, the ballhandling would surely suffer here. Neither Osman nor Korkmaz can really make his own shot.

13-seed: Croatia

  • Bojan Bogdanovic, Jazz
  • Dario Saric, Suns
  • Ivica Zubac, Clippers

A lot of savvy on this roster, and this team can shoot and defend bigs, but they aren’t able to stop any guard from doing whatever he wants.

12-seed: Lithuania

  • Domantas Sabonis, Pacers
  • Jonas Valanciunas, Grizzlies
  • Deividas Sirvydis, Pistons

This team has size, that’s for sure. Sabonis will cover up a lot of shortcomings, but Sirvydis is just 20, and has exactly eight minutes of an NBA career to speak of. 

11-seed: Latvia

  • Davis Bertans, Wizards
  • Rodions Kurucs, Rockets
  • Kristaps Porzingis, Mavericks

This is a long team, just not quick. If Bertans gets hot, this team could bust some brackets.

10-seed: France

  • Evan Fournier, Magic
  • Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, Nets
  • Rudy Gobert, Jazz

This team had a handful of guards to choose from, but the fact that Fournier and TLC are the best of the bunch tells you all you need to know. Gobert is a nice eraser in a 3 vs. 3 format, but teams will pick & roll this team to death.

9-seed: Slovenia

  • Luka Doncic, Mavericks
  • Goran Dragic, Heat
  • Vlatko Cancar, Nuggets

This trio could be dangerous, the lowest-seeded team with two players selected to an All-Star game. Cancar will have to guard bigs and at 6-foot-8 that will be a big problem.

8-seed: Canada

  • Jamal Murray, Nuggets
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Thunder
  • Kelly Olynyk, Heat

SGA drew the roster spot by a thin margin over Andrew Wiggins, but you can talk me out of it. Either way, that’s a pair of scorers that will be tough to deal with, but Olynyk will struggle defending the stronger bigs in the field.

7-seed: Greece

  • Thanasis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bucks
  • Kostas Antetokounmpo, South Bay Lakers (G League)

This was just too good to pass up. Giannis and his brothers on the same team? In the Olympics? The endorsement deals would be off the charts! Never mind the fact they are likely the longest threesome in the tournament. They lack the outside shooting and ballhandling to crack the semifinals, though.

6-seed: Serbia

  • Nikola Jokic, Nuggets
  • Bogdan Bogdanovic, Hawks
  • Nemanja Bjelica, Kings

The do-it-all Jokic wills the Serbs into the top 6 by himself. They have plenty of size with Bjelica, who can also drill from outside, but their lack of playmaking on the perimeter would be their undoing.

5-seed: Spain

  • Ricky Rubio, Timberwolves
  • Serga Ibaka, Clippers
  • Marc Gasol, Lakers

The Spaniards can beat you in a handful of ways, and they have a ton of experience playing for their national team. They would be a tough out.

4-seed: Bahamas

  • Buddy Hield, Kings
  • Deandre Ayton, Suns
  • Klay Thompson, Warriors

I used a loophole here. Thompson was born in the US, and has played for the US national team, but his father, former Laker Mychal Thompson, was born in the Bahamas. The addition of Thompson makes this team absolutely deadly from outside, and Ayton can roam the paint for any possible misses.

3-seed: Cameroon

  • Joel Embiid, 76ers
  • Pascal Siakam, Raptors
  • Nicolas Batum, Clippers (France/Cameroon dual citizenship)

Best of luck trying to score within 18 feet of the basket against this team. Embiid and Siakam will send any shot in the lane into orbit. Meanwhile, Siakam has built himself into a reliable outside shooter, and Batum has that middle-aged man game that is so annoyingly unstoppable in a half-court format.

2-seed: Australia

Kyrie Irving, Nets

Joe Ingles, Jazz

Ben Simmons, 76ers

Matisse Thybulle gets edged out by Ingles, based on Ingles’ outside shooting. The Aussies feature Simmons and Irving, who can break down virtually anyone in the league off the dribble. 76ers fans know how well Simmons can defend big men, and Simmons can post up or create off the dribble on offense.

1-seed: USA

James Harden, Nets

Kevin Durant, Nets

Anthony Davis, Lakers

Selecting the three players for Team USA can be a column by itself. We decided to give LeBron the summer off. Looking at this trio, one of them will exploit a mismatch on offense in each game and just beat you down. And for all of their offensive prowess, Harden, KD and Davis are also a tough defensive matchup for any of these other teams. It’s no contest.

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