On Friday, the International Olympic Committee announced that men and women’s three-on-three basketball will be one of 15 new events debuting at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. These scaled-down basketball games are 10 minutes long and played on half-courts with 12-second shot clocks. According to the official Olympics website, three-on-three basketball is also “typically accompanied by non-stop music, DJs and break-dancers.” Who are we to argue with tradition?
Details regarding eligibility are still scarce. It is unclear if professional five-on-five players will be allowed, or if it will be limited to amateurs and/or players from established three-on-three leagues. Either way, we like the U.S.A.'s chances.
It’s fitting this announcement came on the same day as Game Four of the NBA Finals. If Cleveland and Golden State were to restart the series as a three-on-three event, there is little doubt that we would have a far more competitive matchup on our hands.
For Cleveland, the starters are obvious. (You assemble a “big three” to compete in a superstar-loaded league, but it also comes in handy when it’s time to pick squads for a hypothetical three-on-three tournament.) Because so much of the three-on-three game revolves around one-on-one offense, an argument could be made that Kyrie Irving would be the top pick in a worldwide three-on-three draft. Kevin Love’s shooting and rebounding would come into play, and LeBron’s overall LeBron-ness can’t be beat.
Golden State’s team, meanwhile, is a tad trickier to choose. Obviously you need to include Steph Curry and Kevin Durant. Like Kyrie, both can create offense at-will, and Durant has shown what he is capable of when removed from the staid confines of the NBA:
The third slot is where a decision must be made. Klay Thompson is clearly a better shooter, but Draymond Green has the edge when it comes to playmaking. Both are terrific defenders, but Draymond’s versatility and size means he wins the final starting spot.
FIBA rules state each team only gets one sub. Klay would get the nod for the reasons stated above, and Cleveland would probably choose J.R. Smith because, unlike the rest of the Cavs roster, he can dribble the ball.
Those teams are pretty evenly matched, at least much more so than their five-on-five counterparts. It really would be a toss-up. Unfortunately, because it’s first-to-21 and played with the shorter FIBA three-point line, a seven-game series between the Cavs and Warriors would take roughly 25 minutes from start to finish. There wouldn't be much action to watch, but at least it wouldn’t be a sweep.