A Proposal to Fix Team USA 3×3 Men’s Basketball

Two things that you may have heard:

  1. Three on three basketball will be played at this year’s Tokyo Olympics.
  2. The USA Men’s Team failed to qualify.

Now, I don’t think I have to explain to you how unacceptable this is. The USA is the birthplace and mecca of basketball not to mention the home of most of the top players in the world. The current 3×3 squad is not bad, they were ranked second in the world and won the last World Cup in 2019. But “not bad” isn’t going to cut it. We’re Team USA, we should dominate. There should be no shot that we ever don’t win gold, let alone fail to qualify for the Olympics.

The 3×3 Proposal

My proposal is simple: a youth and NBA talent infusion for Team USA Men’s 3×3. The current 3×3 roster is comprised of guys who were ex college players who maybe had a cup of coffee in the NBA. Instead, we are going to take young, hungry NBA players on bad teams. The young part is intuitive, we need guys who are willing to play 3×3 and are also fresh and healthy. We are going to set the cut off for this criteria at 25 years of age. No one older than 25 will be in consideration. But why bad teams? Well, let’s explain below.

A team needs to win the Olympic qualifying tournament to, well, qualify for the Olympics. This year’s tournament took place between May 26-30, which would be right in the middle of the NBA playoffs during a normal year. So, we are going to take young players on teams that are not in the playoffs in order to let them qualify. There might also be some other qualification requirements (not sure as information on this is kinda spotty). So, even if these players have to miss a game or two for additional qualifying events, their team wasn’t contenting anyway.

Additionally, we’ll want them practice together starting in April as they’ll need time to get used to 3×3 ball and their new teammates. In return these players get to grown their brand in international competition and have a chance to win something important. The teams get to give their young guys high-profile international experience and to keep their young stars happy. It would also give a bit of a boost in profile and media attention to these teams currently at the bottom of the barrel. Everybody wins!

The Player Pool

Of course, the 5×5 Team USA squad would still be more prestigious so no one who is on the 5×5 team will be in consideration for the 3×3 team. (Not too many players intersect here anyway as most of the guys on the 5×5 team are older and on good teams).

This year, the following teams were well out of playoff contention. Their year end rosters will comprise our player pool.

  • Timberwolves
  • Thunder
  • Rockets
  • Cavaliers
  • Pistons
  • Magic

Hypothetically, that would make our talent pool this year something like:

  • G Colin Sexton, Cavs
  • G Dangelo Russell, Twolves
  • G Malik Beasley, Twolves
  • G Darius Garland, Cavs
  • G/F Anthony Edwards, Twolves
  • G/F Josh Jackson, Pistons
  • G/F Kevin Porter Jr., Rockets
  • F Jae’Sean Tate, Rockets
  • F Saddiq Bey, Pistons
  • F/C Isiah Stewart, Pistons
  • C Jarrett Allen, Cavs
  • C Christian Wood, Rockets
  • C Naz Reid, Twolves
  • C Wendall Carter Jr, Magic

So, the 3×3 game has just a four man roster (three starters and one sub). Of the guys above, I would probably choose:

  • G Colin Sexton, Cavs
  • G/F Anthony Edwards, Twolves
  • C Jarrett Allen, Cavs
  • C Christian Wood, Rockets

We will probably get a few opt outs and injuries in this group but if I had my druthers this is who I would roll with. Sexton is playing the PG role, Edwards can knock em down against this competition, Wood can stretch the floor and also rim protect, and Allen is more of the pure center. No current 3×3 team in the world is coming anywhere close to this team skill-wise, athletically, or in any facet of the game. All of these guys will get a ton of exposure, get to rep Team USA, and will be kings of the court. What’s not to love?

Single Team 3×3 Champs

The other option (a very intriguing one I might add) would be to select one NBA team to designate as the 3×3 representative every Olympics. Once again, we would have to go with a team that is squarely out of the playoffs. I think the advantage here is that a given NBA team would be much more likely to go for this if they could get their young core to gel together and bring a ton of fan attention to their team. Think about it, a single NBA team would literally get to play as Team USA. They would basically print money in special jerseys and other merchandise sales. This would easily be worth it for for them even if their guys had to miss a few games for the aforementioned qualification reasons as they have no shot at NBA title contention anyway.

Cavs 3×3

Looking at the above player pool, I would probably pick the Cavaliers as this year’s designee. G/F Isaac Okoro would easily slot in with the rest of the above player pool, so their roster would be:

  • G Colin Sexton
  • G Darius Garland
  • G/F Isaac Okoro
  • C Jarrett Allen

Or… or… or we could even pit each of these squads against each other in a mini-tournament to see who earns the right to go to the Olympics and win gold. Let’s make it a simple four team tournament so no one has an advantage with a bye. That would make the remaining teams for this year hypothetically something like:

Timberwolves 3×3

  • G Deangelo Russell
  • G Malik Beasley
  • G/F Anthony Edwards
  • C Naz Reid

Rockets 3×3

  • G Armoni Brooks
  • G/F Kevin Porter Jr.
  • F Jae’Sean Tate
  • C Christian Wood

Pistons 3×3

  • G Hamidou Diallo
  • G/F Josh Jackson
  • F Saddiq Bey
  • F/C Isiah Stewart

The NBA could televise this and make a ridiculous amount of money. There is no way that this tournament wouldn’t get better ratings than most of the early round playoff matchups with an Olympic berth on the line. What hoop junkie wouldn’t be excited to see how these young NBA stars translate to the 3×3 game?

Maybe some of their skills would translate well and some wouldn’t. Perhaps an overlooked NBA player would be a 3×3 star. I would have to think that more traditional centers might find a niche here that is rapidly fading from them in the NBA. I also think some of these tweener G/F or F/C guys might find their calling in a much more wide open 3×3 game. Finally, this would be just plain fun. Sadly, way too much fun to ever be a serious possibility. Though, just like the 5×5 team of almost a generation ago, Team USA 3×3 already needs a Redeem Team.