A Mock NBA/WNBA Mixed 3 x 3 Tournament: Intro & The Eastern Conference Field

The SB Nation NBA team is going to continue its weekly theme days this week with each team's site selecting a three on three team, inspired by FIBA's interest in adding 3 x 3 competition.

You'll see more on that across the SBN-NBA network this week, but in addition to its first-ever three on three competition - which Jessica Lantz briefly summarized earlier today - FIBA also made history this past week wit its first ever mixed 3 x 3 competition. As such, while the SBN-NBA team does its hypothetical NBA 3x3 tournament, we're going to have a mock 3x3 mixed NBA/WNBA tournament over the course of the next few days, loosely based on the structure of the FIBA tournament.

With two players of each gender on each team and, accordingly at least one player of each gender on court at all times, the Eight-Final games provided the large and curious crowd with a spectacle of speed, clever play as well as great athleticism.

Here's what we're going to do:

  1. A group of us have already picked mixed 3x3 teams for each of the 10 cities with NBA and WNBA teams (including Oklahoma City and Tulsa).
  2. With five teams from each conference, we've split the teams into two fields by conference.
  3. Players eligible are any "current" WNBA players on the team's roster, including injured players like Phoenix Mercury forward Penny Taylor or players returning from the Olympics like Liz Cambage/Jenna O'Hea for the Sparks/Shock.
  4. As with the SBN-NBA network, we'll be using FIBA rules for this competition. Most significant for our competition, the 3-point line would be 22.1 feet, longer than the WNBA 3-point line of 20 feet, 6.25 inches but shorter than the NBA line of 23 feet, 9 inches.
  5. We'll post each conference's five teams with a poll asking people to vote for which team they think would win in a round-robin pool comprised of teams from each conference.
  6. On Wednesday - the network's official theme day - we'll post the top vote getter in the East against the top vote-getter in the West and put up a poll to vote for the champion.

Today, we'll start with our Eastern Conference pairings (with the author of each team's writeup in italics).

Atlanta Dream/Hawks

by dasharpshoota, thewiz06, Nate Parham

Three of us worked on this team together and two players were unanimous: Angel McCoughtry, one of the most dominant scorers in the WNBA and great at playing passing lanes, and Josh Smith, whose value was summarized nicely by SI's Zach Lowe around playoff time.

But after that, it got a bit murkier.

Two of us selected Harding as the other Dream player and she's arguably a top five point guard in the WNBA this season, though her speed in transition will be negated by the halfcourt setting. Two of us also looked for a shooter and rookie John Jenkins - the only member of the 2012 NBA Draft class in this field - gets the nod. You could argue that Anthony Morrow should be the choice as the more experienced shooter, but Jenkins put up some very impressive numbers as a college 3-point shooter, shooting 43.9% on 8.7 attempts per game, and is great moving without the ball and setting up for spot ups, which is what this team needs given the other players selected (and available).

Honorable mention: Al Horford, Sancho Lyttle, Anthony Morrow

Chicago Bulls/Sky

  • Shay Murphy, 5'11", F, Chicago Sky
  • Joakim Noah, 6'11", C, Chicago Bulls
  • Epiphanny Prince, 5'9", G, Chicago Sky
  • Derrick Rose, 6'3", G, Chicago Bulls

With the two best players on the respective Chicago rosters - Prince and Rose - being outstanding one-on-one players, the question was simply who to put around them. And Noah makes for a great fit.

Trying to contain Prince or Rose is difficult even in a 5 x 5 setting with less space and plenty of help defense. Adding a player like Noah, among the NBA's top offensive rebounders by percentage for the last four years straight, makes this unit extremely difficult to stop. When Noah isn't crashing the boards, the fact that does such a good job when he, "plays off his talented teammates — moving without the ball, creating passing lanes, and finishing strong on dish-offs and putbacks", as Sebastian Pruiti of Grantland wrote back in March makes him an extremely valuable post player in a 3 x 3 setting.

The toughest part of picking this team was the second Sky player - both Prince and Rose can handle the ball and score in bunches while Noah has the boards under control. Murphy was the fourth choice here because she's shooting 45.5% from three this season and that means that no matter who she comes on the court for, the Team Chicago would be able to spread the floor and to keep driving and passing lanes open. And that speaks to what really makes this team standout - in addition to having two of the most dominant one on one players in professional basketball today, this is one of very few teams where almost any combination of players could compete, offensively at least, and find a scoring advantage. They'd be tough to beat.

Honorable mention: Luol Deng, Taj Gibson

Indiana Fever/Pacers

The Indiana Fever selections were pretty easy for this one because their top two players make for a pretty solid 3 on 3 duo.

Catchings is the reigning WNBA MVP, a perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidate who will guard almost anyone on the floor her team needs, and arguably the most versatile player in the league. Douglas is one of the top 3-point shooters in the WNBA, currently shooting 42.6% which is above her career average.

The Pacers were maybe a bit harder to choose. This past year, center Roy Hibbert was their first All-Star selection since forward Danny Granger's selection in 2009 yet neither of them necessarily seemed like the best the 3 on 3 players. Instead, the player who really stood out as a great fit for 3 on 3 play was David West, whose ability to shoot out of pick and roll/pop situations was dangerous against the Miami Heat in this year's NBA playoffs, for reasons described by Pruiti.

That meant the final Pacers player on this team had to be a guard in order to run that pick and roll successfully. I consulted with Tom Lewis of SB Nation's Pacers site Indy Cornrows and he suggested George Hill, a local product who was born and raised in Indianapolis, happens to share a personal trainer with Catchings and already knows Catchings quite well, which could be the foundation for some chemistry. There was some debate among Pacers fans about Hill's move into the starting lineup for the end of the Pacers' 2011-12 season, but Hill was pretty productive as their starting guard, as Lewis mentioned at the time the switch was announced, and can run that pick and roll with West in addition to being a solid defender. That does leave this team without what most people would call a "pure point guard", but Catchings, Douglas, and (obviously) Hill can all handle the ball reasonably well and that actually sets them apart.

Honorable mention: DJ Augustin, Danny Granger

New York Knicks/Liberty

by DaSharpShoota Carmelo Anthony-NBA

  • Carmelo Anthony, 6'8", F, New York Knicks
  • Alex Montgomery, 6'1", G, WNBA
  • Cappie Pondexter, 5'9", G, WNBA
  • Iman Shumpert, 6'5", G, NBA

Pondexter and ‘Melo are two of the best one-on-one scorers in the world. Both are deadly off the dribble, can hit the mid-range pull-up jumper, and consistently put in the dagger three. As great as they are offensively, neither is known for their defense, which leads to the reasoning for the remaining two spots.

Enter Iman Shumpert and Alex Montgomery, both athletic and great individual defenders. Montgomery is a consistent three point shooter and has no problem putting the ball on the floor while Shumpert is one of the better young guards in the league at beating his man and creating opportunities near the rim. In a situation similar to the Phoenix Mercury's duo (to be described later), Shump and Montgomery are also best friends off the court. They know each other well and have teamed up to put quite a few teams to shame during their time in Atlanta as Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech.

Honorable Mention: JR Smith & Plenette Pierson

Washington Mystics/Wizards

by thewiz06

  • Monique Currie, 6'0", F, Washington Mystics
  • Crystal Langhorne, 6'2", F, Washington Mystics
  • Nenê, 6'11", C, Washington Wizards
  • John Wall, 6'4", G, Washington Wizards

As the star of the Washington Wizards, in many ways, John Wall is here by default. Still, in just two NBA seasons, Wall has already proven to be one of the top playmakers in the NBA, and that's considering that for most of those two years, he didn't even have much help. Mike Prada of SB Nation's Wizards site Bullets Forever recently finished a season-long "missed assist tracker" project to show how many potential assists Wall lost because of his teammates missing shots.

Wall makes his money driving to the hoop and drawing fouls which will help compensate for his lack of a far range pull up or a three point shot (under 10% last season), which is obviously something that other elite guards like Sue Bird (for purposes of a WNBA blog) has and she can take and make NBA threes just fine. Lastly, on defense, while Wall can definitely steal the ball very easily given his long wingspan, he is also a good rebounder and shot blocker for his position so he will be a multi-positional player in the mixed 3x3 game.

Nenê is a great pick and roll player on both offense and defense and should open up those driving lanes for Wall and Currie who are the perimeter players for this team. He can also stretch the floor with his mid range shot which is better than I originally expected when I saw him play here on a regular basis. In addition, Nenê is also a great passer for his position and won't hesitate to kick it out to players for a shot or an open layup. (Truth About It has more on his game)

Langhorne is arguably one of the best post players on offense in the WNBA, and knows how to get buckets in the post, often in unconventional ways with her elite footwork. The one problem I see with Lang on this team is that she is a true post player, and is slightly undersized at her natural PF position for the WNBA, but most NBA guards who are taller than her don't have the footwork in the post like she will so this may not be as big of a problem. In addition, Langhorne also has a good midrange shot up to that 20 foot range, and this can further compensate for her lack of height as a post player.

Currie is the Mystics' best all-around perimeter/wing player. She is a decent scorer, and like Wall, she knows how to make her money by getting to the line, and with Nene, Lang, and/or even Wall setting screens for her to drive to the rack. Mo isn't the best three point shooter in the world by any means, but she can get in a rhythm very quickly and she'll have to on this team.

(Click here for more from thewiz06 about this team, including an analysis of its strengths and weaknesses.)

- - -

So, if we were to set up a round robin pool with these five Eastern Conference teams, who do you think would win?

Vote in the poll below and leave your thoughts in the comments in addition to challenging any (or all) of our roster choices. And while you're in the voting mood, check out the Western Conference squads and vote their too.

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