We introduced our mock 3x3 tournament idea yesterday, which will coincide with SB Nation - NBA's network-wide 3 on 3 theme day coming tomorrow.
Today we introduce the five Western Conference squads and ask for your input on the top team.
Los Angeles Lakers/Sparks
- Kobe Bryant, 6'6", G, Los Angeles Lakers
- Steve Nash, 6'3", G, Los Angeles Lakers
- Candace Parker, 6'4", F, Los Angeles Sparks
- Kristi Tolliver, 5'7", G, Los Angeles Sparks
This selection was a bit difficult on both sides as Bryant and Parker were obvious choices.
Kobe is arguably (the usage of "arguably" is debatable) the best player of his generation and Lady CP3 is a matchup problem as she could seamlessly slide position-to-position everywhere on the floor and have success.
Nash's shooting ability, vision and overall creativity is too difficult to pass up in a 3-on-3 setting - the things he does in a regulation 5-on-5 setting dazzle even the greatest basketball minds, so picture him with 4 less players on the floor. Tolliver is having an outstanding WNBA season and when you watch her play, you can't help but see what she brings to a competition like this. She is fearless and finishes at the basket, shoots with ease, and has the flair and confidence to make up for what liability she brings defensively.
The size and versatility of Ogwumike, as well as the defensive prowess and length of Ebanks were hard to pass up; but all-in-all I think this team works out just fine. While Dwight Howard brings a lot, his deficiencies as a true back to the basket post player with limited shooting range outweighed the value of going with Nash.
Honorable Mention: Devin Ebanks, Dwight Howard & Nneka Ogwumike
- Seimone Augustus, 6'0", G, Minnesota Lynx
- Andrei Kirilenko, 6'9", F, Minnesota Timberwolves
- Kevin Love, 6'10", F, Minnesota Timberwolves
- Lindsay Whalen, 5'9", G, Minnesota Lynx
This wasn't the easiest team to put together and probably looks more like 4/5 of a mixed starting five than a 3 on 3 squad.
But what makes this team effective is similar to what makes the Lynx effective: every one of these players is more well-rounded than they're often given credit for, all can hit the three, all can create baskets for themselves or score efficiently playing off others, and they've got pretty much all the bases covered for a successful tournament.
There were two locks for this team as far as I'm concerned. Love was pretty much a lock for this team as a player who was arguably worthy of MVP consideration this season as a top 5 rebounder and scorer, a 37.2% 3-point shooter, and probably a better defensive presence than he's given credit for - this team revolves around Love, who will have advantages against almost any player who's guarding him or be able to draw out bigger post players to open up the court.
Augustus is a simply outstanding one on one scorer and probably doesn't need a whole lot of help in getting herself baskets when there's plenty of space and less help in 3 on 3 basketball. Those two alone are an amazing duo to begin with.
The question was which of the other players to pick and two big names are clearly missing: Maya Moore and Ricky Rubio. Augustus and Whalen's ability to create baskets for themselves - and in Whalen's case, others - gave them an edge over Moore, though clearly all three Lynx players are worthy. In most cases, Whalen can outrebound opposing guards in addition to shooting 46.7% from the 3-point range this season, both of which make make her a huge asset in this setting.
It's really tempting to put Ricky Rubio on this team (and perhaps add Moore to replace Whalen as well), but Love is so effective as a post-up threat that shooters are probably more valuable and size and versatility can also be valuable in 3 on 3 play. At 6'9", Kirilenko brings that versatility as a player who can score in a number of ways and pass while also potentially frustrating smaller players inside. We don't have recent NBA statistics to know exactly how good he is at this point in his career, but there's reason to believe he will still be an above average wing and he gives this particular squad some options in trying to match up with other teams.
Honorable mention: Maya Moore, Ricky Rubio
- Wesley Johnson, 6'7", G, Phoenix Suns
- Markieff Morris, 6'10", F, Phoenix Suns
- Diana Taurasi, 6'0", G/F, Phoenix Mercury
- Penny Taylor, 6'1", F, Phoenix Mercury
In a role reversal, the new look Phoenix Suns left the selection of the WNBA players more obvious than their male counterparts.
On a Mercury team that has quite a few options, it was more than easy to choose the combination of Taurasi/Taylor. Having played together since the Cleveland Rockers of the W ceased operations in 2003, the two have a great chemistry on and off the court.
Differentiating between the players on the Suns, I made choices that may not be the first on the minds of many. Johnson struggled to find his way with the Timberwolves but is hoping for resurgence with the Suns. This is a player that I have watched and been a fan of since he became a Syracuse Orange in 2009. Johnson has improved his jumpshot as well as his defensive instincts. He flourished at ‘Cuse with his ability to put the ball on the floor, which is perfect in this atmosphere.
Morris on the other hand, gives you size and shooting ability. At 6'10", Morris shot 35% from three last year and will give the team the option of switching screens as he has shown discipline moving his feet on the perimeter.
Honorable Mention: Michael Beasley & DeWanna Bonner
San Antonio Silver Stars/Spurs
- Tim Duncan, 6'11", F/C, San Antonio Spurs
- Manu Ginobili, 6'5", G, San Antonio Spurs
- Becky Hammon, 5'6", G, San Antonio Silver Stars
- Sophia Young, 6'1", F, San Antonio Silver Stars
With the way the Spurs executed this season - particularly in Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals - they would seem to be a top contender in this tournament.
Duncan might not be the player he used to be, but he's still among the NBA's top rebounders and proved to be still effective in pick and rolls with either Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker due to his ability to roll or hit jumpers. But that leaves the question of whether Ginobili or Parker should be the other Spur on this team. Though arguments could easily be made either way, one reason for selecting Ginobili was ultimately that he was more efficient in isolation scenarios than Parker. Ginobili's 3-point shooting (41.3% in 2011-12) was also no small part of that decision as it makes him a bit of a more versatile threat in 3 on 3.
The other reason to select Ginobili is the presence of Hammon on the Silver Stars. While Hammon and Parker are very different point guards, a Duncan-Ginobili-Hammon combination would be difficult to guard in a mixed 3 on 3 setting and would probably more closely approximate the Spurs' uber-efficient Big Three than the alternative simply because of Hammon's ability to beat her defender and get to the rim. Then there's also her 48.8% 3-point shooting thus far this season, which is hard to ignore. All three of those players can pass, shoot, and have high basketball IQs, which are excellent attributes for a 3 on 3 team. Ginobili and Hammon are two of the craftiest players in their respective leagues and know how to finish or drive and kick to an open player.
The toughest part about picking this team was probably picking the other Silver Stars player with so many options that would probably work well in 3 on 3. Jia Perkins would add another ball handler and 3-point shooter, Danielle Robinson's speed would be tough for opponents to guard in so much space, and Shenise Johnson is the type of all-around player that one might see as ideal for this setting. But ultimately Young is the pick because she's a MVP candidate, has athleticism at the forward position that would help this team match up with any number of teams, and the fact that she excels at moving in space to find scoring opportunities.
Honorable mention: Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, Jia Perkins, Danielle Robinson, Shenise Johnson
by Jessica Lantz
- Kevin Durant, 6'9", F, Oklahoma City Thunder
- Glory Johnson, 6'3", F, Tulsa Shock
- Jennifer Lacy, 6'3", F, Tulsa Shock
- Russell Westbrook, 6'3", G, Oklahoma City Thunder
So who could go wrong with Kevin Durant and any three people? That was my first thought when putting together this team.
The man, the myth, the legend, also known as the Durantula, as known as the three-time NBA scoring champion, also known as nearly automatic from the line, also known as 2012 gold medalist, also known as Kid Clutch, also known as the dude who threw down 66 points at Rucker Park.
This guy is good at one-on-one basketball. You know it. I know it (even if his humble self won't tell you how great he is himself). Slam dunk for the 3x3 team.
The headliner? Piece of cake. But the rest was harder than it looks!
Teammate Russell Westbrook got my nod for Durant's male counterpart for the squad for a couple reasons despite there being a couple other quite worthy options in James Harden and Serge Ibaka. Westbrook also likes to play a little razzle dazzle in the one-on-one arena. Sometimes too much so for the 5-on-5 game if you listen to his critics. Westbrook and Durant have a great chemistry - a yin and yang that will allow one to pick up when the other is off, a sense of where the pass needs to be and when and an ability to spread the floor in preparation for penetration. Also, I hate the haters, so this is kind of a personal sticking out of my tongue to you folks.
I went a little non-traditional with my female roster spots. Some might say, "Why GloJo? She's not going to be able to drive like that if a guy picks her up on D." Well, what if a guy doesn't pick her up on D? She's a well-rounded crazy athletic shot creator who plays some dang good defense for Klopp's squad. She's averaging 11.8 points on 47.6% shooting, 6.9 rebounds and 2.3 steals a night in her rookie campaign. So in the words of Russy, don't ask "Why", ask "Whynottt"!
And kind of like the aforementioned Captain D, Jen Lacy just quietly does her job, which happens to be making a few threes. She's shooting 43% from downtown (32-of-75 in 15 games) to lead the Shock. Couple her outside option with Durant's 37% shooting percentage from beyond the arc and the perimeter looks OK. And coupled with the ability of Russy, Glory and KD to drive at any time, the penetration game looks OK. And just like the state license plates used to say, "Oklahoma is OK". More than OK - this Thunderific team will Shock your socks off and leave you saying, "Where'd he go?? ... Where'd who go??!" all the way to a cool 21 points.
Honorable mention: James Harden, Serge Ibaka
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So, if we were to set up a round robin pool with these five western 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. After you're done here, go check out the Eastern Conference squads and vote there too.