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Three-on-Three Basketball and the Tar Heels

With all of the talk around 3-on-3 basketball lately, what kind of team could the Tar Heels put together?

2013 Australian Youth Olympic Festival - Day 2 Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

For many sports fans, we have hit the doldrums of summer. With the conclusion of the NBA and Stanley Cup Finals, many fans have already started counting down the days until football season begins. However, this summer, there seems to be a new wave of excitement around 3-on-3 basketball that might help shake people out of these doldrums.

In recent weeks the game of 3-on-3 has been front and center on sports pages, Ice Cube’s Big 3 League held their first ever draft and will soon cut the ribbon on their inaugural season. (Note: If you didn’t know, Rashad McCants was the #1 overall draft pick in the Big 3 Draft.) Also, the International Olympic Committee recently announced that 3-on-3 basketball would be an official Olympic event starting in Tokyo with the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Here are some rules and a video to give you an idea of what 3-on-3 will look like in the 2020 Olympics:

The game of 3-on-3 basketball is one in which many of us grew up playing, or possibly are still playing to this day. I can remember vividly playing 1-on-1, 2-on-2, or 3-on-3 nearly every single day as a kid in my driveway. I also played way too much 3-on-3 basketball on the Hinton James courts with my UNC suite mates, which may have been one of the reasons it took longer for me to graduate. Even to this day, when it is not as easy to get up and down in a full-court game, I like to get in a 3-on-3 game every now and then.

With the 2020 Olympic games still three years away, there are decisions to be made as to who will represent Team USA and how that will be determined, and whether or not NBA players will be allowed to participate or not. For the time being, while we wait until 2020, it is fun to put together various “dream team” lineups for Team USA.

Along with other sports writers across the country, I have decided to put together a 3-on-3 line-up of current Tar Heels that I think could compete with some of the best teams across the United States and the World.

Player One - Joel Berry

Berry is a no-brainer and seems like the perfect fit for this type of event. He can create in open space and get to the basket, especially with the floor being so wide open. You could also run a lot of pick-and-roll sets with Berry, with the option to take a bigger player off the dribble or hit an open outside shot (depending upon whether the defender went over or under the screen). He is also a great defender and would do pretty well holding his own on an opponent’s primary ball-handler. Lastly, when going up against some of the best teams in the World and with a gold medal on the line, Berry is just a winner. He would sacrifice his body and do anything possible to win the game, and that is a quality that is hard to find in a lot of players.

Player Two - Theo Pinson

With Pinson, you are sacrificing a consistent outside shooter; however, he does so many other things that are needed for 3-on-3 that he shouldn’t be left out of the lineup. Like Berry, Pinson is able to get to the basket and score with his athleticism. If you needed some outside shots from Berry, he would be able to handle the ball and create opportunities or openings for Berry from the outside. Pinson rebounds extremely well and he can defend bigger players, which would be valuable in this format. Much like Berry, Pinson just seems to have “it”. In most situations, he knows that he doesn’t have to be the go-to guy and will do all of the other little things in order for his team to get the victory.

Player Three - Cameron Johnson

I debated this position because I think you could go in any number of directions with this spot in the lineup; however, I do think Johnson gives you more than other options at this spot and he compliments the other two players well. Before this off-season, Justin Jackson would have been perfect in this spot, but I don’t think there is too much of a drop off with Johnson. As I mentioned above, you lose some outside shooting with Pinson; however, Johnson makes up for that with his ability to hit an outside three. I would love to see him run those pick-and-rolls with Berry, as Johnson would be able to step back and knock it down from outside, if both players went with Berry or there was miscommunication on the switch. Also, Johnson would also give you a very effective rebounder to go along with Pinson. So, while he may hurt you defensively inside against bigger players, he would make up for it with his rebounding and ability to make outside shots.

Bench Player - Kenny Williams

Some people might choose to go with Luke Maye, Brandon Huffman, or Jalek Felton off the bench, but I chose Williams. In this type of game, Williams could come in off the bench to replace Pinson whenever you needed another shooter. By replacing Williams with Pinson, you would give yourself three 3-point shooters on the floor at the same time. Also, there wouldn’t be too much of a drop off defensively. Williams has shown the ability to defend on the perimeter very well; however, there would be a drop off in rebounding and he would have a tough time defending against taller opponents.

Not only does UNC have a men’s basketball team next year that has a realistic shot to repeat as National Champions, but if the NCAA were to sanction 3-on-3 basketball as an official sport, the Tar Heels would have a team capable of competing for a National Championship in that as well.

Summer is a great time to think of and experiment with putting together a UNC 3-on-3 team, especially with there being so many potential line-ups and combinations with next year’s team.

What 3-on-3 line-up of current Tar Heels would you put together if you were the coach?

What would an all-time UNC 3-on-3 team possibly look like? Could you imagine a team of Michael Jordan, Vince Carter, and Rasheed Wallace, or a team of Phil Ford, Hubert Davis, and Sam Perkins?

Let us know what your lineup combinations would look like in the comments below.