NBA 3-on-3 basketball: Does Kawhi Leonard make more sense than Tony Parker?


Mar. 27, 2012; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan (left), guard Manu Ginobili (center) and guard Tony Parker prior to the game against the Phoenix Suns at the US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

While the Olympics are currently in the primordial stages, they are intent on adding more basketball events as early as the 2016 Olympics in Rio De Janeiro with a 3-on-3 tournament emerging as a real possibility.

That is an idea that is exciting in itself and the excellent staff at SB Nation have taken a different spin on the (completely hypothetical) scenario of a NBA 3-on-3 tournament.

Each NBA blog has been tasked with finding three players that are the most cohesive, talented and ideally have the optimal skills to succeed in a half-court style 3-on-3 tournament (with a 12 second shot clock that should increase the pace dramatically.)

The guys at Pounding the Rock chose the triumverate of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker which is certainly the best possible grouping of Spurs. They have two elite shot creators and a guy that can score reliably from the post, even at this stage of his career, and knock down open mid-range shots. Certainly no complaints here.

Here’s CapHill defending the selection:

“Did we pick the old and decrepit Big Three as our team? You bet we did. Despite their collective age, the     experience of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili would translate easily to the half-court sets of     the 3-on-3 game, especially on offense. Tim’s ability to hit the mid-range jumper would open up the     defense under the basket, allowing Tony a free lane to the hoop. If the oppenents’ defense briefly stifles the     Wee Frenchman’s forays into the paint, Tony would only have to dish the ball to Manu, who could nail the     3-pointer via his patented Euro-step or drive the lane with one of his typical whirling dervish finishes at the     hoop.

If none of the these options work, these Spurs could always revert to 4-Down. Timmeh may be slower, but     he still has some of the best post footwork in the NBA, and without a big help defender, he would simply     take over this slower-paced game. No other threesome in the NBA has the corporate knowledge of each     others’ skills like these three.”

Yet, as some people have noted in the comments, Kawhi Leonard may be an even better fit than Parker despite not being as offensively gifted. This is interesting because A) he’s only 21 and B) his offensive repertoire has yet to be fully actualized.

The benefits of a Ginobili-Leonard-Duncan pairing are likely to manifest in the extra floor spacing, better defensive proficiency and the ability for Ginobili to operate primarily in the pick-and-roll, where he is slightly more deadly than as a glorified spot-up option.

He excels in both facets but once you give him primary responsibility as the ball handler, along with the deft Duncan rolling, his efficiency jumps off the charts. Even though Parker is quicker, Ginobili remains the most potent option in the pick-and-roll game because he has no negligible holes.

Leonard would serve as an ideal partner in this instance; as the Ginobili screen game garners the majority of the defenses attention, Leonard will be able to cut towards the rim without any resistance. Plus, the defensive boost the Spurs receive will help cover perimeter oriented teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets.

Parker’s offensive ability is a tad redundant with Ginobili on the floor and his defense will be a liability against teams that can attack with a combination of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook or LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. (Denver’s trio of Wilson Chandler, Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari are also very interesting.) At the very least, Leonard would shave off some much needed points.

But this is just nitpicking, here.

Besides, what Spurs fan wouldn’t want to see The (Original) Big Three participate in a league wide 3-on-3 tournament?