NBA Best 3-on-3 Lineups

There’s still one week remaining until the NBA season starts–but the NHL is under way as of last week. If there’s one advantage that the NHL has over the NBA in general, it’s their ridiculously entertaining overtime rules.

For those who may not know, as of the 2015-16 NHL season, overtime is a five-minute, sudden death period of 3-on-3 hockey. As if the sudden death aspect of overtime hockey wasn’t great enough, this newly implemented rule increases the chance of a game-ending goal by opening up more space on the ice.

The NBA really doesn’t have the option to implement a sudden death-style rule, but they do have the ability to experiment with a 3-on-3 overtime if they wanted to. Sure, it’s unrealistic (the players would be gassed, for one thing)–but it would be a lot of fun for the fans.

Here’s each teams ideal 3-man roster:

Atlanta Hawks

This is less clear cut for the Hawks than a lot of other teams. I think it’s Dennis Schroder, Paul Millsap, and Dwight Howard, but you would have to experiment with going smaller–dropping Howard and including Bazemore, Korver, or Sefolosha.

Boston Celtics

There’s a LOT of lineups the Celtics could play with, but in the interest of not over-thinking, the obvious answer is Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, and Al Horford. You get a little size, a little speed, and a lot of scoring, and defense.

Brooklyn Nets

Jeremy Lin and Brook Lopez are obvious, but the third player is a harder choice. There’s a couple guys who could fit. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could be a nice experiment, but Randy Foye or Bojan Bogdanovic may be the safer choices.

Charlotte Hornets

I think Kemba Walker, Nicolas Batum, and Marvin Williams would be a fun lineup. Swap Williams for Cody Zeller to play against a bigger lineup. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was tempting here instead over Batum, but this unit is already defensively sound and Batum is much more polished on offense.

Chicago Bulls

The Bulls best 3-man lineup would really come down to who they are matching up against. Assuming the other team has a center or power forward in the lineup, the Bulls would want some combination of either Rajon Rondo or Dwayne Wade, Jimmy Butler, and Robin Lopez. If there’s no true big man on the other team, Nikola Mirotic could replace Lopez.

Cleveland Cavaliers

The easy answer is Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, and Kevin Love, but you run the risk of getting killed on the boards by bigger teams. In this case, Tristan Thompson for Love could alleviate this problem, though you would lose some spacing.

Dallas Mavericks

This is a tough one because the Mavericks have a lot of solid players, but not a lot of standouts. Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes are a given. The third player would likely be Deron Williams–though you could try Wesley Matthews and leave the ball handling to him and Barnes. I think Barnes and Dirk would compliment each other nicely though in the 3-on-3 setting.

Denver Nuggets

I would start by throwing out Emmanuel Mudiay, Danilo Gallinari, and Nikola Jokic. This lineup could honestly hang with a lot of the best 3-man lineups in the league. It’s any other combination of three players on the team when the Nuggets would run in to some problems…

Detroit Pistons

The Pistons would have so much flexibility here on who they could use as the third player to go along with Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. Tobias Harris is probably the best player to fit in here, but Marcus Morris is a tempting choice as well. Additionally, someone like Stanley Johnson could leave the paint wide open for Drummond to go to work.

Golden State Warriors

This is debatably the most sure thing among all of these lineups. If you choose anything other than Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green then you are overthinking it.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets are another interesting and flexible one–it’s really all about finding the best complimentary players for James Harden. I would probably start with Trevor Ariza and Clint Capela, but you could also go small with Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson, or go big with Anderson and Capela.

Indiana Pacers

I’m personally intrigued by a Jeff Teague, Paul George, and Thaddeous Young lineup. I really like Young, but I think he’s probably the odd-man out for the Pacers 3-man roster. Myles Turner feels like the better choice, as a true center.

Los Angeles Clippers

Wow, the Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan lineup would be so much fun to watch. Honestly, I think they would have the upper hand on Cleveland and Golden State matchup-wise…although Durant and LeBron would be give Griffin fits on the defensive end of the court.

Los Angeles Lakers

A tough one, but the Lakers best choice would definitely involve DeAngelo Russel and Julius Randle. The third player could be be Jordan Clarkson, if they wanted to go smaller, or Luol Deng if they wanted to go bigger. Depending on his level of play, Brandon Ingram could slot in here nicely as well.

Memphis Grizzlies

I think the only definite for the Grizzlies is Mike Conley. Marc Gasol would probably be the next choice, but in a 3-on-3 situation I might prefer to have JaMychal Green here instead. That leaves Chandler Parsons as probably the third man in the lineup.

Miami Heat

The Heat could do some tinkering, but their best lineup is Goran Dragic, Justice Winslow, and Hassan Whiteside. You get a little bit of everything here–offense from Dragic and Whiteside, and defense from Winslow (and to some extent, Whiteside).

Milwaukee Bucks

A long team like the Bucks would simply gobble up the extra space on the floor in 3-on-3. I would love to see a tall ball lineup from them with Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jabari Parker, and one of either Thon Maker or Greg Monroe.

Minnesota Timberwolves

The easiest place to start is Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins, and Karl-Anthony Towns. While Wiggins and Towns are basically locks, you could experiment with your PG here by dropping either Ricky Rubio or Kris Dunn in place of LaVine.

New Orleans Pelicans

I’m putting all of my eggs in the Buddy Hield basket and saying this lineup would be Buddy, Jrue Holiday, and Anthony Davis. If Buddy doesn’t pan out like the Pelican’s are expecting, Tyreke Evans or E’Twaun Moore would fit in nicely as well.

New York Knicks

Another one that you just can’t overthink. It has to be Derrick Rose, Carmelo Anthony, and Kristaps Porzingis. For an injection of size and defense, of course, you could sub the Zinger for Joakim Noah.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The lineup of Russell Westbrook, Victor Oladipo, and Steven Adams would be a lot of fun to watch. They don’t necessarily have the raw talent to match up with some of the more elite 3-man lineups, but they certainly have the intensity and the motor for it.

Orlando Magic

The Magic could experiment with a number of different lineups using almost any one of their five starters. I would start with Elfrid Payton, Evan Fournier, and Serge Ibaka. It seems almost criminal though not to experiment with Aaron Gordon in place of either of the two guards, and Nikola Vucevic in place of Serge Ibaka. Maybe they should just go mega-tall-bully ball with Gordon, Ibaka and Vucevic.

Philadephia 76ers

Speaking of mega-tall-bully ball, the 76ers best realistic lineup is SOME combination of Ben Simmons, most likely paired with Dario Saric, and any one of Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Joel Embiid (based on The Process’ preseason showings, he would get my vote here).

Phoenix Suns

I would say that Devon Booker is the only sure thing for the Suns three man lineup. Next would be one of either Eric Bledsoe or Brandon Knight. For a big man, you would have your choice of Alex Len for a defensive emphasis, or Tyson Chandler for some help on the other end.

Portland Trail Blazers

The two obvious ones here are Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. You have your pick of a big man from the Blazers roster, but I would probably start with Meyers Leonard to see what this roster could look like with so much floor spacing. Mason Plumlee would be a better choice for a more traditional setup, however.

Sacramento Kings

I believe the Kings would go with Darren Collison as the primary ball-handler and, of course, DeMarcus Cousins. The third player is up for debate, though I think Rudy Gay would be the best option. You could also make an argument for any one of Arron Afflalo, Ben McLemore, or Matt Barnes.

San Antonio Spurs

The lineup would almost definitely be Tony Parker, Kahwi Leonard, and LaMarcus Aldridge. I’m almost tempted to put Patty Mills in place of Tony Parker though, for the space he would provide for Leonard and Aldridge.

Toronto Raptors

This one is easy enough– Kyle Lowry, DeMar Derozan, and Jonas Valanciunas. They could play around with other options at center, like Jared Sullinger, Lucas Noguiera or even Jakob Poeltl depending on what style game they want to play.

Utah Jazz

The best choice would be George Hill, Gordon Hayward, and Rudy Gobert…but the Jazz would have to at least CONSIDER going extra big, dropping Hill for Boris Diaw or Derrick Favors.

Washington Wizards

For the Wizards, John Wall and Bradley Beal are the sure things in this situation. That leaves you probably choosing one out of Marcin Gortat or Markieff Morris. Personally, I would try out Ian Mahinmi and see what he can give you here.


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