PUBLISHED June 22, 2018 | News
The BIG3 is back for another summer of action, with the same eight teams prepared to duke it out with expanded and shuffled rosters. Most teams retained their coaches and captains, though Nancy Lieberman took over as head coach of Power for new league commissioner Clyde Drexler. The undefeated Trilogy will bring back their entire squad, but most teams have had a fair amount of turnover with their new six-man roster. Will any of these changes be enough to challenge the powerhouse defending champions? Will the move to Friday evenings increase the level of competitiveness, or will four-point shooters wilt under the (NBA arena only) Friday night lights? And will the combination of Stephen Jackson and Charles Oakley lead to the first double technicals for fighting between teammates in BIG3 history? Our 2018 BIG3 Preview will answer all those questions and more.
(Teams ranked in order of last year’s standings)
Trilogy (2017 Champions, 8-0)
Rick Mahorn’s team swept through the season and most of the awards. Mahorn was the best coach, Kenyon Martin was the top player captain (the BIG3’s Executive of the Year award), James “Flight” White was Defensive Player of the year, and Al Harrington was the first Too Hard To Guard winner in basketball at any level. A squad with the inside presence of K-Mart, the athleticism and defense of White, the clutch shot-making and height of Harrington, and the youth of Rashad McCants (only 33 years old!) didn’t need much on the court. So they added Dahntay Jones to agitate opponents from the bench, who once lost 99 percent of his yearly salary to fines.
Trilogy probably won’t be quite as dominant this year, as the other teams have gotten stronger and Martin always misses 20 percent of every season he plays. Plus Al Harrington is now a marijuana mogul, so his hunger to repeat as champions may be replaced by regular hunger. We are predicting a slight decline to 6-2 for Trilogy – rival teams got significantly better – and a return to the championship game. After all, McCants wore a Rashad McCants North Carolina jersey to the BIG3 Combine, and that’s the kind of swag that you need to win back-to-back titles.
3-Headed Monsters (2017 Runner-Up, 6-2)
League MVP Rashard Lewis led his team to a 6-2 record and a spot in the title game against Trilogy. Lewis was virtually unguardable due to his wingspan and his opponents’ difficulty in jumping, and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf became a key part of the team, even at age 48. He’s been promoted to co-captain this year, along with rebound leader Reggie Evans. With Lewis, Evans, and Kwame Brown, the team has plenty of size, but Salim “Damon’s Cousin” Stoudamire and former Polish League MVP Qyntel Woods might not provide the necessary ball-handling off the bench.
It’s hard to see this team going 6-2 again, because the 3-Headed Monsters only go 3-deep. Original co-captain Damien Wilkins, a man who was in the NBA this season, would have really helped, but he took a job with the Players’ Association, leaving a talent void. It’s possible they could return to the final, but they’re only beating Trilogy if some dastardly aliens steal their talent. 3-Headed Monstars would go undefeated; the 3-Headed Monsters are looking more like a 5-3 team.
Power only went 4-4 last summer, but they’re getting team captain Corey Maggette back, who got injured in the opening game and missed the whole season. They’re also getting Glen “Big Baby” Davis as a third co-captain. Davis made headlines this year when he was arrested with a quarter pound of weed and a briefcase containing 92 grand. Then he followed it up with an arrest for felony assault. Luckily, you can’t foul out of the BIG3, but Big Baby is in danger of not being allowed to leave the state. Nancy Lieberman may need to make a roster move.
The Power additions are all crafty veterans: Ryan Gomes gets rebounds and play defense, Quentin Richardson is a former three-point champ, and Chris “Birdman” Andersen is a quality big who can contribute as long as a dunk contest doesn’t break out. The team has a ton of experience, playing a combined 70 NBA seasons among them, although that’s also a polite way of calling them old. Good thing the BIG3 allows hand checking. It’s going to come down to whether Mobley’s shots go in and if Maggette can get to the line like he did in the league, but if they lose Big Baby to the big house, it could get ugly. 2-6 ugly.
Ghost Ballers (4-4)
The former diminutive point guard now looks like he spent the time since last season pulling tractors outside Mark McGwire’s house, and now he’s ready to play center, or possibly middle linebacker in the BIG3. He also may be planning to infiltrate Dominic Toretto’s gang, so league officials should pay attention any truck robberies or unexplained nitrous purchases.
Bibby is jacked, and Ricky Davis will again be jacking up shots, but Ghost Ballers added All-Star power forward Carlos Boozer, who is at the perfect age, perfect level of fame, and perfect washedness for the BIG3. Dare I say, he is the platonic ideal of a BIG baller. They also added BIG3 vets Marcus Banks and Lee Nailon, who were perfectly serviceable last year. The roster is guard-heavy, but who cares about size when your point guard can bench press any frontcourt in the league? As long as Swole Bibby hasn’t ruined his shooting stroke with all the extra muscle, they should improve on their 4-4 record, simply out of intimidation.
3’s Company (3-5)
This is the most dramatically different team in the league. They lost the league’s most compelling figure, Allen Iverson, who went from player-coach to just-coach to no-show in 2017. But they replaced him with a man who might be the most compelling figure in this year’s BIG3, Baron Davis. Davis had a career cut short by injuries, but on any given night he could look like the best player in the league – dynamic, creative, competitive, and especially great in big games. With an abbreviated schedule and a half-court game, his knees are much more likely to hold up. Plus he’s dating Laura Dern, who could become the Rihanna of the BIG3.
The rest of the roster is solid. You may not have heard of Derrick Byars, but he was one of the best players last year, and Drew Gooden has been destined for the BIG3 his whole life. Watch out for the beard battle when he goes up against Reggie Evans. And 3’s Company again drafted the most impressive “unknown” guy from the combine, adding Andre Emmett. That’s a lot of size, athleticism, ball-handling, and most important, hunger. Davis’ knees robbed him of years in the NBA, and a car accident derailed Dermarr Johnson. It’s a team of guys with something to prove, led by a member of the 2007 Golden State Warriors, which also describes last year’s champions. Could this be the We Believe 3’s Company team we’ve been waiting for?
Prediction: 5-3, loss in the Finals
Tri State (3-5)
Tri State was a decent team with a boring style, which makes sense because their two stars, Blazer Buddies Bonzi Wells and Jermaine O’Neal, peaked in 2004, the nadir of the pre-D’Antoni Era NBA. But this year they’re joined by Amar’e Stoudemire and Nate Robinson, two ridiculously fun players to watch who still have superb athletic gifts. And it’s hard not to get the sense that Nate Robinson gives 100 percent effort in every contest, whether it’s basketball or golf or Settlers of Catan. They also drafted combine standouts Robert Hite and David Hawkins, which to us says Bonzi isn’t going to play a lot of minutes. Other reasons to believe this include:
- He’s wearing a baseball cap like a dad in his official league photo.
- He was originally a co-captain, medically retired from the position, and got drafted by his old team anyway.
- A player yelled “It only matters who you used to smoke with!” after he was drafted, insinuating that Bonzi and Jermaine O’Neal, two men in their early twenties living in Portland, Oregon, might have occasionally shared a jazz cigarette.
It’s not clear they’ll be markedly better, though we expect Nate Rob to be great. He got his jersey retired at Summer League! There are no meaningless games for him. But they’ll be infinitely more watchable, a threat to beat anyone on a given night, and 3-5 again.
Killer 3’s (2-6)
The extra captain spot has made such a difference in the overall talent of the league, but Killer 3’s are benefiting most from getting one of their own captains back. Chauncey Billups missed half the season while the Cleveland Cavaliers were courting him for the GM job – only to lowball their offer, botch their Kyrie Irving deal, and get swept out of the Finals. Now Mr. Big Shot is back to join Stephen Jackson for a full year – along with Malice in the Palace cohort Metta World Peace. They added Alan Anderson in the draft, who like Metta was in the NBA only a year ago. They also have Ryan Hollins, possibly drafted so he can carpool with Billups and Stack Jack to work at ESPN.
The four guys are complementary players. Everyone can shoot, everyone can defend, with Jackson and World Peace strong enough to check bigs. But they’re also incendiary players, especially when you throw in Coach Charles Oakley. Someone is getting in a fight. Killer 3’s feel like a team that will lose close games and win in blowouts, pick up three-pointers and technical fouls at will, and miss the playoffs due to some arcane tiebreaker they missed because of letting Jermaine O’Neal get an uncontested layup. 5-3, three shoving matches, one player ejection, one coach ejection, no postseason.
Ball Hogs (2-6)
Best name-logo combination in the league, worst top-end talent. No offense to the legendary White Mamba, Brian Scalabrine, but when your team captain could be convincingly played by Michael Rapaport in a movie, there’s a ceiling to how good the team can be. DeShawn Stevenson and Josh Childress are young by BIG3 standards – one is an NBA champion with a personal tattoo artist, the other was amnestied from his last NBA team six years ago. They do have 2017 BIG3 standout Andre Owens and hyper-athlete Jermaine Taylor, but it just doesn’t feel like enough to go up against former NBA All-Stars. Even if, as Coach Rick Barry urges, they just tried shooting their free throws underhand for once. No one is going winless, but the Ball Hogs could be 1-7.