DOHA (Qatar) – It’s almost back. The FIBA 3x3 World Tour 2019 is just one month away and it’s time to do a temperature check on the hottest competition around.
With the Doha Masters starting on April 18, let’s try to answer some important questions to get you in the right mood for the 3x3 World Tour which will make the biggest comeback since Lil Wayne dropped Tha Carter V.
Will Novi Sad defend their crown?
Novi Sad were ridiculous in 2018. To recap, the Serbs won their third World Tour final in Beijing to finish the season with a 32-0 record. Read that again if you must.
They were on a revenge mission after the agonizing loss to Zemun in the 2017 finale and dominated like they were the 1992 Dream Team.
After achieving such heights, it looms as a difficult follow-up for Novi Sad who will have to play teams extra motivated in taking down the champs.
Still, the Serbs ooze with talent led by showman Dusan Bulut aka Mr Bulutproof, who is the best player in the game and no doubt has crafted some new moves from his bag of tricks. They remain the favorites and there is no reason to believe they can’t repeat as champions.
Just don’t expect them to go through undefeated again. Right?
Which team can be the first to knock off Novi Sad – if any?
Novi Sad could be vulnerable early. I emphasize, could. In Doha, they will be without the suspended Bulut and likely Tamas Ivosev due to injury. Without the deadly duo, Novi Sad could be exposed and rivals Liman are ready to take advantage.
Much like Novi Sad last year, Liman have a point to prove after a disappointing quarter-finals exit in Beijing to finish a spectacular World Tour on a sour note. It has left a bitter taste and they will be motivated to make a statement in Doha.
Having developed chemistry in China as part of preparing for the World Tour, a refreshed Liman is expected to start the season hotter than summer in Doha.
Expecting anyone other than Mr Bulutproof and Stefan Stojacic aka Mr Robot? Probably not. But let’s try to find someone new, shall we? If you’re looking for a dark horse, it might be time for a KLM take-off.
Karlis Lasmanis is arguably the most exciting player in 3x3 and his yams have made many unfortunate defenders become memes. The Riga Ghetto star’s ability to walk on air really should see him land a part in Space Jam 2.
However, he is much more than just a dunk machine. Lasmanis has range and can score from pretty much everywhere. Teaming up with his Robin (Nauris Miezis), Lasmanis has fueled Riga Ghetto to a world ranking of third and there is every chance he takes his game to heights even bigger than his hops.
But, if not, he’s certainly going to make the World Tour his own dunking party once again.
Who will be the best dunker?
3x3 dunk contests make the NBA All-Star Game dunk contest look like child’s play.
That’s because of professional rim shakers like reigning World Tour champ Vadim 'Miller' Poddubchenko and five-time winner Rafal 'Lipek' Lipinski.
They are set to have a battle off again this season but Lipek should be hungry to take back his crown. The Pole can do almost everything – 720s, 540s and 360s. You name it! He sometimes even plucks out a few spectators from the crowd and dunks over all of them!
It will be so much fun to see what new dunks Lipek has concocted.
Who will be the leading scorer?
As mentioned earlier, Mr Robot is always a safe bet as a scoring machine. However, with the champs weakened in Doha, the door is open for Dejan Majstorovic to take center stage. This dude can flat out score through his pretty stroke.
He’s a professional bucket getter and rises to the challenge when the game is on the line.
There is every likelihood he will star in Doha and a strong start to the season could kick-start a spectacular World Tour.
Last year, Mr Bulutproof melted down social media after his filthy moves appeared on ESPN. There is just no one on the planet who has his combination of sick handles, passing wizardry and clutch shooting.
You have to believe that Dusan Bulut will once again produce some type of implausible party trick that will be seen all over the world.
We know the US is basketball’s powerhouse but that dominance hasn’t extended to 3x3. The World Tour has been dominated by Eastern Europeans and, incredibly, no US team has ever won the World Tour!
It has been three years since a US team even won a Masters but perhaps 2019 will be different. There were glimpses of greatness last year from Princeton, who qualified for the Beijing finale through lethal shooting from snipers Craig Moore and Robbie Hummel.
They are 3x3’s Splash Brothers and ensure Princeton can score like Leo DiCaprio in a nightclub.
Princeton are currently ranked sixth in the world and are primed for a big season.
Who will win the rivalry between Dusan Bulut and Stefan Stojacic?
The top two players in the world dueled last year like peak Biggie and Tupac.
Fortunately, it was all civil but the rivalry is set to rekindle this season with Mr Robot aiming to take the crown and make up for a spectacular letdown in the quarter-finals in Beijing.
He had been at times last year ranked No.1 in the world but was overtaken by Bulut, who took home the Bloomage Final MVP to seal his spot as 3x3’s best player.
Much like the never ending Jordan-LeBron GOAT debate, there will be much argument over who is better between "Mr Bulutproof" and Mr Robot. With so much to prove after heartbreak in Beijing, the smart money is on Stejan Stojacic to have the cheat code and take his game to another level.
The #1 3x3 team in the world Liman 🇷🇸 will train and live in China 🇨🇳 for the next 18 months.
NY Harlem might be the most entertaining team in 3x3, mainly because of Dominique Jones aka "Disco Domo" who makes sorry defenders breakdance on the court. He averaged a ridiculous four highlights a game last season. No one sauces quite like Disco Domo.
If you are going to guard him, here’s a tip – get some health insurance because your ankles might need treatment afterwards.