One of the most commonly made mistakes in pro basketball is that a guy gets underrated because he is a “tweener.” Lemme tell ya’, it should never happen.
According to Wikipedia: A tweener in basketball is a term, sometimes used derisively, for a player who is able to play two positions, but is not ideally suited to play either position exclusively, so he/she is said to be in between. A tweener has a set of skills that do not match the traditional position of his physical stature.
When teams decide to stay away from a guy because he’s a “tweener,” they could be making a huge mistake. A large part of the problem, as I blogged weeks ago, is that there is really not much of a difference between shooting guards and small forwards. (I’d go further and argue that the line between a 3 and a 4 or a 4 and a 5 is really not that clear anymore, either. A point guard is a point guard, but, as to the other positions, it’s not clear where one ends and one begins.)
Consider Antawn Jamison. He was an absolute star in college, but, because he was perceived as a tweener, was drafted after Michael Olawakandi and Raef LaFrentz. How’d that work out?
On a related point, if the word “tweener” means anything, isn’t Michael Jordan a tweener? I mean, I don’t see why you couldn’t play him at 3 if you had a star 2, or couldn’t play him at 2 if you had a star 3. But look at the trouble the Blazers got themselves into by thinking too rigidly about the five positions on a basketball team.
Bobby Knight has a classic quote about his advice to NBA GMs about Michael Jordan (full article here):
One day during at an Olympic practice before the June NBA draft, Knight remembered standing next to an NBA team executive, whom he refuses to identify.
“I was standing next to my friend as we watched us practice and I said, ‘You’re luckier than anybody could be in basketball, you have a chance to get Jordan,’ ” Knight said. “He said, ‘Yeah, Bob, he’s great, but we need a big man.’ And I told him, ‘Play Jordan at center and he’ll lead the league in scoring. He’s that good.’ ”
Speaking of classic basketball quotes, I must digress for a minute… Ron Artest has what might be the best quote of all time, when referring to a skirmish he had with Kobe Bryant. He says that he went over to Kobe and said “You’re hitting the wrong person. Don’t you know you’re hitting Ron Artest?” Video here (around 0:35).
When I want to make myself laugh, I envision a fight between Kobe Bryant and me. When Kobe makes an aggressive move towards me, I say to him “You’re hitting the wrong person. Don’t you know who you’re hitting?” The look of confusion on his face is hard to describe. His brow gets furrowed, and his eyes go crossed. In fact, his eyes get so crossed that his eyeballs actually switch eyes.
Anyway, back to the point I was making…
Nobody fails to succeed in the NBA simply because he’s a “tweener.” Lots of “tweeners” excel in the NBA (MJ, Vince, T-Mac, Dirk, Barkley, Antawn Jamison, Lamar Odom, etc., etc., etc.) For those guys, position doesn’t matter. The coach wants to put them on the floor, and let the other team worry about how to match up with him.
Bottom line: when a guy is good, his ability to play multiple positions leads to people calling him “versatile.” They only call someone a “tweener” if the guy isn’t good enough to play.