Ranking the NBA's Best ʺTweenersʺ

Scott Burns

“Tweeners” are the NBA’s version of players who don’t really fit into one specific position, but ones who can dominate in two.  The most common form is a player who can rotate between both guard spots or someone who has the size and quickness to play both forward spots.

In today’s NBA, speed defeats size on most occasions as a smaller, quicker player will be used in the power forward position.  Players can use their speed to get to the ball first and position themselves against a bigger opponent. 

The best tweeners can fit into whatever system the coach rolls out and exploit the matchups with whoever is guarding them. 

In order to be fair, I used the most noted guard and forward tweeners and a few players that have come on the scene this season and ranked each player using a variety of categories.

My determination was based on the categories of shooting percentages (FG, FT and 3-point), rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, turnovers and PPG to determine who is the best tweener on the floor.

Stats used in this article were accurate as of January 10, 2013.

No. 10: Derrick Williams, Minnesota Timberwolves

Derrick Williams is a prototypical tweener, who has the size and speed to play both forward positions.  He was selected with the second pick behind Kyrie Irving in the 2011 NBA Draft.

However, since that time, he has drastically under-impressed.  He has his trademark quick first step that he can burn other power forwards with, but he doesn’t bring the complete game. 

D-Will has been in and out of the lineup and has been a constant member of Coach Rick Adelman’s doghouse.  He has also been part of trade speculation, which might put him in a better position to succeed.

Out of all of the categories, the only one he scores well is 3-point percentage, where he is shooting 39.3 percent.

Williams’ line for the season so far is 9.0 PPG, 4.4 RPG and 0.5 BPG.

No. 9: Jamal Crawford, Los Angeles Clippers

Jamal Crawford is having another solid year for Los Angeles’ most dominant team, the Clippers.  Jamal’s role off the bench is to score points and he has already gotten an early endorsement from Kobe Bryant as this year’s sixth man.

Per an article by Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times, here is what Coach Vinnie Del Negro said about Jamal Crawford regarding his role on the team:

"I want Jamal to be Jamal," Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said. "Jamal is a scorer and we have to get him shots and he's going to make shots for us and make big plays because he's very difficult to cover."

Crawford is in the higher portion of the scoring categories compared to the other tweeners and is pretty lights out from the free throw line by shooting almost 90 percent.

Crawford contributes with 16.3 PPG, 2.5 APG and 1.8 RPG.

No. 8: Jeff Green, Boston Celtics

Jeff Green was hyped as a part of the dominant future of the Oklahoma City Thunder until he was traded during the 2010-11 season in the Kendrick Perkins trade.  He has had to make a big adjustment in Boston and didn’t play last season because of heart surgery.

Jeff Green just celebrated the one-year anniversary of that heart surgery with a 14-point, three rebound and one block effort in a win against the Phoenix Suns.

Green is coming back to form these days, but he is still below his fellow tweeners in most categories. When he gets his minutes, he usually puts in a consistent effort.  There are sometimes though when his totals completely disappear.

I anticipate Green to slowly increase his production in all categories, especially since he is one of the younger members of the Boston Celtics squad.

Green has produced a line of 9.7 PPG, 3.1 RPG and 0.6 BPG so far.

No. 7: Tyreke Evans, Sacramento Kings

Tyreke Evans is an over-sized guard who can really score.  Evans is 6’6” and the former 2010 Rookie of the Year was having a solid year until he hurt his left knee.  He has only played in 19 games so far this season.

Evans returned to action in a game against the Memphis Grizzlies, but he only played twelve minutes.  He wasn’t overly aggressive; as he wanted to make sure his knee would be able to sustain his game. 

He is known for his dribble-drive and his ability to handle the ball.  He can attack at a moment’s notice and leave defenders with broken ankles.

Look for Evans to improve back to his normal form and get more playing time.  He isn’t too happy with his current organization. He should expect to be somewhere else next season, since he will become a restricted free agent.

I expect Evans to turn it up on his full return with possible suitors being the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

Evans line includes 14.6 PPG, 3.2 APG and 4.6 RPG.

No. 6: Kenneth Faried, Denver Nuggets

Kenneth Faried has emerged with the Denver Nuggets and is having a stellar sophomore season.  He is another prototypical tweener like Derrick Williams, but he brings a little more size and physicality to the game.

He just came off a game versus the Orlando Magic where he scored 19 points, had 19 boards, made two blocks and had two steals.

He is the leading rebounder (10.2 RPG) on the Nuggets squad that is currently holding down the seventh seed in the Western Conference.  He is also the leading rebounder of the tweeners.

He plays a lot closer to the basket and shoots most of his shots between the rim and three feet out.  As a result, he has a 53.8 field-goal percentage.

Faried has put up 12.2 PPG, 0.9 APG and 10.2 RPG so far this season.

No. 5: Monta Ellis, Milwaukee Bucks

Monta Ellis has always been a playmaker and the trend continues with the Milwaukee Bucks.  Ellis has put together some of the slickest offensive moves and is the highest scorer (PPG) of the tweeners.

Ellis has been an addition by subtraction for the Warriors, but he has felt comfortable with his Milwaukee Bucks teammates.  He is an acrobat on the floor, but is known primarily for his spin move. 

He is a creator with a shoot first mentality, even though he does pass the ball well and does a good enough job getting his teammates involved.  His big criticism is that he chucks up a lot more shots that he needs to and as a result his field-goal percentage is a paltry 39.7 percent.

If Ellis can be focused, he can take over games and lead his team to victory.  However, he has too many holes in his game to ever reach the elite guard status.  That is one of the reasons he never made it as an All-Star in Golden State.

He will entertain, though.

Ellis’ line is 19.1 PPG, 5.5 APG and 3.5 RPG.

No. 4: Louis Williams, Atlanta Hawks

Louis Williams took his talents from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Atlanta Hawks this season and he has continued his success off the bench.  Even though the Hawks have struggled recently, he has been a big factor in the Hawks great start.

He is averaging close to career highs in almost every category and is third in scoring on his team, just behind proven stars Josh Smith and Al Horford. 

Williams is known for being a microwave type player, where he can get hot in a hurry and carry his squad.  He is a good shooter, who shoots for a high percentage from the field, the free throw line and from behind the arc.

Williams’ performance has led to 15.1 PPG, 3.7 APG and 2.2 RPG.

No. 3: Kemba Walker, Charlotte Bobcats

Kemba Walker is the building block for the formerly miserable Charlotte Bobcats franchise.  They have struggled a lot this season, but the reason is not the play of Walker.

Walker is the floor general, but he is also a shot creator and can break down defenders in a manner similar to Boston Celtics guard Rajon Rondo.

Walker has the most assists compared to his tweener counterparts, so even with a young squad around him, he still gets all of his teammates involved

Walker will only get better at this stage in his career and will eventually have legitimate tools to use as the young team grows.  Walker looks to emulate Rondo or even the Los Angeles Lakers’ Kobe Bryant.

Walker will be around the league for a while, so don’t be surprised if he starts making headlines soon.  The former Connecticut Huskie has improved upon his rookie season and has a line of 17.8 PPG, 6.0 APG and 3.2 RPG.

No. 2: Thaddeus Young, Philadelphia 76ers

Thaddeus Young has taken over as the starter at the power forward position this season and has continued his solid play.  He is a player that is dangerous in each of the standard categories, as he can score and play solid defense.

Young is known for his hustle and is a great chase down artist.  He can follow the offensive play, sneak up, and get a steal or make an eye-popping block on a transition layup.

With Andrew Bynum out for an indefinite period of time, Young has really shown his true colors.  His defense is top notch and he is the go-to guy whenever a stop is needed late in the game. 

I would anticipate Young continuing his role even if or when Bynum returns.  He is more of a physical specimen for a forward tweener and won’t mind getting dirty to secure a rebound.

Young’s stats on the year are 14.7 PPG, 1.6 APG and 7.1 RPG.

No. 1: Paul Millsap, Utah Jazz

Paul Millsap is not a household name, but he does the best of everything in the tweener category.  Millsap can shoot, pass, block shots, steal the ball, and do the little things necessary to top this list. 

In his past five games, Millsap has stolen the ball 14 times to raise his average to 1.2 steals per game. 

His future is cloudy in Utah after this season because he has Derrick Favors looking for more playing time and Millsap will be an unrestricted free agent.

I see him continuing his hot trend across all of the categories in order to earn a significant raise for the next four or so years.

Millsap’s season line so far is 14.7 PPG, 7.6 RPG and 2.7 APG and is the current king of the tweeners.


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