NBA players are evaluated with more specificity than ever before. The basketball media, on the whole, has a firmer grasp on the overall impact of players, stemming from things like statistical analysis and more advanced video scouting. Front offices are more sophisticated than ever, with off-the-charts research teams digging into the sport in ways that were virtually inconceivable even a decade ago. Even fans are smarter than ever before and, while there are still maddening debates that take on an “old-school against new-school” feel, the availability of information has been fantastic in growing the sport from coast to coast.
With that as the backdrop, it is time to kill, or at least severely adjust, the use of one specific term used to analyze and discuss players. That term is “two-way,” which is used as a descriptor of a player’s ability to make an impact on both offense and defense.
Of course, the use of the word “two-way” to describe players isn’t new and, when used in a reasonable context, it can be (and often is) accurate. For example, Kawhi Leonard is perhaps the poster child for the adjective, as the two-time Defensive Player of the Year also happens to be a wonderfully gifted and efficient offensive player. Elsewhere, players like Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Klay Thompson are deservedly given the distinction.
However, there is a theme, at least in some circles, when using “two-way” as something of a catch-all term, which is to give credit on players who don’t take anything off the table defensively. It is, quite obviously, better for a player to excel on both ends of the floor and no one would dispute that. As you can see above, though, the term is disproportionately used on wing players that aren’t seen as uber-elite on the offensive end, while, say, big men are largely ignored in these discussions.