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The Value of Finding Two-Way Players in the NBA Draft

two ways are better than one way

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

I always feel pretty dumb and amateur when I continuously change my opinion on different players leading up to the draft. It feels like on Sports Internet (or I guess any internet), you have an Opinion, and you Stick To It. Which is why I enjoyed Marc Whittington's 2015 NBA Draft Retrospectus (where I had Jahlil Okafor ranked lower than he did, mind). Aside from my unflappable love for Joe Alexander (SHOT 55% FROM THE FLOOR LAST YEAR IN ITALY!), I've tried to stay less stubborn about what to look for in a player from year to year, based on what I learn about the game watching it, listening to smarter people talk about it, and memorizing the Draft Express video music.

And so you watch the NBA Finals this year, you see what players are successful and how the game is evolving, and one thing has become incredibly evident. I don't know why it took this long to sink in league-wide (and maybe it hasn't, for some), but you can't spend valuable picks on guys who can't play both ways. Watch Kevin Love be useless for Cleveland. Watch OKC's Andre Roberson be surprisingly valuable those first few games of the WCF and then back to a total liability in Game 7. Watch the entire Warriors team switch on screens and be weaponized on offense. Hollis Thompson, for as much as I want him to father my children, cannot play important minutes if his defense isn't at least league-average.

So there's guys that I'd really have a tough time taking. Luckily it's the Sixers, so I've pretty much avoided scouting Deyonta Davis, Diamond Stone, Jakob Poeltl, etc. But for the guards and wings, it boils down to finding 2-way players, with preferential treatment to guys who project as decent shooters. Jamal Murray, who is young, sure, but mostly failed as a non-dynamic point guard until Tyler Ulis shifted him to the 2, cannot do anything beside shoot. Buddy Hield, who is old and hard-working and is wonderful to listen to, cannot do anything besides shoot. Jaylen Brown, as good as his body is, cannot be trusted on offense. Even Furkan Korkmaz, despite his athleticism, needs to add a ton of muscle to his body in order to matter on defense. I have Pat McCaw and DeAndre Bembry ranked higher than any of those guys because I think they'll be above-average players on both ends.

BRIEF ASIDE: with regards to the Sixers, the difference between Jahlil and Nerlens is that you can hide Nerlens on offense despite his limited skill level by consolidating his role to DeAndre Jordan-esque lobs and putbacks. You can't hide Jahlil on D because he's not good in space or protecting the rim or defensive rebounding. OK now go argue about that and ignore the rest of the article bye.

I used to think that it doesn't matter as much with a superstar -- that your role players can be more one-dimensional if you have LeBron or Durant -- but teams are too smart and too talented these days to run out one-dimensional players against them in crunch time. At the highest level, you just need guys who can hang on both ends, whether it's your superstars or role players.

Like I would rather have Klay Thompson than James Harden, and I imagine that's an unpopular opinion, but Klay's improved ability to get his own shot mixed with his top 5-10 best wing defense in the NBA makes him more valuable to me than Harden, even if Harden is the more traditional offensive superstar. Teams can exploit weaknesses too easily. So that's informed how I think about the draft.

And with that, I have today's Rights To Ricky Sanchez for you. For the second time this Draft season (here's the first, pre-Lottery), we brought on professional scout and boss of our own Wesley Share, Elan Vinokurov. He's tremendous, incredibly well-spoken, and informed, even if he is wrong about Marquese Chriss and Jaylen Brown. We also discuss some potential landing spots for Okafor, and how tired I am.

This is the last Ricky before the Draft because Spike is going on vacation like a huge nerd. But we'll have one the night of the draft, and here's hoping I'll be less sad than last year, when I got a migraine from staring at a computer screen for hours on end, waiting for Hinkie to do a Hinkie thing. Hopefully Ned Cohen will save us.

And if you've missed the last few Ricky's, we always have guests on around Draft time, so here's the latest few episodes. Please subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher or Google Play or by showing up to Spike's front door and demanding to be let in.

DEREK BODNER of Liberty Ballers/USA Today/Philly Mag, 5/28/16

RICKY O'DONNELL of SB Nation/Blog-A-Bull, 6/4/16

CHRIS RYAN of The Ringer/Watch The Thrones on HBO, 6/12/16

And remember to follow us on Twitter at @RTRSpodcast run by our intern Phillip, and on Facebook here, run by our new intern Kristin.

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