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.
NBA.com's definition of "tweener" is as follows:
- "This word is derived from the word "between", as in a player is between the height of a guard and a forward. "Tweeners" often have the skills of a big man, but the height of a guard. Though only six foot five, Charles Barkley, a tweener, was one of the NBA's greatest rebounding power forwards."
A player who is ideally suited to play two positions is sometimes referred to as a swingman, although that term is more commonly reserved specifically for those who are suited to play small forward and shooting guard.
Power forward / center (forward-center)
This tweener has the skills of either a center or a power forward, but is usually stronger than traditional power forwards and quicker and often more skilled than traditional centers, and is generically called a "big" in American basketball, where the distinction between power forwards and centers has become increasingly blurred. Many times C/PF tweeners are used to create match-up problems. Amar'e Stoudemire is an example of a tweener. Other prominent NBA players who switch between power forward and center are Jermaine O'Neal, Tyson Chandler, Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan, Pau Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, and Chris Bosh, among others. A good example of such a Euroleague player is Mike Batiste.
Small forward / power forward (combo forward or cornerman/stretch four)
Traditionally, a SF/PF tweener refers to a basketball player whose physical attributes and skills render him/her unsuited to play either the small forward position or the power forward position exclusively. For example, the player may be too short, not athletic enough, or perhaps lacking proper ball handling/shooting skills to play small forward; while lacking sufficient strength to play the power forward position effectively. On the other hand, the player may have the skills to play either forward position, but does not necessarily fit either of them exclusively. They can be too big for most opposing small forwards to guard them and have a skill set that small forwards traditionally have (ex. outside scoring ability).
Some examples in the NBA are Michael Beasley, Lamar Odom, Rashard Lewis, Antawn Jamison, Gerald Wallace and Al Harrington. Typical examples of European combo forwards with careers on both sides of the Atlantic are the retired Toni Kukoc and the currently active Andrei Kirilenko. A good example of such a player in the Euroleague is Panayiotis Vasilopoulos, just like Fragiskos Alvertis used to be during his playing years with Panathinaikos BC. Another example is Spanish player Jorge Garbajosa. Perhaps the archetypal "cornerwoman" in women's basketball is Candace Parker, who was listed on the roster of her college team as a center, forward, and guard.
Shooting guard / small forward (swingman or guard-forward)
This tweener is not suited to exclusively play either at shooting guard or small forward. For example, he may be too short to play small forward, but lacks a guard's jumper or ball-handling skills to play the two-man. To counter this, this tweener could play as a swingman.
Some swingmen have been known to play both the small forward and shooting guard position effectively, having the size and strength to play the small forward position, as well as the outside jump shot and quickness to play the shooting guard position. These tweeners are known to cause match up problems, and have proven to be very difficult to guard. Such NBA players are Kobe Bryant, Josh Howard, Andre Iguodala, Jason Richardson, Manu Ginobili, LeBron James, Paul Pierce, Vince Carter, Shane Battier, and Tracy McGrady. A good such example for a Euroleague player is Ramūnas Šiškauskas.
Shooting guard / point guard (combo guard)
"Tweener" may also describe a player who combines the attributes of a shooting guard and point guard, but does not fit the prototype of either position. Such guards usually play a shooting-guard-type game (looking more to score than to pass) but lack the height to guard opposing shooting guards effectively and some of the skills to direct an offense that a "pure" point would display. Such players are also known as "combination (or combo) guards". But after the success of Dwyane Wade during the 2004-05 NBA season, there has been less of a stigma attached to the term and many current elite prospects are combo guards, such as Derrick Rose, Randy Foye, Eric Gordon, O. J. Mayo, Goran Dragić, and Russell Westbrook. Most commonly, shooting guards are called "tweeners" when considered too short for NBA-level starting competition at the position. This generally is applied to shooting guards that are 6'4" and below in height. Conversely, they are unable to play point guard successfully at the highest level of professional basketball due to a lack of the mental specialization and understanding of the game that this position requires. These players are often referred to as being "a shooting guard trapped in a point guard's body." Some good examples of this are Allen Iverson, Kirk Hinrich, Stephon Marbury, Delonte West, Monta Ellis, Gilbert Arenas, Jason Terry, Ben Gordon, Jamal Crawford, Juan Dixon, Steve Francis, Calvin Murphy, Eddie House, John Paxson, Steve Kerr, Danny Ainge, Aaron Brooks and Luther Head. This is in stark contrast to pass-first type point guards who traditionally play the position such as Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, Andre Miller, Deron Williams and Steve Nash, among others. Some players, for example Kobe Bryant, Tyreke Evans, Greivis Vasquez, James Harden, and Rodney Stuckey, have the requisite size for a shooting guard (around 6'5" or 6'6"), but due to their above-average passing and playmaking ability, are used as combo guards.
Some NBA players, most notably players like Boris Diaw, Larry Bird, Scottie Pippen, Grant Hill, Lamar Odom, Magic Johnson, Hedo Türkoğlu and LeBron James, possess the size, strength and rebounding skills to play a forward position, yet they also have the passing and ball-handling skills, along with the "basketball IQ", to perform at the point guard position. These players often cause match-up problems on both ends of the court, because while the tall, strong point forward can dominate a traditional point guard on the offensive end of the court, he is sometimes at a disadvantage on the defensive end against smaller, quicker guards.
When Jamont Gordon, now playing with Galatasaray Liv Hospital in Turkey and the Euroleague, was in college at Mississippi State, he was occasionally described as "a linebacker playing point guard". Theo Papaloukas is another example of a Euroleague point forward.