POSTED: Mar 23, 2015 10:11 AM ET
Anthony Davis has elevated his offensive game this season to match his defensive prowess.
Being a complete player in today's NBA is the easiest avenue to earn maximum dollars, as improved metrics and ways of understanding defense are making the less glamorous side of the ball easier to quantify. Defensive stalwarts like Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard, while good offensive players, will get paid this offseason because they're the total package.
The NBA is filled with outstanding two-way players at every position, and these are the 10 best in the league right now.
GameTime: Two-Way Players
Tracy McGrady showcases some go to moves, then he and Dennis Scott give some of their picks for the best two-way players in the game.
Ibaka is injured at the wrong time for the Thunder, who are in an intense battle with the Pelicans to claim the last playoff spot in the West. But when healthy, Ibaka is one of the best defensive players in the league and is a reliable mid-range and 3-point threat for Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant to dish to. And he's such a freak defensively that he can hide Enes Kanter's weaknesses on that end while allowing the new acquisition to bully foes in the paint on offense. Ibaka's versatility makes him one of the NBA's best two-way players.
Atlanta has good two-way players at every position, but Horford is their best. He is to Mike Budenholzer's squad as Tim Duncan is to Gregg Popovich's, a grand compliment for the former Florida Gator. The Hawks won 38 games last season and had to scrap for the last playoff spot in a watered down Eastern Conference. Horford was injured for most of that time. This year? Well, you know the story. The Hawks have the best record in the East by a mile, and Horford's all-around game is a major reason why.
And with that said, Duncan is the prototype Horford strives to be. Duncan is still a very solid rim protector -- opponents are shooting less than 47 percent at the rim against him, a solid clip -- and although he's not the offensive player he used to be, The Big Fundamental is still a plus on that end for San Antonio and can take over games when needed.
Butler is the kind of two-way player that immediately comes to mind when brainstorming candidates for this list, and while it would be easy to think he'd be higher, some of the league's true superstars are pretty darn good two-way payers themselves. Butler is injured at the moment, but he guards the opponent's best scorer night in and night out while also leading the Bulls in scoring with more than 20 points per game. He also shoots solid percentages, as he's hitting better than 46 percent of his shots from the floor.
Kawhi is likely going to get a max offer from someone this offseason, and you'd think the Spurs would be willing to break the bank for the reigning NBA Finals MVP. Leonard has also battled injury issues this season, but he's an absolute terror defensively and rapidly improving on offense. He's the best perimeter defender in the NBA, and he's nicknamed "The Claw" for very good reason.
The Warriors are stocked with plus defenders all over their roster, and while Thompson may not be their best, he's certainly up there. He may be a notch below Butler and Leonard defensively, but he's clearly a superior offensive player, which puts him a tick above those two on this list. Thompson is one of the most lethal marksmen in the NBA today.
Gasol is great on offense, defense and everything else one could possibly excel at on the basketball floor. He is a former Defensive Player of the Year award winner, but he's has really taken his offensive game to the next level this season. The Spaniard is averaging career highs in points and free-throw attempts, and if the Grizz are going to content for a title, he'll need to continue that trend in the playoffs.
Those who doubted Paul's chops this season were quickly silenced when Blake Griffin went down, as he and DeAndre Jordan kept the Clippers afloat in his absence. Paul is the best pure point guard to come along since Isaiah Thomas, and despite his lack of size, he's an absolute pest for opposing point guards to deal with on a nightly basis.
When James is dialed in defensively, he's the best two-way player in the NBA. But James' attention seems to come and go on that end, and because of that, he comes in at No. 2. James probably won't win the MVP award this year, but that has a lot more to do with his competition than his level of play this season. Ever since his two-week hiatus in he middle of winter, LeBron has arguably been the best all-around player in the NBA.
Davis has improved leaps and bounds offensively, and coming into the league, everyone knew he was going to be able to anchor an NBA defense for years to come. He has a player efficiency rating of over 30, which hardly takes defense into account, and then you see that he's averaging almost three blocks per game. Perhaps more importantly, his quickness allows him to stifle opposing ball handlers that come off the screen-and-roll with ease. Davis is the best two-way player in the NBA today, and that may not change for another 10 years.