What Does a Point Guard Do in Basketball?

A basketball team has five positions, but none are as important as the point guard. The smallest position on the court, they are tasked with running the offense and ensuring all possessions go as smoothly as possible. In today’s basketball, they also need to be a scoring machine.

This article will take a deep look at the point guard position through a combination of real life and practical analysis. In doing so, it breaks down the position as it’s changed over time, what it looks like today, as well as the best way to play it.

A Look at the Point Guard

As the name suggests, a point guard (known as the one) runs the “point” on the offensive side of the ball. That means everything goes through them. They bring the ball up the court, start the half court set, and generally run the plays. Without them, a team cannot reach its full potential.

For that reason, point guards are typically the best passers and dribblers on the team. They need strong ball handling skills, the ability to dance quickly between defenders, and have to move quickly both with and without the ball. Speed is important for point guards too.

On that note, point guards tend to have a lot of quickness because they are often the smallest or leanest players on the team. In the NBA, they are typically between 6’1 and 6’3 and weigh right around 200 pounds. That’s not light for a normal person, but it’s small for the league.

Those measurements are also not set rules. Some guards, such as Magic Johnson (6’9) or Giannis Antetokounmpo (6’11), are extremely tall, while players like Isaiah Thomas (5’10), Nate Robinson (5’9), and Muggsy Bogues (5’3) were incredibly small.

Expert Assists

While scoring is incredibly important for point guards, they also need the ability to pass. Running the offense means putting your team in the best position to score. While that sometimes means a deep three or crafty layup, it also means making the right pass at the right time.

For that reason, good point guards have a high basketball IQ. While all positions need the ability to see the court, a point is nothing without strong intuition. They have to know, not just where their teammates are going to cut or move, but where the defense will go too.

Understanding both teams at the same time is why the point guard position takes so much skill. It might seem simple to just shoot or pass, but knowing when to do either takes a lot of precision and expert timing. 

More Than Scoring

Point guards is an offensively-minded position. Due to their size, they are not known for the ability to lock down a defender. Even so, they can put pressure on the ball or, due to their quickness, get a lot of steals. In fact, John Stockton has the most of all time.

When defending, points guards are more there to generate chaos over anything else. They want to jump into potential passing lanes, help with double teams, or look for opportunistic strips. It’s not about getting blocks or rebounds, it’s about striking at the right moment.

The Rise of the One

There have been many great point guards throughout NBA history. That includes greats like John Stockton, Magic Johnson, Steve Nash, and Isiah Thomas. However, they have only gotten more and more important with time.

Recent shifts within the NBA have led to a stressed importance on point guards. While teams could get away with lackluster points in the past by overcompensating with large big men or strong forwards, that’s no longer the case. 

In the current league, you need to score. And you need to score a lot. That means current point guards need to be able to shoot with a lethality that’s never been seen. Leaders like Damien Lillard, Stephen Curry, and Trae Young all shoot more threes than ever before.

Not only that, but they also shoot from much further back than their predecessors. By being able to bomb as soon as they pass half court, it puts a tremendous pressure on the defense and enables their other teammates to get many more opportunities.

Final Words

A point guard may not be the only position on the floor, but it’s hard to succeed without a good one. The entire offense looks to them for guidance, and just about every set or play starts with them. They bring the ball up, open up the defense, and typically lead to points.

Point guards with a high IQ make other players better, and they can completely change a team’s dynamic. They need to do a lot, but those that are capable of seeing the game flow are invaluable in today’s offensive-minded world.

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