The game of basketball can be a beautiful sight when played correctly. They often call soccer “The Beautiful Game” but there is something to be said about watching two basketball teams playing the game the right way and in a beautiful manner.
In order for a basketball team to fire on all cylinders, however, each player needs to understand what their role is on the team. What are their strengths and weaknesses, and most importantly, the best position on the court that they should be playing to best highlight those strengths while hiding their weaknesses?
There are certain qualities that match each position on a basketball court very well. This article will break down each position into great detail and could shed some light on which position may be the best fit for you.
Basketball’s “Positionless” Era
Basketball is going through a transition phase where traditional position lines are being blurred. Centers are shooting three-pointers (Anthony Davis), point guards are posting up down low (Ben Simmons), and power forwards are bringing the ball up the court (LeBron James).
This article is going to look at the traditional positions of a basketball team, but keep in mind that when you turn on an NBA game now you may not see the basketball team I am describing.
1. Point Guard (PG)
The Point Guard, or the “1” as it is often referred to, is usually the best ball-handler on the team. They are rarely the best shooter but are skilled at passing and control the tempo of the game:
Some teams are more comfortable slowing the ball down while others love to run up and down the court and get fast break points. The team’s point guard is usually the person that decides whether or not it is in the team’s best interest to either push the pace or slow it down depending on the team’s strengths and weaknesses.
The point guard traditionally doesn’t score as often as other members of the team and tends to be one of the team’s best passers. Sometimes a point guard is called the playmaker or facilitator as the ball runs through him and he decides who is open and who should get the ball for a basket.
Oftentimes, the point guard is the best ball handler on the team. As someone who needs to bring the ball up the court and run the offense the ball is in the point guard’s hands for long periods of time and they need to control the ball and avoid turnovers. Especially if the opposing team is guarding the ball very tightly, the point guard needs to run the offense without the defense taking his team out of their gameplan.
Notable Current NBA Point Guards: Chris Paul, Steph Curry, Kyrie Irving
Notable Historic NBA Point Guards: Bob Cousy, John Stockton, Jason Kidd
2. Shooting Guard (SG)
The Shooting Guard, or the “2” as it is often referred to, usually plays on the wing and off the ball. They have specific skills traditionally that align with their wing play and helps cater to their place on the court.
As it states in the name, shooting guards tend to be one, if not, the best shooters on the team. Their ball-handling and passing abilities are not always on par with the point guards but they usually have a higher shooting percentage and scoring average overall.
If you are a shooting guard there is a good chance you will be guarding the other team’s shooting guard. In basketball, the shooting guard is usually a great scorer which means that most shooting guards will be put to the test on defense with guarding one of the opposing team’s top scorers.
Notable current NBA Shooting Guards: James Harden, Klay Thompson, Victor Oladipo
Notable historic NBA Shooting Guards: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Oscar Robertson
3. Small Forward (SF)
Also called the “3”, the Small Forward is another wing player that could also potentially play the shooting guard and/or power forward positions on some teams due to their skill sets. The small forward is one of the most complete players on the court due to their capabilities of playing several positions.
Small forwards can sometimes play a “jack-of-all-trades” role on their teams. They tend to be good defenders and can guard several different positions. They can score and use their combination of size and speed to do so.
The bulk of the rebounding duties are usually reserved for the big men on the team. The small forward is usually a solid rebounder as they tend to be athletic and can both grab rebounds under the basket due to their height and long rebounds due to their speed and quickness.
Notable current NBA Small Forwards: LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard
Notable historic NBA Small Forwards: Larry Bird, Julius “Dr. J.” Erving, Clyde Drexler
4. Power Forward (PF)
In many instances, the power forward, or the “4”, is the muscle on the team. They are usually good defenders against bigger players in the paint and can rebound well against opposing players.
Power forwards are usually one of the best rebounders on a basketball team due to their size, strength, and ability to get to the ball as they spend a good majority of their time closer to the basket.
The power forward is utilized frequently in setting screens for teammates as they usually have a wide body and are tough for defenders to get around, allowing their teammates to get open for a shot or to help start an offensive set. Another screen situation that power forwards are used in is the pick-and-roll because power forwards tend to be more versatile and coordinated than centers making them more successful when initiating a pick-and-roll.
Notable current NBA Power Forwards: Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Al Horford
Notable historic NBA Power Forwards: Karl Malone, Tim Duncan, Charles Barkley
A Center’s game traditionally revolves around the basket and is resigned to the area of the court called “the paint.” Centers are great at protecting the rim and rebounding the ball and do most of their scoring through post-up moves, layups, dunks, and the occasional mid-range jumper.
The Center is typically the tallest player on a basketball team with a very long wingspan. This gives them the advantage over most of the other players on the court when an opponent drives to the lane for a layup or a short jumper. The center is very good at blocking shots or making it difficult for the offense to shoot the ball, therefore altering their shot in the process.
As the tallest player with the widest wingspan, the alley-oop pass to the center is a great option for smaller players as the pass is thrown as high as possible ensuring that the only player that can reach it is the center. Dunking the ball sets the tone and momentum of the game, especially during a home game, and is a tough shot to block because a defender would have to make contact perfectly with the ball while being careful not to foul the center in the act of shooting.
Notable current NBA Centers: Joel Embiid, Nicola Jokic, Marc Gasol
Notable historic NBA Centers: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Walton
Which Position is Right For You?
Based on these summaries of each position and the skills and strengths necessary to play each position, you should be able to gauge where you fit. Are you a great scorer on the smaller side? Do you enjoy grabbing rebounds and setting picks due to your size on the court? Maybe you are a great ball-handler that loves setting the pace of the game through your control of the ball. Or maybe you are very versatile and can do multiple things on the court?
Either way, this recap of each basketball position is a great place to start. Review this carefully and see where you fall when you play ball and you could be on your way to a bright future in the position that best suits your game.
Ever been asked to play a position you thought was the wrong fit? How did you do there? Let us know below in the comments!