In a typical game of basketball, there are usually five players on each team on the court, and each player has their roles and responsibilities. Traditionally, players who filled these position would solely stick to their role and focus on their task, but basketball has advanced a lot since then and every player these days are required to play two or more positions at one time. This is due to the nature of the sport where players move around and play flexibly, doing what is required in any given situation. Here are the five basic basketball positions and their role in the sport.
Basic Basketball Positions
The center is usually the team’s tallest and strongest player and is positioned under the basket. He is also required to be physically domineering with more physical strength and athleticism. On the offensive play, most centers do not consistently score midrange or beyond the arch. Instead, most of their points should be from offensive rebounds and are also required to block defenders to open other players up for driving to the basket. On the defense, the center is responsible for keeping the opponent from shooting by blocking shots and passes in the vital area. They’re also expected to fight for rebounds as they’re usually taller physically.
Notable Centers: Shaquille O’Neal, Dwight Howard, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gobert.
Power Forwards are usually the second tallest in the team and are the closest to the center in terms of physical attributes and playing style but with more speed. They are often the most versatile player, being able to score in the paint as well as being able to shoot from midrange. It will be more effective if they’re able to land a three-point consistently. Defensively, they are required to have the strength to guard bigger players close to the basket.
Notable Power Forwards: Anthony Davis, Draymond Green, Paul Millsap.
The Small Forward is usually the shorter of the two forwards on the team. However, he plays the most versatile role out of the main five positions. He must have enough height and the ability to play on the inside as well as agility to play on the outside, similar to a shooting guard. Small Forwards are usually the second or third best shooters on the team. They should be able to do a little bit of everything on the court.
Notable Small Forwards: Lebron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard.
Potentially the shortest player on the team, the Shooting Guard is the team’s best outside shooter. Besides being able to shoot well, the Shooting Guard needs to be good at dribbling. His passing skills and court vision need to be excellent too. He is also responsible for driving the ball down the court and setting up offensive plays. A good Shooting Guard will be a threat to any opponent. The reason is because this player is able to score from anywhere on the court.
Notable Shooting Guards: James Harden, Klay Thompson, Bradley Beal
The Point Guard is usually the shortest but the best ball handler on the team. Also known as the ‘coach on the floor’ or the ‘floor general’, a point guard is responsible for directing plays. He needs to have good court vision to create open shots for the receivers. Additionally, he needs to drive the ball down the court and initiate offensive plays. Point Guards need to have an excellent long-distance shooting. However, it’s not quite as crucial as for shooting guards, some point guards take as many shots as shooting guards.
Notable Point Guards: Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul.
Additional Positions and Roles
There are two more roles that we have to mention before the end of this article. In the NBA, the 6th player on a team is just as important as the star player. Last but not least, we have to talk about bench players as well. Obviously, when a player from the bench enters, he just plays his own position. However, in a lot of cases, there are players on the bench who can play pretty much every position. The coach uses these players when he wants to rest the star players.
The 6th man is the first player to come off the bench and enter the game. This player can vary from game-to-game, but on most teams there is a specific sixth man who enters each game first off the bench. In regards to skill level, the sixth man is often as skilled as the 5 starting players. Possibly more skilled than several of them (it’s never a good idea to start with your 5 best players on the court). They’re usually a versatile player who can fill a number of different basketball positions. Who they substitute off the court will usually depend on matchups and which player starts the game poorly. The main requirement of a sixth man is that they must bring energy to the game when they step on the court.
Notable Sixth Men: Manu Ginobili, Eric Gordon, Jamal Crawford, and Jason Terry.
The rest of the players who begin the game on the sideline (usually 2 – 4 more players) are known as ‘the bench’. The amount of minutes the players on the bench will get on the court vary significantly depending on the level of competition the team’s playing. For youth basketball, I always recommend coaches give all players an even amount of court time until the last few minutes of a close game.
For high school or older, the players on the bench often have much less of a role on the team in regards to playing time. Some will get 10 – 15 minutes, and others won’t player a minute at all. Regardless of how many minutes they receive on the court, the bench needs to be constantly positive and encouraging the players on the court.
NBA Basketball Positions
The above mentioned basketball positions have been pretty much lost in modern basketball. The reason for this is the quality of players the NBA produces. In the past, extremely tall players always played center because they were sloppy and couldn’t move across the court. However, it’s not like that anymore. In modern NBA, teams look for two-way players. Those are players that can play well on both sides of the court.
For instance, this is where the position Wing Center came into play. In today’s NBA, you have players like Anthony Davis who has the height of a center but also has the skills and agility of a power forward. So, he sometimes plays as a Wing Center. This means he is fantastic in offence but then also plays defense and usually closes the best player on the other team. Every team is now looking for versatile, big players. Individuals who are tall enough to be centers but can shoot jump shots and three pointers are the biggest commodity in the NBA right now.