One, Two, Three, Four, Five Basketball Positions...

... and they are:

  • Point Guard
  • Shooting Guard
  • Small Forward
  • Power Forward
  • Center

They are each designated a number, as shown above. So if someone says something like, “he plays the 2,” that means he plays the shooting guard position.

The point guard is the floor general. He orchestrates the offense like a symphony, directing his teammates and setting them up for easy baskets. He is a catalyst for the offense and makes everyone around him better. The PG is most often the shortest but quickest player of the 5 basketball positions.

A good point guard possesses:

  • Excellent ball handling (usually the best ball handler on the team)
  • Excellent passing
  • Court vision = the ability to see the entire court and know where all teammates are at all times
  • Quickness
  • Good shooter

In addition, good point guards have a good basketball iq or sixth sense about the game. They are able to “read” the defense and exploit openings.

Today, there are so many point guards that are what you might call shoot-first point guards; basically that means they like to score a lot of points and often look for their shot. On the other hand, a pure point guard refers to a pass-first PG. The only thing on his mind is passing the ball and assisting his teammates for easy scores.

The shooting guard or off-guard (basically meaning “the other guard”) is the marksman of the team. He is usually the best shooter on the team and has the ability to knock down jumpers with consistency all over the court. Physically, a player that plays the 2 spot is usually lengthy and athletic.

While the SG is busy knocking down jumpers, he has other things to do too!

  • Handle the ball well in order to create his own shots and play the role of the point guard at times
  • Move without the ball to get himself open into a position to receive a pass and score while also tiring out his defender from all that chasing as an added bonus

Overall a shooting guard has a “similar” skill set to the point guard, but with more of an offensive mindset.

Michael Jordan, considered by many to be the greatest basketball player ever, played shooting guard. Today, Kobe Bryant is a shining example of what a shooting guard should be.

*The point guard and the shooting guard occupy what is called the backcourt since the guards mostly play out on the perimeter, so they are designated to the backcourt.

The small forward is the most versatile of the 5 basketball positions. Since he is the 3 position, he’s like the middle child (that nobody pays attention to!.. kidding =/). His job is to score, rebound, pass, and defend well.

Small forwards are typically taller and stronger than shooting guards, but smaller than power forwards. Many times, small forwards are extremely versatile in that they can slide down and play shooting guard or even play power forward in certain stretches of the game. On some teams that like to run a lot and play a small lineup, the small forward may even play center.

A swingman refers to a small forward that can easily slide down and play shooting guard, playing effectively at both basketball positions.

So to sum it up, the key abilities of the 3 are:

  • quickness
  • scorer
  • decent rebounder
  • good passer
  • all purpose defender

The power forward is the POWER forward. The pf doesn’t mind getting in there and getting down and dirty, playing bumper cars in the lane rebounding, scoring, and getting put backs. Most 4’s in the NBA are in the 6’10 height range; however, Charles Barkley and Dennis Rodman were both undersized stars at the power forward position.

The focus of the PF position is:

A point forward is a forward who is very well rounded and can bring up the ball and setup the offense like a point guard. Lamar Odom of the Lakers and Lebron James of the Cavaliers are good examples.

The center is usually without question the tallest and biggest player of the 5 basketball positions. He patrols the painted area; he is the gatekeeper and the last line of defense to the basket. The center usually takes high percentage shots on offense, meaning open shots and shots close to the basket.

Speed, mobility, and strength are a winning combination for this position. Dwight Howard of the Orlando Magic is a player to watch.

Keys for good center:

  • good polished post up game
  • strong aggressive rebounder
  • imposing defensive presence, changing and blocking shots
  • soft hands and a soft touch around the basket
  • physically strong, good upper body strength
  • good passer, passing out of double teams finding the open teammate

Today, more and more players are just so well rounded; it’s harder and harder to pigeonhole someone into a given position. You’re seeing big men who can handle the ball and shoot three pointers; you’ll also see strong physical point guards that can post up like Baron Davis.

Personally, I think no matter what your skill set or physical stature, practice all areas of basketball and become the most well-rounded and versatile basketball player you can be.

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