What are 5 positions in basketball? In a basketball game, each team has five players on the court. Every player is assigned one of five basic positions, and with that position comes a specific set of responsibilities that each player needs to fulfill.
These five basic positions are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center.
However, like every sport, basketball has evolved considerably over time, and now, it is common to see players who are able to adapt quickly to different roles and excel in different positions, according to the needs of their team.
Here, we describe both: the basic basketball positions and the recently created “hybrid” positions.
Also known as the “two guard”, the shooting guard is the team’s best outside shooter, and therefore, the top choice for taking three-point shots.
Beyond three-pointers, the shooting guard is a consistent scorer, combining mid-range shots with layups, floaters, and other scoring plays in close range.
Therefore, they are likely to lead the league in the points department.
Even though their main attacking responsibility is to make baskets, the shooting guard also needs to be a good ball handler and strategic playmaker to be able to act as a backup stage director to the point guard.
Defensively, the shooting guard is required to have good mobility, anticipate plays and make steals, and get rebounds to recover the ball. Some shooting guards, like Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wade, excelled at blocking.
Kobe and Wade aside, some of the most celebrated shooting guards are Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, and Klay Thompson.
The small forward is the most versatile player on the team.
Small forwards combine the speed and agility of a shooting guard with the strength and power of a power forward. They are easily adaptable and can cover multiple positions as needed.
Offensively, the small forward needs to be dynamic enough to shift from scoring three-pointers to making dunks. They are likely smaller in size than power forwards, but they still need to have enough strength to play in the paint.
Because of their wide array of skills, small forwards are usually considered the best all-around players.
Defensively, the small forward is tasked with getting rebounds, supporting the guards in covering dangerous opponents, and playing efficiently in the key by blocking the power forward.
The perfect example of a small forward is LeBron James, and other noteworthy small forwards are Kevin Durant and Larry Bird.
The power forward is a physically strong player who is frequently inside the three-point line. Power forwards tend to be tall and usually intimidate their opponents because of their size.
In the offense, the power forward will be close to the basket, where he is tasked with recovering rebounds, setting up screens to create open space for shooters, and scoring dunks, layups, and short-range shots.
An additional skill required for a power forward is a solid mid-range shot, especially jump shots.
When playing defense, the power forward is one of the most important players. One of their main tasks is to protect the biggest players (usually another power forward) and prevent them from scoring from a close range.
Since they are often located in the paint, they are responsible for recovering the ball through rebounding and blocking. When a teammate gets dribbled, the power forward can act as support for the dribbled teammate.
Power forwards play near the posts, where the game is more physical. Since this results in power forwards being fouled often, they are reliable free-throw shooters.
Some renowned power forwards are Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett, Anthony Davis, and Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Traditionally, the center is the tallest and physically strongest player on the team. The center plays under the basket and near the low post.
Offensively, the center’s main responsibilities are to get rebounds and score shots from close range. In addition to this, their physical strength assists them to create space for other players, by blocking defenders and creating screens.
Defensively, the center guards the area close to the rim. Centers are responsible for recovering the ball through defensive rebounds, blocking the opponents’ shots, and forcing them to make mistakes in the paint.
Despite their size, centers need to be very agile and have top-notch footwork, especially as the game has become more physical.
From close range, centers need to shoot quickly and make fast decisions, and having a good jump gives them an edge over their opponents, especially to score dunks.
Famous centers are Shaquille O’Neal, Wilt Chamberlain, and Joel Embiid.
As basketball has evolved, some players have become versatile enough to be able to play in more than one position.
This has resulted in the creation of “hybrid” positions, which combine skills and physical characteristics of two or more basic basketball positions.
Modern players like LeBron James and Joel Embiid have been described as hybrids by former NBA stars.
Here’s Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks icon, talking to the Basketball Network about Embiid: “I feel like he’s got the body of a little smaller Shaq, but he’s got the shot from the outside. He’s got the finesse like Hakeem (Olajuwon) a little bit, the footwork.”
Similarly, Terry Porter, a former star with the Portland Trail Blazers, described LeBron James as the combination of multiple top players from his era. “I think LeBron, he has just been special in regards to how he’s been built. I wouldn’t say he’s one guy, he’s like multiple guys from my era. He’s like a Scottie Pippen and a Magic.
There’s no guy in my era even close to the size, and again, my era didn’t have guys who were playing multiple positions or what they say now, non-positions and playing three, four, five spots.”
The combo guard is a combination of the shooting guard and the point guard.
They have incredible ball-handling skills and can take charge of playmaking, driving the ball up the court and assisting their teammates.
Beyond this, however, they are extremely talented shooters and often lead their team in points scored.
A team could have two combo guards on the court, especially to alternate them on defensive and offensive plays.
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