Basketball Positions Explained

Basketball Positions - Explained

If the FIBA basketball World Cup whetted your appetite for more basketball, you’ll be delighted to hear that the new NBA season – the world’s most celebrated domestic basketball league – starts in October, with the pre-season already underway for spread bettors keen to get into the fray. We’ve previously covered the essentials in our NBA jargon-buster, so let’s get slightly more technical. Unlike so many other sports, it can be difficult to identify the various roles of a basketball team at a glance.

All five players on the team seem to be performing similar or interchangeable jobs. While there is certainly a large degree of fluidity in any given set-up – with the best players able to perform multiple functions in between both defence and attack – if you want to become a true aficionado of the game, you’ll need to be able to identify the distinctions in the different player positions and their duties.

Broken down simply, the five players on the court during play are divided into the backcourt and forecourt positions.

The point guard and shooting guard comprise the backcourt, with the small forward, power forward and centre making up the forecourt.

The point guard, a position which draws parallels with American football’s ‘quarter-back’, is often the team’s best handler and passer. It is they who are primarily responsible for dictating the plays and moves of a team. They run the offence, with an objective to create scoring opportunities through ensuring the ball reaches the desired players at the right time. As such, the point guard will often be valued more for how many baskets they assist than they score.

The shooting guard is the team’s best shot, and they are tasked with the easier-said-than-done job of scoring points. They must have a versatile shooting range, from long-distance to the ability to ‘get in the paint’ - which is dribbling towards the basket and attempting to score from close range.

The combo guard is a modern variant of the two backcourt roles, as perhaps best typified by the likes of Kobe Bryant and Dwayne Wayne. They are essentially a player equally adept at passing as they are shooting, and will become the focal point of a team’s attack.

The small forward is the most versatile role on the team, and one which requires both speed and strength. They are the most offensive members of the forecourt, with more emphasis placed on their ability to score than prevent. They attempt to aggressively draw fouls with dunks and layups close to the basket.  However, defensively they are expected to contribute with a high number of rebounds – gaining possession of the ball after a missed shot.

The power forward specialises in rebounds and defending against quicker players, and are primarily concerned with regaining possession of the ball, aiming to do so before the opposition can attempt a shot. They are the defensive midfielders to the center’s centre back/goalkeeper, if you will.

The center, often known as thebigman’, are more often than not the tallest player on the team, sometimes pushing heights as tall as seven foot. They are the most adept at blocking shots and just generally getting in the way, acting as a final obstacle before the offensive team can get to the basket.

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