So, you’ve decided to become a basketball player. Great choice, by the way.
You get your ball, your favorite sneakers and jersey. You learn the fundamentals of the game, work hard and…
You’re almost there. There is only one question you need to answer: “What position should I play in basketball?”
Finding your place on the basketball court defines you as a player. In this article, we will help you with this important choice.
We’ll take a closer look at every player position in basketball and identify some of the important characteristics within them.
Hopefully, when you finish reading this post, you’ll be able to identify the position that suits you and your game the best.
As you learn the game of basketball, you’ll be able to discover what type of a player you are. Through game fundamentals, you’ll learn your strengths and weaknesses.
How tall are you? How comfortable are you with the ball in your hands? Do you like running constant battles in the paint, fighting for a rebound? How good of a shooter you are? Can you block shots?
Every single basketball player has their own preferences on the floor. Someone likes lurking on the baseline for a sleeping defender to make a cut, or waiting in the corner to shoot a wide open three pointer. Others like handling the ball as much as possible, organizing their teammates and setting up plays.
Try to answer these questions. Get to know yourself as a player. Once you discover the aspects of a game you’re the most comfortable with, you’ll be knocking on the doorway of your position on the court.
Before you even started playing basketball, there was something that attracted you towards the game. For most people, it happens when they see a great basketball player in action. Let’s take an obvious example – Michael Jordan.
Jordan is the most popular basketball player of all time, no question about it. Just look at the whole series of great players who came after His Airness era – Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady, LeBron James, Kevin Durant… All of them have one thing in common – they grew up watching Jordan play.
When you find your basketball idol, you start doing everything you can to become like him. You watch his games, memorize his moves and try to repeat them on the court and, eventually, you fall in love with the game. Discovering your model players is a good step in finding your favorite position.
If you became aware of your qualities, weak spots and role models, you’re ready for the next step – learning about every position in basketball. We’ll provide you with bullet points for each of them, and you will be able to see in which position you find your desired game the most.
Let’s start with the fundamentals. There are five main positions for players on the basketball court – point guard (PG), shooting guard (SG), small forward (SF), power forward (PF), and center (C). Each of those positions requires from a player different skill sets and different roles on the team.
One important thing you need to have in mind – the game of basketball is constantly evolving. Everything in the game is always changing, including what defines a basketball position. It’s just the nature of the game.
But there are some characteristics for each of these five positions that are ever-present, and we’ll focus your attention on those. We’ll provide you with the essence of each position, and help you put the puzzles together in choosing your own. Here we go.
Playing in point guard position demands several things from you. And no matter what your other strong sides are, these are absolute necessity for you if you want to play this role.
As a point guard, you are an extension of the coach on the floor. Coaches, luckily, can’t play the game. But they are essential in creating a team, stating the philosophy of a team and directing that philosophy to players.
In order to control your team’s play on offense, you need to be vocal.
Constant communication is a necessity for every point guard. If you are comfortable with talking, often shouting or even screaming at teammates during the game, you could fit into this position. If you have a laid back appearance on the floor, are not ready to talk every time when needed, you’ll probably find more luck in another position.
Point guards move. A lot. You won’t be able to keep the same spot more than a few seconds, as you are the one who’s creating plays. And the faster you move the better. So, quickness and moving on the court should be your strong sides for point guard position.
The name of this position in basketball speaks for itself. As a shooting guard, your main object is to shoot the ball, and shoot it well, from every part of the court. Scoring points for the team is a primary role of shooting guards.
This position requires more strength and size than point guard position, as you will often fight through screens against bigger and stronger players. This position also requires you to participate more in team rebounding.
Good ball handling skills are required from shooting guards. The ball will often be in your hands as much as in the point guard’s, often in deciding moments of a game. So, you need to feel comfortable playing under pressure, taking responsibility, and making last second shots.
You need to produce great shooting percentages all around the court – scoring in the paint under heavy contact, making mid-range shots, as well as knocking down three pointers. Spot up shooting is also something that you have to be able to convert into buckets on a regular basis.
As we mentioned before, all positions in basketball evolve. Modern game shooting guards could lean towards point guard skills, and this position is known as combo guard. These players are more skilled with the ball and better at organizing offense.
On the other side, taller shooting guards (around 6’7’’) possess more characteristics of small forwards. They are known as swingmen, as they can easily interchange between these two positions, mostly operating on the wings.
Small forwards don’t pick their battles – they are all across the battlefield. On one hand, they are heavily included in rebounding and protecting the paint. On the other hand, as a small forward, you will find yourself often on the perimeter, often in the corner, waiting to knock down open 3 pointers.
You need to be versatile. Small forwards are usually great defenders, capable of guarding every position in basketball, except centers. You need a long and athletic body for this position.
Get ready to set screens for your point guards and shooters. Be active on the boards for rebounding and prepare to run in transition.
In the last several years, some elite players emerged in small forward position, and changed the game with their unique skill set. Lebron James, Kevin Durant, and lately Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo are prime examples of small forwards with amazing ball-handling skills, great court vision, and ability to create plays and scoring opportunities for teammates, while also having great defensive presence, active on the boards, and blocking shots.
These players revolutionized the small forward position, as they are the players who keep the ball in their hand more than other players. They are known as “point forwards,” as they present a hybrid between point guards and forward position.
If you look at the players mentioned above, it’s easy to understand why they are among the most dominant players in basketball. It’s a nice company to be in, for sure.
If your height is somewhere in the region between 6’8’’ and 7’, don’t worry about your position on a court – you’re a power forward.
There is no position in basketball that faces so much change and offers more variety than power forward position. In the history of the game, players that were dominant in the power forward position possessed an unlimited number of different characteristics.
Since the goal of this article is to make your job of finding the right position for you easier, for power forward position this task is easy and difficult at the same time. So, let’s try to highlight some common characteristics of power forwards.
If you want to play this role, you need to provide solid rebounding for the team. Protecting the paint is one of the priorities for power forwards, as they are second tallest players in the team.
As power forward, you will participate heavily in pick&roll actions, setting screens for your guard teammates. This will open a lot of scoring opportunities for you and your team.
You also need to have strength to guard strong players in the post, but at the same time enough mobility to challenge attackers from the perimeter. The mobility of power forwards is the main point of separation from centers.
Offensively, in today’s game, there are no definite rules in terms of skill required for this position. This is where versatility of power forwards really stands out.
If you are strong player who is more comfortable close to the basket and in mid-range area, you are a classic power forward. This type shares more characteristics of centers, and often can play in center position. A good example of this type would be legendary Karl Malone or Tim Duncan. LaMarcus Aldridge and Anthony Davis are classic power forwards in today’s game.
On the other side, modern basketball created “stretch fours.” Today, this type of players dominates the power forward position. You will be spending a lot of time on the perimeter as a stretch four, as one of the main skills you need to possess for this position is good 3-point shooting.
Draymond Green is a prototype of a modern power forward, and a true “stretch four” player. If you enjoy watching Green play, and if you have required height and strength, power forward is definitely your basketball position.
Are you the tallest dude in the team? Are you the strongest dude in the team? Can you bloc shots and grab a rebound whenever you want? Is scoring in the paint as easy as anything for you?
If the answer to all these questions is “Yes” – center is a position for you.
Centers physically dominate part of the basketball game. As the tallest player in the lineup, your job is to protect the paint and serve as the last standpoint of defense. You’ll need to secure defensive board, and fight for offensive rebounds that lead to new scoring opportunities.
As you will often look like a giant among elves, quickness and constant moving will not be a strong suit of yours in center position. Your out-of-paint movement will most of time be limited to setting pick&rolls for small guys.
Most of the time you will be faced in the opposite direction of basket. Centers are looking towards the basket the least amount of time, so be ready for that sacrifice.
Also, get ready for some serious physical game play. As a center, you’ll be playing under heavy contact, sometimes literally wrestling with your opponent for position. The game gets pretty physical in the paint.
But there are some beautiful aspects of playing center. Just look how often DeAndre Jordan finished offensive action with spectacular alley-oop dunks. As a tall guy who’s constantly playing above the rim, you can have a lot of fun in center position.
Finding the right position in basketball is one of the defining things for you as a player. This is why it is of the utmost importance to choose the position that highlights your advantages and covers your weak posts the most.
In order to accomplish that, you have to know yourself as a player. Practice every aspect of the basketball game and see where you feel most comfortable.
We provided you with fundamentals of every position in basketball. Read them carefully, then read them again, and try to find out which position describes your desired game the best way.
Once you discover the position that suits you, start studying the best players in your position. Discover how they play, what makes them so good in their job, and try to absorb as much as you can from them. Remember, good players borrow from other players, but the best players steal from them. Steal the best moves, practice them, and make them your own.
We hope that after reading this article, the question “What position should I play in basketball?” will be answered. Good luck, and keep the love for this beautiful game.