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Which Position Should You Play in Basketball?

Which Position Should You Play in Basketball?

Which Position Should You Play in Basketball?

In both the NBA and the game of basketball, a team of five players is required to begin a game. However, not all five players will be playing each role. Rather, each individual player will assume a specific position and will have specific and unique responsibilities which require a specific set of skills.

For a basketball team to be successful, it takes each individual player playing their specific position to their maximum capabilities.

And whether you are looking to just get started in basketball or are wanting to verify your specific position, we’re going to review just which position should you play in basketball.

Below, we will review all of the possible positions in basketball to better help you determine the right fit for both you and your team. In addition, we’ll review some of the most famous NBA players to have played in each position.

What Are The Five Positions in Basketball?

As a regulation game of basketball requires a minimum of five players to begin, teams typically look to recruit, develop, and train at least five players to represent them on the court. These starting five players are typically the best players on the team and are represented within the following positions.

Point Guard – or the 1 Position

The point guard is considered to be the coach of the team while on the court. The most specialized role of any position on a basketball team, the point guard is expected to run the team’s offense by controlling both the ball and the flow of the offense.

Similar in positioning as an NFL quarterback, the point guard must be intimately familiar with the coach’s game plan and techniques in order to properly execute against them.

A point guard is expected to be one of the most versatile players on the court. And while their primary job is in handling the ball, they should primarily concern themselves with facilitating scoring opportunities either for themselves or one of their teammates.

From a defensive end, the point guard is primarily meant to defend on the perimeter and against the three-point shot. Similarly, the point guard is tasked with defending against the opposing teams point guard and may look to sneak in for the quick steal off an errant or poor dribble.

The Shooting Guard – or the 2 Position

The shooting guard plays a similar role as the point guard but does not bear the same responsibility in having to handle the ball as often. Rather, a shooting guards main objective on offense is to score points for their team.

Shooting guards are typically excellent shooter, particularly from far distances and away from the basket. In addition, most shooting guards average above 35% from three-point range.

Usually taller than their point guard counterparts, many shooting guards will also look to drive to the basket for layups and dunks. In addition, due to their shorter stature as compared to bigger players on the court, they are often versatile and difficult to catch.

The Small Forward – or the 3 Position

The small forward is the perfect cross between the smaller guards and the larger power forward’s and centers on the court. Extremely versatile, small forwards are tasked with being just about a little bit of everything on the court.

From scoring, to passing, to grabbing a rebound, to defending on the perimeter and close to the basket, small forwards do it all.

And they are typically able to do so due to their height advantage. Neither too tall, nor too short, small forwards find balance on both ends of the spectrum and have been known to be excellent all-around players.

However, it is important to note, small forwards are typically more “off the ball” players. This means that you typically won’t see a small forward handling the ball too often. Rather, they are adept at cutting to the basket and receiving a perfectly positioned pass to complete the play at the rim.

The Power Forward – or the 4 Position

The power forward position is typically reserved for taller players who may not meet the weight and strength needed to play the center position. Often playing with their backs to the basket, the power forwards position themselves for mid-range jumpers and, in recent years, have become more adept at the 12-18 foot shot range.

Strong and capable, power forwards assist in defending close to the basket and look to swat a shot from entering the basket. In addition, and perhaps most notably, power forwards are extremely skilled in securing rebounds and often lead their teams in doing so.

The Center – or the 5 Position

Centers are typically the biggest players in both height and weight on the court. Playing extremely close to basket, centers look to score close to the hoop, typically via a dunk at the rim. In addition, due to their height, centers will typically be the ones to initiate the start of a basketball game via the tip-off.

However, and above-all-else, centers are known for their defensive abilities. They are meant to protect the rim and the basket from incoming opposing players and will typically rack up a number of blocked shots per game.

And while the role of the center has diminished slightly with the evolution of the three-point line, centers still command a formidable presence on the court and are seen as the last line of defense against an opposing team.

Determining What Position to Play in Basketball

Once you understand the general roles and responsibilities of each position, you can begin to narrow down your choice of position. However, there are still a number of minor nuances which may help you make a final choice.

Below, we are going to review some of these additional minor nuances and skillsets needed for each position. Read through them fully to better determine the perfect basketball position for yourself.

Point Guards

Best NBA Players Who Are 6'9"
  • Typically smaller in stature and weight than other players on the court
  • Have excellent court vision and are able to read both the defense and offense schemes
  • Seen as the coach on the court and will typically run plays through themselves
  • Is typically an excellent leader and provides positive reinforcement to their teammates
  • Runs the offense and is an excellent ball handler
  • Can pass efficiently and is able to take, and make, the open shot
  • Typically looks for the open player and opportunity
  • Excellent communication skills and able to control the flow and pace of the game
  • Extremely aware of situations such as time on the clock, score, and number of timeouts
  • Has an aura of self-control and sees themselves as representing the team
  • Typically guards the opposing teams point guard
  • Scrappy, aggressive, and always hustling on defense
  • Willing to dive for the loose ball and force a turnover

Some famous NBA point guards include Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Steph Curry, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, Chris Paul, John Stockton, Steve Nash, Gary Payton, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, and Kyrie Irving.

Shooting Guards

  • Typically the best outside shooter
  • Usually scores the most on the team and is adept at shooting from far ranges
  • Adept at handling the ball but doesn’t have the same pressure to do so as the point guard
  • Typically a bit taller and stronger than the point guard
  • Can drive to the basket and finish strong or make an outlet pass to an open player
  • Looks to move with the ball to push the offense forward
  • Will usually defend the outer wings on the perimeter of the court
  • Attempts to stop opposing players from beginning to drive to the basket
  • Has a score first mentality

Some famous NBA shooting guards include Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwayne Wade, Allen Iverson, James Harden, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, Ray Allen, Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Klay Thompson, and Manu Ginobili.

Small Forwards

  • A Jack of all trades but not really an expert at any
  • Able to shoot from further away and closer ranges but typically does not have the same range as a shooting guard
  • A mix of offensive and defensive excellence
  • Typically a perfect cross between the smaller guards and the taller, bigger power forwards and centers
  • An excellent rebounder with the ability to chase down the loose ball
  • Can move effectively without the ball and looks to finish close to the rim after a pick-and-roll or a cut to the rim
  • In excellent shape physically and is typically one of the fastest players on the court
  • Strong without being bulky, small forwards play it all
  • Will typically guard the best player on the opposing team due to their taller size and athleticism

Some famous NBA small forwards include LeBron James, Larry Bird, Kevin Durant, Julius Erving, Elgin Baylor, Scottie Pippen, Kawhi Leonard, Dominique Wilkins, James Worthy, Carmelo Anthony, Paul Pierce, and Paul George.

Power Forwards

  • Taller than nearly any other player on the court save for the center
  • Strong and athletic, power forwards are able to finish strong at the rim
  • In addition, power forwards are adept at shooting the mid-range shot and some have become efficient at the three-point shot
  • Able to execute a variety of post moves
  • Typically ambidextrous and able to finish at the rim with either hand
  • One of the strongest players on the court and are able to finish strong at the rim
  • Excellent screener and is able to set the pick-and-roll to finish at the hoop
  • Extremely proficient at crashing the boards and grabbing the rebound
  • First line of defense when a player attempts to cut close to the basket
  • Protective of the center and the basket and are typically big and strong enough to make any opposing player think twice before driving to the basket

Some famous NBA power forwards include Tim Duncan, Karl Malone, Kevin Garnett, Dirk Nowitzki, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Charles Barkley, Anthony Davis, Pau Gasol, Dennis Rodman, Draymond Green, Chris Webber, Rasheed Wallace, and LaMarcus Aldridge.


  • Typically the biggest and heaviest players on the court
  • Can shoot short jumpers and finish at the basket with relative ease
  • Ability to perform all necessary post moves
  • Strong and capable, centers are adept below the rim and typically look to dunk the ball directly into the basket with one or two hands
  • Typically receive the brunt of the abuse and hits from the opposing teams
  • Are notorious for their poor free throw abilities and will typically find themselves purposefully placed on the free throw line towards the end of a close game
  • Strong rebounder who is able to secure closer rebounds
  • Typically not the fastest player and will often be found to be the ones to return to the offensive side of the floor last
  • Is able to effectively box out due to their larger size
  • Is extremely capable in blocking shots

Some famous NBA centers include Shaquille O’Neal, Yao Ming, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Hakeem Olajuwon, Moses Malone, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, George Mikan, Bob McAdoo, Robert Parish, Dwight Howard, Bill Walton, Nikola Jokic, and Dikembe Mutombo.

Conclusion – Which Position Should You Play in Basketball?

When it comes to choosing and deciding which position you should play in basketball, it is important to be honest with yourself regarding your abilities, both naturally and through practice and experience.

If you are a natural ball handler, have excellent court vision, are able to shoot the open shot, and are a leader on the court, consider the point guard position.

If you are naturally gifted with a bit more height and are able to shoot from further away, are able to drive to the basket, and have excellent passing abilities, consider the shooting guard position.

If you are taller than the guards but shorter than the power forwards and centers, athletic, fast, and able to efficiently shoot the ball from mid-range, then consider the small forward position.

If you are taller than most players but not as heavy as a center, then consider the power forward position. Be sure to be ready for the close range shot and to be able to effectively grab a loose rebound and be sure to utilize your height and intimidating demeanor to block shots close to the rim.

And if you are the tallest, heaviest player on a team, then definitely consider the center position. You’ll get close shots and should be able to dunk the ball with ease. You’ll definitely get hit by opposing players looking to swipe the ball away but your superhuman strength should be no match for them.