Basketball Positions Explained: NBA Examples Included

By Alex Mercer

February 16, 2019

Basketball is a sport that requires all 5 positions on the court to be working in sync with one another. Each basketball position is different from one another and requires different skill sets. What are the 5 positions in basketball?

The 5 basketball positions are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center.

Each position plays a significant role and favors different body types. If you’re a taller player, there’s a position for you. If you’re a smaller player, there’s a position for you as well. That’s what makes basketball appealing; there’s a position for all sizes of players.  The five basic positions in basketball are easy to identify.

Let’s learn more!

5 Basketball Positions Explained

There are 5 positions on the basketball ball court. Teams may sub in players at any time during a dead ball period. Any player may wear any number.

No one position is more important that the other. They all are important basketball positions and should all of some sort of shooting skills.

Here are the 5 basketball positions.

Point Guard

steph curry point guard

The point guard is typically the smallest/quickest player on the court and the best ball-handlers. This player will take the inbound and dribble the ball up the court.

Point Guards are often referred to as the quarterback in basketball, as the play always starts with the point guard. 

Not only is the point guard position the smallest, quickest, and best ball handler, it’s typically the smartest player on the court who can handle the pressure.

When the game is on the line, you want the basketball in the hand of the best ball handler to run the most impactful play. This is why the point guard needs to have the best at dribbling the basketball as well as mid-range distance shots. The point guard will also be in charge of the half-court set offense and will direct the team’s offense.

This player can block out all the crowd’s noise and focus on getting his players in the correct position at the right time. 

Defensively, the point guard will more than likely be matched up against the other team’s point guard.

This means the player should be balanced in quick footwork and ball-stealing ability. Disrupting the flow of the opponent’s offense and being aggressive toward stealing the basketball is high on the point guard’s defensive list. They also require a high basketball IQ.

Last, this player should be well-conditioned, as they will play a majority of the game commanding the offensive attack. The point guard will handle the ball most of the time and assist other players in scoring.

Examples of Point Guards in the NBA: Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kyrie Irving, Damian Lillard, John Wall, Isaiah Thomas 

Shooting Guard

shooting guard in basketball

The shooting guard, or “the 2” in basketball, is a subset of the point guard. They’re typically shorter in stature but can shoot the best on the team. They’re called a shooting guard for a reason. Jump shots are the main skill set of the shooting guard.

As the point guard has the best handles and dribbling skills on the team, the shooting guard position is the player who can shoot the following shots:

  • Ball Screens
  • Off The Dribble
  • The Pull Up
  • From The Perimeter
  • With A Defender In Their Face

We could go on and on about the situations the shooting guard will face. To summarize, the shooting guard needs to shoot the ball at any point during a half-court set.

Plays are often created to get a shooting guard free, whether a back screen or a general ball screen.

This player is the combo guard, typically the player you want to take the last shot in a game. Defensively, the shooting guard will typically be matched up against the other team’s shooting guard. They should be prepared to play tight defensive coverage all over the floor.

This is the opponent’s best shooter, so it is essential to make sure they have no opportunity for a clean shot. The shooting guard defensively can not be a lazy player. The opponent’s team will have a field day hitting open shots if they are. 

Examples of Shooting Guards In The NBA: Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler, DeMar DeRozan, Jaylen Brown, Donovan Mitchell, James Harden.

Small Forward

small forward in basketball

The small forward is the best utility player on the team. It’s typically the player on the team who can do it all. They may be taller and don’t possess the ball skills to be a point guard or a shooting guard, but they can still shoot just as well. Small forwards are also a bit taller than your average guards. They are also known as a point forward.

As mentioned, they’re the best all-around, balanced player on the floor. Also known as “the 3”, the small forward is big enough to power defenders and quick enough to shoot off-ball screens.

No matter what league, whether it be youth or the NBA, the small forward needs to be well-rounded to be effective. 

Defensively, the small forward also needs to play on-ball off-ball and have enough stamina to chase the other small forward off-ball screens.

They will face post-moves from other small forwards, in which they also need to have some shot-blocking and quickness to navigate around the floor. 

Small Forwards In The NBA: Lebron James, Jason Tatum, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant

Power Forward

power forward in basketball

The power forward position in basketball is typically reserved for the 2nd tallest and 2nd most physical player. The 4, as it’s often referred to, is primarily an interior player who scraps for rebounds and put-backs. 

Shooting-wise, the power forward should be well equipped to hit anything mid-range (inside of the 3-point line), as well as posting up defenders in the key.

The power forward’s stature is typically bigger and slower in size but needs to be athletic enough to catch and shoot off low-ball screens. 

Defensively, the power forward needs to have both length and power to defend against other power defenders.

In the NBA, these players are often players with strong builds. Shot blocking, physicality, and controlling rebounds off the glass are attributes a power forward needs to be effective. 

Mid range jump shots, and taking perimeter jump shots are also skill sets that power forwards should be able to do.

Power Forwards In The NBA: Kyle Kuzma, Tobias Harris, Blake Griffin, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Julius Randle


center in basketball

The final position is the center position. Also known as the 5, the center position is reserved for the tallest player on the team. The center will take the opening tip-off and anchor themselves under the rim. 

Offensively, the center position is responsible for anything within 10 feet of the rim. This includes the following:

  • Short Range
  • Put Backs
  • Dunks
  • Controlling The Glass

The skillset of the center should be based on rebounding the basketball and going up strong. Along with being the tallest player on the team, being physical is also a great attribute.

Maintaining position and leverage over the other team’s center is key. The team that controls the glass on the offensive side increases their chance of winning games. 

Defensively, the center is responsible for cleaning up any offensive player who tries to drive the basketball to the rim. That mainly involves guards and forwards who try to score by dunking or laying the ball in.

The center should be excellent in shot-blocking and rebounding. Boxing out and lower body strength is the attributes of a great center. 

Centers In The NBA: Karl Anthony-Towns, Al Horford, Demarcus Cousins, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan

What Positions Score The Most?

It depends on the offense your team runs. The shooting guards and small forwards will favor the team running a half-court set tailored more toward perimeter shooting.

If it’s a ball screen short game, then power forwards and centers will be favored to score. Personnel is another dictating factor for scoring the most points for each game.

How Do I Know What Basketball Position I am?

Your coach will often dictate your position based on your size, speed, athleticism, ball handling, defense, and shooting ability. It’s essential to practice all of these skills to be a well-rounded player and to have the ability to play anywhere on the court.

This will maximize your playing time so the coach can move you to different positions.

Where Is The Post Position In Basketball?

The post is not a position in basketball but rather an area of the floor. Basketball courts have a rectangle usually colored under the basket, representing “the post.”

Centers and power forwards typically spend much of their time in this area rebounding and shooting short-range shots.

What Is The Most Important Position In Basketball?

The most important position in basketball is typically the point guard. It’s the quarterback of the defense who will be controlling the ball against the other team’s quickest defenders.

If the defense has an aggressive defender, the point guard will need to cross them up or shake them to back off. It’s crucial to have a ball-handler who spreads the ball around the floor and is able to calm the offense’s tempo when need be.


Each position in basketball has its special attributes. If a team has more ball handlers and shooters, then a team may choose to play fast. However, more quickness on the court typically means less size, which could hurt them in the paint.

Golden State Warriors are the perfect team to demonstrate this, as they have four guys on the floor who can shoot the ball from anywhere on the court. On the flip side, teams who opt to go big will have trouble covering quicker defenders and sharpshooters on the outside.

It’s always good to have a healthy balance on the floor at all times. This way, there’s no glaring mismatch that other teams can exploit. 

Any basketball team will have variations of these positions on their basketball team.

About the author

Hey There! My Name is Alex and I run Get Hyped Sports. I created this platform to help people find their love for sports and gaming.

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