Basketball Positions: Roles & Responsibilities

Knowing the roles of different positions in Basketball can allow people to get a better understanding of the game in general.

While the line is blurring between responsibilities in the modern game, there are still defined positions that players can be categorized in.

There are three main categories, but there are also unique position names for specific types of players.


  • 1. Point Guard
  • 2. Shooting Guard

Traditionally, there are two types of guards, and they play different roles depending on team composition. Since the game is changing to the point that these two guards need to do a lot of the same things, it is combined for this purpose.

Point Guards are regarded as the hardest and most important position on a Basketball team. A point guard is responsible for bringing the ball up and orchestrating the offense in most cases. They tend to be the shortest or one of the shortest players on the team, and they are often looked at for leadership.

For a long time, scoring was not really necessary for the point guard, but teams are relying on scoring point guards more than ever before.

On defense, they often guard the other teams ball handler as well. Putting pressure on the ball handler and causing trouble up top in a defense is what a coach wants out of a plane guard.

Shooting guards are more than just shooters in most cases. They are often the secondary call handler, and they can do a lot of different things to help out their team. Being able to score from all of the court is important, but they also must be able to guard multiple positions to bring value on that end.

Most players in today’s NBA are listed as guards instead of getting too specific. They can share responsibilities with another Player on the team, and that means different roles each time down the court. This makes it difficult for the defense to track what is going on, and teams can flourish by giving the opposition different luxe.


  • 3. Small Forward
  • 4. Power Forward

Forwards are the most versatile players in today’s NBA. Whether a person is labeled as a small forward or power forward, having the ability to guard multiple positions and bring different facets to office make a big difference.

The small forward position can be looked at as a heart of any team in today’s game. They are usually average height with outstanding athleticism and the ability to be a main score when necessary. They might not be particularly great at any one thing, but the versatility is very beneficial.

Power forwards are also versatile, but they tend to be a bit taller and limited on offers. They might be able to create in someways, but they also provide good value down low. A modern day power forward is not so powerful, as they are asked to be knocked out in shooters decorating blues players who excel in that category, they are often labeled as stretch fours instead of power forward.

That is not to say that power forwards can’t provide muscle down low. In fact, a lot of smaller players are starting to compete at the power four position, opening up the center position for traditional power forwards. Athleticism and versatility is more important than ever, so having an above average athletic player in the NBA can really pay off.


  • 5. Center

The first few decades of the NBA was dominated by centers. From George Mike into Shaquille O’Neal, there is been a long line of dominant players simply taller than the competition. As the game is opened up, teams do not rely on centers as much, but they still provide a valuable role.

The modern center in today’s game can control rebounding down low, and they can post up when needed for an easy basket. A lot of teams will use their center in the Pickin Roscoe’s Malone and them to run to the rain and finish if the point guard find some open.

The struggle for a traditional center in today’s game is that they have a hard time keeping up with the fast pace. Not only that, but they can be picked on defense if they are switched on a smaller player.

Position With Basketball

The term position with Basketball is a relatively new one to the game, but something that seems to be turning into the norm. Players are taking on different roles and being more versatile than ever before. A few examples of these weird positions are the following players.

LeBron James

With the size of a power forward, LeBron James has been labeled as a point guard at times. He is one of the definitions of a point forward, which is a made up position name combining a point guard with a forward. This is because he is such a great creator on offense for others.

For many other teams throughout the years, he has initiate the offense, which is something usually left for point guards. There are some teams he played with that do not use it for additional point guard at all, allowing him to play all over the courts wherever he feels necessary.

Nikola Jokic

Can a point center actually exist in the NBA? Nikola Jokic might be the best example of that right now. He has the size and athleticism of a traditional stationary center, which would seem to not translate well to today’s NBA. However, he can pass the ball extremely well, and has superb ballhandling skills to go with it.

The Denver youngest use him as a guy who can run the offense, either from the tradition of my car position, or from different spots on the floor. When teams try to cheat, he can then exploit that by scoring on his own.

Kevin Durant

How do teams guard a close to seven footer who might be one of the best shooters in NBA history? When he is really on a roll, he is virtually unstoppable. Teams have no answer for a seven footer who is a guard or small forward in a lot of lineups. He even can take on point our responsibilities here and there, making it a total nightmare for defenders.

Durrant has extremely long arms, which will allow him to shoot over virtually any defender without being bothered. This skill set makes him one of the few players who can play any of the five positions on the court.

How Much Do Positions Matter?

Positions are a great way to learn the game of basketball, but they should not be viewed as the definitive guide. Teams use players at different positions all the time, and the roles can jump around as well.

There might be a time in the future where positions are rarely referred to, especially if everyone becomes so much more versatile. It is still a great way to label players and understand positioning, but as the NBA changes, that could be the way.

Chris Davis

I'm Chris, the guy behind BasketballJoy. I've played basketball for 20+ years and have been a full-time coach since 2017. On this website, I share everything I know about the most beautiful sport in the world - Basketball.

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