4 Most Important Positions in Basketball (Ranked)

Basketball is one of the most well-known and most played sports globally. The team with the highest number of points, which they get by shooting the ball through the hoop or basket, wins the game.

Each team is composed of five members with different positions. These positions are the center, the power forward, the small forward, the point guard, and the shooting guard. 

Being a team sport, each player has a role and function within the team, and while these players are all important to the game, some positions serve a more important purpose than the others. 

Let’s break these positions down some more and analyze which ones are the most necessary.


The tallest player on each team is also known as the center. It is a position whose role changes, though, depending on the game strategy being played at the moment.

On the offense, the center attempts to score close shots and rebounds. Meanwhile, the center attempts to block different shots and rebounds than their opponents missed on the defense. An example of a center player would be Nikola Jokic from the Denver Nuggets.

According to USA Basketball, this is the most important position. Those who play centers have to be physical and tough. Since they are near the basket, they count for a huge percentage of shots. 

A player assigned as the center should be versatile and, probably, the best player on the team. They must be good at rebounding and have to have excellent defense skills to prevent opposing teams from getting shots in. Most of the time, they are a team’s highest chance of offense and are the last line of defense.

Power Forward

The power forward is quite similar to the center player. They are often found near the basket when rebounding or are seen defending taller players. 

While their roles in a team may seem similar, their roles within it are still quite unique. The difference between a power forward and a center is that the power forwards should be able to take longer shots than the centers. An example of a power forward would be Kevin Durant from the Brooklyn Nets.

According to USA Basketball, the power forwards play an important role for a basketball team to operate well. Power forwards must be great at rebounds. They also must be able to hold the ball after securing it. 

The defending team often ignores the power forwards. Because of this, power forwards can make open shots and are expected to do so when not being the focus of attention. 

Power forwards must be able to push their team into making bigger plays when others cannot.

Small Forward

The small forward goes against both small and large players. They go around the entire court. Small forwards are supposed to be able to score both long-range shots and short-range ones. An example of a small forward is LeBron James from the Los Angeles Lakers. 

According to USA Basketball, small forwards are also considered all-rounders. Then, it is a must that they have the all-around ability to make them an asset to the team. They may not be the primary ball holder, but they must be able to dribble well.

They are not expected to be excellent post players, but they should still be able to do post-ups. They may not be the top-scoring options, but they have to at least be able to score. 

Point Guard

Point guards normally run the offense, so they are expected to be the best dribblers and passers on the team. The point guard blocks off the opposing point guard and attempts to take the ball. An example of a point guard would be Trae Young from the Atlanta Hawks. 

According to USA Basketball, the point guard may be one of the most demanding positions in this sport. A good point guard is expected to have the following qualities:

  • should have extraordinary ball-handling skills
  • must be a threat when it comes to scoring
  • be able to orchestrate the offense 
  • be able to make assists 
  • have a good defense against the opposing team’s point guard

The point guard will be holding the ball more than any other team member, which is why he must be able to make good decisions about what to do with it. The team cannot play well without a good point guard.

Often, the point guard is also described as the representative of the court. They have to understand what their teammates want and translate it well on the court. Point guards should have the instinct to be able to immediately understand their teammates, especially while on the court.

Point guards control the pace of the game. They have the presence of mind to wait until the players are in their correct positions before starting their plays. They recognize which player has hot hands and successfully communicate the strategic plays to the team during the peak of the game.

The point guard has a lot of critical responsibilities, which is why he regularly faces defensive efforts that may reduce his effectiveness.

If the point guard gets shaken by the opposition, your team’s offense may be reduced, and the baskets end up in the opposing team’s favor. Point guards have to be ready for any and all types of pressure that they may face.

Shooting Guard

This player is also known as the number 2 guard or the off-guard. The shooting guard is typically the best shooter on the team. He can make long-distance shots and is also a great dribbler. An example of a shooting guard would be Klay Thompson from the Golden State Warriors. 

According to USA Basketball, the shooting guard is the team’s sharpshooter or best shooter. The point guard sets up the shots that will be made by the shooting guard. Usually, the more accurate a shooting guard is, the better.

The shooting guard also needs to be an excellent perimeter defender who has strong ball-handling skills to relieve the point guard of some of their duties. They must be able to come up with scoring opportunities when no one else can. 

The 4 Most Important Positions In a Basketball Team

Now that we have reviewed all five of the positions, it is time to review which of them are the most valuable. 

‘Team’ is obviously the operative word in a basketball team. Without a doubt, the team cannot function without all five players. That said, four of these positions are considered to bear more weight and responsibilities in the team.

Here are the most important positions in Basketball (Ranked):

  1. Point Guard
  2. Center
  3. Shooting Guard
  4. Forward

The most important would be the point guard since he is expected to be in charge of the entire court. He is the one who is supposed to make way for his teammates. If the point guard messes up, the team’s entire play fails. It’s not only the most important position, but it’s also regarded as the hardest position to play in Basketball.

Second, in line is the center. He is said to be the last line of defense. He is the person who catches the rebound shots. 

The third most important position is the shooting guard. He is tasked to be in charge of most of the shots or points for their team to win the game. He should be able to make clear and definite shots once the ball is passed to him.

Last is the small forward – the one who is considered the all-rounder of the team. He is expected to be able to do any task and to be able to adjust to any strategy. This leaves the power forward as the last most important player of the sport.

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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