What Are The Five Positions In Basketball?

Basketball Positions

What Are The Five Positions In Basketball?

Basketball is a team sport with five players on each side. Each player has an important role, and understanding their position will help you understand how the game works. The five positions in basketball are point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center.

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these positions entails. 

The 1: Point Guard (PG) 

The point guard is the leader of the team on the court and is responsible for running the offense and controlling the ball while ensuring all players are in the right place. They must have excellent passing skills and be able to read the defense quickly to create scoring opportunities for their teammates.

A point guard can either be a lead guard that is adept at scoring or one that sets up others for scoring. The lead guard will be adept at hitting the 3-pt field goal or taking the ball to the hoop. Steph Curry, Damian Lillard, and James Harden are prime examples of NBA lead guards.

The facilitating point guard is a mastermind of the half-court offense and racks up a lot of assists. Boston Celtic great Bob Cousy was the first point guard of this. Hall of Famer John Stockton was another prototypical facilitating point guard. Some point guards can play both roles very well. Magic Johnson was a prime example.

The 2: Shooting Guard (SG) 

The shooting guard is usually one of the best shooters on the team. They tend to play off-ball and spend most of their time around the three-point line looking for open shots. They must be able to shoot accurately and consistently from all angles and have good footwork and ball-handling skills to create their shots when needed.

In today’s NBA, the shooting guard must be able to get into open space from beyond the 3-pt arc and consistently knock down that shot. The proper outside positioning enables the point guard or other players on the court to find him for a long-range open shot. 

Over the history of the game, the shooting guard position has evolved into either an offensive juggernaut or a defensive specialist. Some shooting guards, such as veteran Danny Green, have been known to hit the three and play stellar defense. Those that are primarily long-range shooters are typical of the catch-and-shoot variety.

The 3: Small Forward (SF) 

The small forward position is also known as a “wing” or the “three” and is typically the most balanced offensive player on the floor. This role is usually assigned to an individual on the team who is athletic enough to handle these varying responsibilities effectively.

Typically, small forwards have a mix of skills ranging from shooting, dribbling, and other ball-handling techniques to rebounding and even guarding players who are bigger and taller than themselves.

Being able to move smoothly between offense and defense makes the small forward an invaluable asset because they can switch back and forth as needed to facilitate smooth play across both sides of the court.

The 4: Power Forward (PF) 

Power forwards usually play close to the basket and are responsible for rebounding and defending against post players who try to score inside or near the paint area. They need excellent strength and agility since they often battle against bigger players for rebounds or loose balls under the basket.

In essence, the power forward is a larger, stronger version of the “three” and is typically not as adept at long-range shooting. However, the “four” is notably one of the best, if not the best, rebounding on the team. While not always great passer, some power forwards is excellent passers from the post, getting the ball to open players from beyond the arc.

Anthony Davis of the Los Angeles Lakers is a typical stretch four in the modern NBA game. He is a solid long-range shooter, effectively using screens and taking on centers at the rim.

The 5: Center (C) 

The center is typically one of the tallest players on any basketball team. They are responsible for protecting their goal by blocking shots or altering them with their height advantage over other players attempting a shot near or at their goal.

Centers must have great footwork and quick reactions so that they can stay in front of opposing post players trying to score near their goal area and move quickly enough when needed away from it. If needed, centers should also have decent outside shooting skills to provide another scoring threat beyond 3-point range.  

A case in point is Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers. He can score from long range, drill mid-range shots, turn around jumpers, drive into the paint, bring the ball up the court, and overpower underneath. He is a nightmare to cover and will dominate players in one-on-one situations.


Understanding each position in basketball will help you gain insight into how teams run plays, coordinate strategies, maximize efficiency, and ultimately win games! Next time you watch a game, make sure you understand which player is playing which position.

Knowing which position your favorite player plays will help you appreciate why certain plays work better than others in a given game situation. You will become an expert at spotting specific player roles during live action with some practice.