So before we get into the nitty gritty details of basketball, we need to start off with the fundamentals. If we don’t have the basic knowledge of basketball, watching games and even talking about games can be very confusing.
Let’s start with the 5 players on the court and what they are responsible for. You may hear people refer to positions as numbers or they may use titles such as point guard, small forward, etc. I’m going to explain which position corresponds to which number so you will be able to use them interchangeably. You ready?
Point guard – aka the one, play-makers, facilitatorsFor the Raptors, this would be your Kyle Lowry or Cory Joseph. These guys basically run the floor when the team is on offense. They are the ones that bring up the ball and help create opportunities for scoring. Good point guards will find the holes in the opposing team’s defense and exploit them. Notable point guards in the league at the moment would be Kyrie Irving of the Cleveland Cavaliers, Isaiah Thomas from the Boston Celtics and none other than Russell Westbrook of the OKC Thunder. So when you’re watching a game just remember these are usually the smaller guys on the court who run around like little bunnies bringing up the basketball.
Shooting guard/small forward– aka the two and three, wing players, shootersThese two positions have been put together because the roles are very similar. Guys like DeMar DeRozan and Norman Powell play these positions for the Raptors. As their name suggest, these guys are comfortable around the “wings” or corners of the court, by the three-point line. The slight difference between a shooting guard and small forward would be where they create opportunities. Successful small forwards have the athleticism to drive to the basket when the outside shot is not there for them. They are able to attack the basket and draw a foul from the opposing team because of their aggressiveness. You will usually notice that small forwards have the bulk of free-throws during a game because of the nature of their position. Some shooting guards/small forwards to look out for in the league would be James Harden of the Houston Rockets, Jimmy Butler of the Chicago Bulls and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks. These are the guys that you usually see compete in the Slam Dunk competition because of their creativity to get to the basket.
Power forwards- aka the four, postThe power forward position plays key roles in both offensive and defensive plays for a team. Patrick Patterson and Demarre Carroll would be guys on the Raptors who play this position. These guys would be able to cash in points from mid-range jump shots while providing the toughness needed to guard bigger players on the other end of the court. You will notice that these guys can play centre (should the team be playing “small”) but they usually move a lot quicker compared to your traditional "big man". If you really want to impress your friends with basketball talk, throw in the term “stretch four” which simply means that a player who plays power forward has expanded their arsenal to include the three-point shot. With the way the league has been shifting in its style of play, you will find a lot of power-forwards who would be considered a stretch four such as Dirk Nowitzki of The Dallas Mavericks, Kevin Love of the Cleveland Cavaliers, and of course Kevin Durant of the OKC Thun…I mean of the Golden State Warriors.
Centre – aka the five, bigs, low-postThe easiest way to spot the centers would be to look for the players at the beginning of the game, who are in the circle and takes jump ball off the referee. They are the tallest guys on the court. For the Raptors, Jonas Valancinus and Jokob Poeltl are the ones who are considered our “big men”. These are the guys that get majority of their points right under the basket and clean up around the board. Their main concern would be to get rebounds (offensive and defensive), make shots difficult for the opposing team and to set screens for their own team. Again, with the shift in style of basketball, the traditional big man has changed for the league. Bigs now have to be quick on their feet in order to be successful which is why you are now starting to see the young centres making an impact for their teams. Some young centres to look out for would be Joel Embiid of the Philadelphia 76ers, Nikola Jokic of the Denver Nuggets and of course my personal favourite, Karl-Anthony Towns of the Minnesota Timberwolves.
And there you have it, you now know the five positions of basketball! But one thing you have to remember is that these positions are not set in stone during the season or even during a game. Various factors can affect how a coach decides who plays what. Things like injuries and strategy can change how players are used in order to get the most out of their current situation. Therefore, some players can take on different positions depending on the need at the time and what will maximize the most success for the game.