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Understanding Key Basketball Positions and Their Role in the Game

NBA teams are typically comprised of 12 players, 7 of whom sit on the bench and come in periodically throughout the game. The game's starters are comprised of 5 players who play strategic positions on the court. From big men in the paint to smaller, quicker facilitators, the game has evolved in many respects to be faster, higher and bigger, but there is really no way around the 5 concrete positions. Every team that experiences success in the league has the basic 5 setup of players on the court; and while many may play dual positions or hybrid spots, the positions themselves remain unchanged. Understanding the different basketball positions that matter during the game will provide you with insight when evaluating your wagering options based on the status of specific players. This information would apply to both legal NBA betting and legal NCAAB betting.

The Five Positions on the Court


The center in basketball, known as the "five," is typically a big man who guards and plays in the paint. When you think of a center, think about Jabar, Wilt Chamberlain, or Shaq. These are huge men, typically around 7' tall, and they play directly underneath the rim. They excel at rebounding, they're great defensive players generally speaking, and they have big bodies that help to keep the paint clear on both ends of the court.

Point Guard

The point guard of a team is known as the "one," and he is the player who facilitates the entire offense. He is typically the player who brings the ball up the court, and he is the player who calls and runs offensive plays and passes the ball to other scorers on the team. John Stockton, Chris Paul and Jason Kidd are all (were) typical point guards in the NBA. They're small, quick, have great ball handling skills, and they know how to pass in traffic in order to rack up assists.

Shooting Guard

The shooting guard is the most popular position in basketball history. Called the "two guard," or "off guard," the shooting guard is tasked with actually scoring the lion's share of the points for his team. Shooting guards are also expected to play great defense against the opposing team's shooting guard as well, so great shooting guards serve double duty on the court. To better understand just how famous this position is, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, and Allen Iverson all played as the two guard.

Small Forward

The small forward position, known as the "three," is really a hybrid position in basketball. Though they're not as big as the power forwards, they're also typically bigger than shooting guards. This allows them to play offense like a two guard, but also defend the paint, the low post, and the perimeter like a big man. Scottie Pippen is one of the most famous hybrid small forwards (called a point forward), and Paul George and Kevin Durant also play the position. LeBron James has even played the position before, but he tends to switch depending on scheme.

Power Forward

Known as the "four," the power forward is basically the last line of low post offense and defense before getting to the center. By and large, power forwards are defensive specialists, but today's modern game is must faster and thus demands more offense from the position. Dirk Nowitzki and Tim Duncan are both power forwards, and other notables include Kevin Love, Anthony Davis and Kevin Garnett. This position can be high-scoring, but a four is essentially a strong defensive cog with the ability to rebound.

Today's NBA has led to many of these classic positions becoming hybrids. For instance, Tim Duncan is actually a hybrid center/power forward. He can play in either position, and the same goes for many other players, like Pau Gasol and Anthony Davis. The same can be said for the guard positions. Many point guards actually assume more of a two guard role. You can see this with Russel Westbrook playing alongside Kevin Durant. It all depends on the particular team and scheme. But no matter what, there are only five starting positions on the floor.

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