Decoding the Positions in Basket in a Cardinal Manner


Sports has always been a matter of great interest for every human being on this planet. Not only the act of playing with an opponent has become very challenging these days, but also different games have become more complex.

Basketball is a very famous sport that gives a player a lot of excitement, fun and joy. It is played on a basketball court between two opponents, and it is, like many other games, a team-game. So, understanding the positions of a basketball player and their roles is very critical.

An Overview of the Player Positions in Basketball

Basketball can be quite a tricky game despite the small number of players involved and playing inside an indoor and relatively small court. The reason being most games have specific position assigned to a particular player.

For example, in a cricket match, a batsman bats and a bowler’s main role is to run with a ball to get the batsman out. In a football match, there is a designated goalkeeper, defenders, midfielders and strikers. Each player is responsible for his/her position and plays accordingly.

But, in basketball, there is no fixed rule on who should be playing in what position. Nevertheless, basketball has distinctive areas, just like other games as well.

There is 5 basic position with 4 hybrid positions in basketball. The game is played with 5 players on each team, somewhat responsible in their solo position, but mostly play in hybrid areas.

5 main positions in basketball

  • Point guard- in short PG
  • Shooting guard- in short SG
  • Small forward- in short SF
  • Power forward- in short PF
  • Center- in short C

4 hybrid positions in basketball

  • Combo guard
  • Point guard
  • Swingman
  • Stretch 4

A Short History of Basketball Positions

James Naismith was the first person to create 13 rules originally in 1891, where he did not include any specific position or number of players for the game.

However, it is believed that his team of 9 players on each side consisted of 3 guards, 3 forwards and 3 centres. This though, changed in the year 1896 when specific rules were introduced regarding player positions in basketball.

In the past, there were positions called ‘running guard’ who used to bring the ball down to the court, and a position called ‘stationary guard’ who used to take long shots and then get back to defence to protect the basket. Just like other sports, the playing positions kept on evolving and reached today’s condition.

Explanation of Roles and Skillset of Basketball Positions

The basic positions

1.     Point guard (PG)

The point guard fundamentally plays like a quarterback in American football, who get the ball up to the court, calls the players to go up to score and initiates offence in the game. These players play a significant role as they get the game going every time from the defense. Point guards can play both in the offence and the defence.

Traditionally, a point guard should have qualities like driving the lane, and a substantial jump to shoot 3-pointers for offensive plays. For defence, a point guard should be a good ball-handler and guard the ball so that passes do not get through.

Point guards are usually short in height and very quick on their feet as speed is their forte. They are very agile, good passer and very vocal so that they can call players to go forward and score. Ideally, they have good IQ as they set up the play by being a playmaker.

2.     Shooting guard (SG)

Shooting guards are excellent shooters. Their main responsibility is to find out open spaces and shoot from anywhere on the court or shoot 3-pointers. Sometimes, the shooting guard is considered to be the best player in the team, and the player is undoubtedly the best shooter.

Shooting guards, also known as two-guards, may not require as many skills as the point guards. Moreover, a shooting guard needs to strong-build and quick.

Besides, a shooting guard is usually excellent ball-handler. Although they may need to be neither short nor tall, they need to acquire defensive skills such as blocking or anticipating passes.

3.     Small forward (SF)

This is a very versatile position where players can defend, shoot, pass, dribble, and take 3-point shots. Unlike the name, a small forward has a huge role to play in basketball.

A small forward must have a mixture of attributes. In defence, they need to very agile, strong and good rebounders. They must also be skilled to make sudden long-jump shots.

In offence, a small forward must be quick and handle ball excellently. They must be super-fast to cut through the defense and get near the basket—a little forward shows excellent mobility and athleticism, as well.

4.     Power forward (PF)

As the name suggests, a power forward is a big and strong-build player who typically plays right under the basket. Their strength and vast body give them the advantage to score from close range and also defend their basket.

It is considered that power forwards are the best rebounder. Their strength makes them a good defender.

Putbacks, short jumpers and baseline fades are some array of shots that can provide a power forward an outstanding offensive player.

5.     Center (C)

Center players are the tallest player in the team. With height, these players are also very athletic. Their primary role is to create a bridge between defence and offence. This position is also called ‘five’.

In offence, a centre needs to play in the crowd and snatch away the ball to initiate offensive play. Their footwork is fundamental as playing in the middle require a lot of switching in between multiple positions.

On the other hand, centres are thought to be the best shot-blocker. They are responsible for rebounding as well, which suggests that their throwing needs to be high-class as well.

The hybrid positions

Combo guard

A combo guard is a blend of point guard and shooting guard. Their skill set comprises of good ball-handling and good shooting.

Point forward

This position is usually the small forward position with some attributes of the point guard. They have the skills to play small forward, but their ball-handling skills make them initiate offence like a point guard.


Players with the skillset of both shooting guards and small forwards have the skill set of shooting and handling the ball. Along with this, they are sturdy, big, and tall.

Stretch 4

This is a power forward but with high skill of long-range shooting. They get the team a lot of 3-pointers. They are agile and bring the defence forward very quickly. These players can really “stretch the floor” to get the game moving faster.


Basketball positions have come through a lot of evolution over the years. Many skilled coaches have used the areas so sophistically that their names are always uttered with those positions. As more famous the game becomes, the positions will inevitably go through more changes in future.