Basketball Positions 101

basketball positions

A basketball team is made up of 5 different basketball positions. 

The youth basketball tips below will outline the main offensive and defensive roles of each one.

The point guard and shooting guard positions are explained in greater detail on another page. Click on their links to find out more.

#1 Player - Point Guard (PG) 

#2 Player - Shooting Guard (SG, Off-Guard, Wing) 

#3 Player - Small Forward (SF, Wing) 

#4 Player - Power Forward (PF, Post) 

#5 Player - Center (C, Post) 

Find each of the players positions on the basketball court diagram to the right. Keep in mind these are just general areas.

Each offensive set may look a little different, and each trip down the floor players will rotate around the court.

However, generally speaking, players #1-3 will mainly play on the perimeter, while #4 and #5 will roam the lane.

An individual player's strengths and weaknesses, physical size, and offensive scheme are just some of the factors that influence where a specific player might actually play.

Basketball Positions
#3 Player - Small Forward

basketball players positions

On Offense:

Usually the most athletic player on the team; quick and able to jump!

Shoots from the outside

Good ball handler

Creates scoring opportunities off the drive

Good rebounder; ready to crash the boards after every shot

Good passer with the ability to pass the ball down low to the posts

Moves effectively without the ball by cutting to get open

Knows how to use screens

Is in excellent physical shape and helps lead the fast break by running hard down the court every time

Very skilled, strong, and versatile player. Shoots from the outside as well as from the lane against the larger, more physical players

On Defense:

  • Typically guards the best athlete on the opposing team (usually the #3 player)
  • Has the same responsibilities as the #2 player with an extra focus on crashing the boards hard
  • Knows how to play post defense. At times, the offensive wing players cut through the lane and post up

Basketball Positions
#4 Player - Power Forward

On Offense:

  • Usually one of the tallest players on the team and often the smaller and more athletic of the post players
  • Makes quick, strong cuts across the lane
  • Sinks short jumpers from free throw distance and within
  • Executes a variety of post moves
  • Comfortable using either hand to handle the ball
  • Shoots facing the basket and from post moves with back to the basket
  • Has strong hands that can catch passes while being banged around and closely guarded
  • Physically and mentally strong to deal with the tough physical contact in the lane
  • Recognizes when the defense is collapsing. Finds an open teammate either by kicking the ball back out to the wing or dumping it down to the open #5 player
  • Critical in helping the offense reverse the ball around the floor
  • Good screener who sets picks for players to cut toward the basket
  • Strong rebounder with a desire to crash the boards after every shot

On Defense:

  • Blocks out and rebounds every time a shot goes up
  • Good help-side defender. Stops cutters from receiving the ball in the lane and helps stop any drives toward the basket

Basketball Positions
#5 Player - Center

On Offense:

  • Has many of the same responsibilities as the #4 player
  • Performs all of the post moves
United States women's national basketball team
Lisa Leslie
  • Confident using both hands to handle the ball
  • Scores facing the basket and working off post moves with back to the basket
  • Has strong hands. Catches passes and holds onto the ball while being banged around and closely guarded
  • Physical and mental toughness is a must because of the constant contact in the key
  • Recognizes when the defense sinks in. Finds an open teammate by passing the ball back out to the perimeter or finding the open #4 player
  • Critical in helping the offense reverse the ball around the floor
  • Good screener who sets picks for players to cut through the lane
  • Strong rebounder who hits the boards hard after every shot
  • Usually the trailer, or the last one down the floor, on the fast break

On Defense:

  • Blocks out and rebounds every time a shot is taken
  • Strong enough to play good post defense against big, strong players
  • Good help-side defender who can help teammates stop the drive
  • Takes advantage of her large body by being an intimidating presence in the middle. Blocks passing and driving lanes and contests every shot

And finally, there's one more spot on every team filled by players from all basketball positions.

The Bench Player.

You might be surprised at the important role those on the sideline fill.

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