I was doing some fantasy basketball mock drafts with the homies last night. My one friend made a joke that I hated everyone on his team at that point, which was for the most part true (1). They accused me of not liking a lot of players. As it was an auction draft, the next player put up for auction was Ricky Rubio, and I made the remark that I liked Rubio. My friend said it was because I was obsessed with passing point guards. My first thought: “Duh!” My second thought: “I should enlighten people why I’m harder on some players for their style of play than others.” When it comes to positions in the game of basketball, I’m a traditionalist. I’ve seen players that have had success in their positions, and their style is the baseline that we should study.
As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, a point guard is the quarterback of the offense. It is his job to get his teammates in the right spots offensively. A point guard should be level headed and calm in the midst of a chaotic game. A team ceases to be productive when the point guard wants to carry the offensive burden. Basketball, when reduced to it’s simplest definition, is simple: pass to the open man. A point guard should know his teammates’ abilities and should be the extension of the coach on the floor. It’s all cliché, but it holds true.
Current example: Rajon Rondo. All-time example: Magic Johnson.
This one should be obvious. A shooting guard is supposed to shoot. Ideally, the shooting guard will lead the team in scoring and will be turned to in situations where points are needed. A shooting guard should also have the ability to handle and distribute the ball when necessary, as the two guard positions will likely have possession of the ball the most on the team.
Current example: Kobe Bryant. All-time example: Michael Jordan.
The small forward has to be the most versatile player on the court. The 1s and 2s can fill for each other and the 4s and 5s can flip positions easily. The three is a very demanding position. It requires the ability to handle the ball effectively, rebound when necessary, score points from the wing, and have a decent jump shot to fall back on when necessary. The small forward is a fill-in-the-blank position. It is the hardest to define because it depends on what his respective team needs him to do to help the team win.
Current example: LeBron James. All-time example: Larry Bird.
There’s a reason why the position is not called the big forward. The power forward has traditionally been an offensive force in the low post. Consistent rebounding, efficient post-ups, and the ability to run the floor separates a power forward from the others. When the offense stalls, the team should be able to dump the ball into the power forward and generate points or free throws.
Current example: Kevin Love. All-time example: Tim Duncan.
The man in the middle is the most prized position in the game due to the rarity of a great center. A center should anchor the team’s defense. He is the last line of defense. A truly great center rebounds the ball at a rate higher than anyone else. Scoring points is not necessary to be an effective center, but put-backs and starting fast breaks are a prerequisite to the job. Basketball is a game played from the inside out, and championships are usually not won without a dominate paint presence.
Current example: Roy Hibbert. All-time example: Bill Russell.
(1) He had Russell Westbrook and Blake Griffin. Would a team led by those guys win 20 games in an NBA season? And would Blake even score any points?