NBA Position Translator Is As Easy As 1 2 3


Feb 18, 2014; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Bensalem High School student Kevin Grow poses for photos with members of his basketball team at half court during the second quarter of a game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Cleveland Cavaliers at the Wells Fargo Center. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Position Translator Is As Easy As 1 2 3

If you are new to the NBA, you are not alone. In a recent article of the Washington Post, they described the influx of new fans to the NBA:

"“Young basketball stars today are ingrained in culture and fashions and life in a way that the stars from other sports here are not,” said Darren Rovell, who covers the business of sports for ESPN. “People talk about Russell Westbrook‘s glasses and Dwyane Wade‘s shoes. When you look at the numbers in terms of most Twitter and Instagram followers, the NBA blows other sports away.” – as quoted in April 6 2015 article in Washington Post by Roberto A. Ferdman"

But with so many new arrivals, or if you’ve been away for awhile and are newly returning, you’ll need to brush up on your vernacular. The NBA has a unique language, and none so more confusing than the way the five starting positions are named in articles.  If you’re new to the game, perhaps the positions sound very similar in their description to the picture above – a crowd on the basketball court.   So for those who are new, and confused, let me be your guide.   Perhaps some of the wiley basketball veterans will give me a waiver as I try to break down the five basketball positions:

Point Guard: The Number One Position

Oftentimes the shortest player on the team.   This is the player who brings the ball down  the court, and paired with the shoot guard is considered the “Backcourt” of the team.  This player should be the team’s best passer and ball handler; not primarily a shooter.  The traditional role calls for the player to push the ball upcourt (towards their offensive basket) and start the offensive wheels turning. This player then will position himself to either take the ball to the basket or remain near the top of the key.  The key is the free throw lane and circle.  Once the ball is distributed to another player, he makes ready to retreat on defense.

Best NBA Example: Derrick RoseSixers projected starter:  5′ 10″ 176 pound Pierre Jackson

Shooting Guard: The Number Two Position

Generally taller than a point guard but shorter than a small forward.  The primary skill set of this player is not necessarily to be a great ball handler, but he should boast the team’s best perimeter shot.   A good shooting guard (or two guard) is very adept at playing off screens set by taller teammates, and immediately prepared to make a shot, pass to a teammate, or drive the ball himself to the basket.   He is typically good on defense, and will try to grab rebounds on offense.

Best NBA Example: Dwayne Wade.  Sixers projected starter: 6’6″ 206 pound Nik Stauskas

Small Forward: The Number Three Position

Next in height, he is considered an all-purpose player on offense. He joins the power forward and the center in comprising the “Frontcourt” of the team.   He needs to be both aggressive and strong.  He should be tall enough to mix it up inside, which is the area near the offensive basket.  However, he needs to display enough agility to handle the ball in traffic.  He must also command a range of shots with above average accuracy.  To be successful in the NBA, he must be able to score both from the perimeter and from inside.

Best NBA Example: Carmelo AnthonySixers projected starter:  6’8″ 210 pound Jerami Grant

ALSO ON SIXER SENSE: NBA NBRA Announce New Seven Year Labor Deal

Power Forward: The Number Four Position

This player must be able to survive a physical game.  He should be strong enough to withstand bodies slamming together as players fight for valuable real estate under the basket. He is oftentimes the most muscular, and only looks up to the center.  While he is not required to have the best agility, he must have enough control to catch passes in trafficand hit shots near the basket.  This player is a good, rugged rebounder, but athletic enough to move with some quickness around the lane on offense and defense.  He is expected to score when given the opportunity on the baseline, much like a center, but is expected to be able to shoot from a range of up to 15 feet all around the basket.  He also is expected to block shots, and get both defensive and offensive rebounds.

Best NBA Example: Pau Gasol  Sixers projected starter: 6’11” 228 pound Nerlens Noel

Center: The Number Five Position

The center is the player who lines up for the opening tipoff.  He is usually the tallest player on the team.  Oftentimes he is simply the tallest, but the shorter centers often are large and incredibly durable. This player is expected to post up offensively — in layman’s terms, he gets the ball with his back to the basket and uses a pivot move to hit a variety of short jumpers, hook shots, and dunks.  He must also be able to use his size to find and get the ball to an open player if he is in traffic.  He is a player who should be making blocks of the opponent shots and getting rebounds on both ends of the court.

Best NBA Example: Dwight HowardSixers projected starter:  6’11” 275 pound Jahlil Okafor

The Six Man

The sixth man is the top reserve for an NBA team, typically the first player called on for substitution of a starter. While he may be slotted in any of the other five starting roles, he usually possesses very good scoring ability.  Because he can come into the game to substitute for a variety of players, he can oftentimes get as many or more minutes per game than a starting player.  The role is deemed so important that the NBA has awarded the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award since the 76ers own Bobby Jones won it back in the 1982-83 season.

Best NBA Example:  Louis Williams   Sixers projected Six Man: 6’5″ 205 pound Tony Wroten

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