Basketball players' positions

Basketball positions and scoring explained

Our guide to basketball positions gives you the lowdown on the five main basketball positions so you know your point guard from your power forward and more.

Each basketball team has a squad of 10 players to choose from, with a maximum of five allowed on the court at any one time. There are five main basketball positions on the court, with each player responsible for both trying to score and preventing the opposition scoring. But each player will be better at a particular skill whether it be shooting, playmaking or defending for example.

Basketball players' positions

The main basketball positions are as follows:

  • Point guard
  • Shooting guard
  • Small forward
  • Centre
  • Power forward
  • Substitutes

Point guard

The guards are usually the smallest players in the team and play most of their game away from the basket in both offensive and defensive situations. The point guard will be an excellent ball-handler and essentially the ‘playmaker’ running most of the side’s attacking plays. They are also known as the lead guard or one guard.

Shooting guard

This player is a skilled long-range shooter, and shares duties in attack and defense with the point guard, but can also play in tandem with the ‘small forward’ in a wide offensive role. They are often referred to as the two guard or the off guard.

Small forward

Usually the more agile of the two forwards, many attacking moves originate from this position. A vital skill in the locker should be the ability to score with medium-range shot, but the small forward will also be expected to get his fair share of rebounds as well as covering defensive duties. They are also called point forward.

Power forward

The larger of the two forwards, the power forward specializes in the rebounds and defense. The player will play on the wing like the small forward but will tend to move in towards the basket to support the center.


The center is likely to be the tallest player and will spend the majority of their time under the basket. During an attack, the center will usually take a position under the hoop and with his back to it, in order to receive the pass or protect a team-mate in possession. The other players tend to revolve around the center in these situations. In defense, the center will take on shot blocking and rebound duties. They are often called the big man or post player.

Basketball substitutes

A team member who is not actually performing on the court is a substitute. The sub becomes a player when they are allowed by the official to enter the court in place of another player who will leave the court (be substituted).

Basketball scoring

The scoring and points system of basketball comprises the following ...

The number of points scored by a shot depends on the position of the player when they release the ball.

  • Outside the three-point line (3pts) — the highest number of points that can be achieved is when a basket is scored from outside the three-point line.
  • Inside the three-point line (2pts) — any basket shot inside the line earns two points.
  • Free throw (1pt) — a free throw from the free-throw line is worth one point. It is an unchallenged shot at the basket, awarded after a foul by the opposition.

Types of basketball shot:

Jump shot — a shot performed while jumping in the air. The ball is released at the highest point off the ground, and is often used when shooting over a defender trying to block the ball.

Lay-up — a shot when a player moves to the basket with the ball and rolls it off his or her fingertips into the basket.

Bank shot — a shot in which the ball touches the backboard before it goes into the hoop.

Dunk (or Jam) — a player slams the ball into the basket from jumping into mid-air.

Hook shot — a one-handed shot with the shooter facing sideways to the hoop and arcing the ball over the defending player to score.

Free throw — a free shot taken from the foul line as the result of a foul.

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