Basketball, Sports

Point Forwards and Shooting Forwards

The concept of the point forward was introduced some time ago – in the ’80s I think – but it is still resisted in many quarters. There are a few people on the TSN boards who constantly get upset when anyone uses the term “point forward,” especially back when Turkoglu was on the Raptors. The argument was that this position was not one of the five basketball positions. This argument is ridiculous.

It assumes that the five positions in basketball are set in stone, that they have always existed – which is not true, there used to be very little effort made to distinguish between types of guards or forwards – and that it is somehow a priori knowledge. The people who get upset about point forwards believe that concepts come from outside of human beings, which is rubbish.

Times have changed; skill-sets have changed. In the ’60s, a forward was way smaller but still with weak ball handling skills. Since the ’80s – i.e. since Magic, who could have easily been described as a point forward had he played with two guards starting – there have been numerous players above 6’7″ with the ball-handling skills to play the point at least some of the time. LeBron is a perfect example. Yet most teams with point forwards are content to stick to convention, having a “point guard” who merely brings the ball up the court and hands it to the real point player. This strikes me as awfully silly. Why not have two shooting guards instead? Or why not have a second small forward, who’s got weaker passing skills but stronger shooting, scoring or rebounding skills?

I think it’s time for an overhaul of the traditional 1-5 positions as they don’t quite fit any more. As there are more and more “point forwards,” we can also say there are more and more “shooting forwards” and, we might also note, more and more “power guards.”

Take Rashard Lewis. He plays “power forward” but his game is anything like that of a power forward. He can’t post up very well and rarely does it, rather he has deadly outside shooting (when he’s on). But since he’s the height of power forward everyone pegs him as such. Better to think of him as ‘shooting forward’. That way there’s still room to have a power forward and perhaps another forward or guard on the floor who can make up for his deficiencies.

The same is true with Bargs. He is a “centre” but there is very little of his game – except during those games when he suddenly, out of nowhere, starts blocking shots like crazy – that resembles the traditional NBA centre. He is best thought of as a shooting forward. In fact, the Raptors basically have to have a (usually undersized) power forward playing the role of centre on the court with him at all times, otherwise they get killed on the boards. Why not just get a real centre and have Bargs play a different position? (Actually they did try him at the 3, the problem was, they then expected him to play the role of the 3 instead of one more suited to his skills.)

There are now a number of tallish guards who can post up. In the same way that the above forwards can’t really post-up, or don’t like to, and prefer to play like guards, many guards like to and can play like forwards. Look at Wade. He posts up and he blocks like a forward should. And he can certainly jump enough to rebound the ball more than the vast majority of 2 guards.

So I guess the idea is that coaches should forget antiquated notions of point guards, shooting guards, small forwards, power forwards and centres, and start designing positions around the players they actually have, rather than the players they think they should have.

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