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Question: What if I told you that there’s a 6’10 225 lbs collegiate player with good ball handling skills, a real knack for rebounding and immense scoring ability, would you know what position to play him at? Well it’s not a big secret that LSU Tigers’ freshman Ben Simmons ( 20.0 ppg; 12.9 rpg; 5.1 apg) will be the No. 1 pick overall but what position will he play? Will it really matter? If I came up to you and asked “What position does Russell Westbrook play?” You would most likely respond “He plays point guard.” Some people who have consumed thousands of hours of NBA games might come back with “He’s a guard.” Wait a minute is there really that big a diffrence?
In today’s NBA, you can’t tell who is who and where they play. A point guard duties never change; Be the primary ball handler, set up the team’s offense, have the vision and basketball IQ to make the right decisions and passes and as with every position, play defense (which a lot of players forget). Those duties however seem eerily like what LeBron James does at his small forward position. Pundits might look at rule changes and others might look at the influence of European players and coaches in the league. Whatever the reason is, this is today’s NBA. The only thing teams can do is adjust.
Old trick new dog
In the 80s and 90s, the NBA had a plethora of skilled big men in the league. Some of them can play both front line positions and provide exactly the type of play needed for each (enter the forward/center). In the new millennium, the power forward could be something like small forward/power forward more commonly known as a “stretch 4”. There are “combo guards” like Allen Iverson, Anfernee Hardaway and Dwayne Wade that can see the floor, pass and run the offense like a point guard (they were drafted as such) but their scoring ability made them more suited to be a SG ( ahem Russell Westbrook). The point forward has been around forever (did I mentioned King James earlier). The Bulls of the 90s had Scottie Pippen and Tony Kukoc, the Knicks of the same era rolled out Anthony Mason and even Magic Johnson was a point guard in a forwards body. So we’ve seen these hybrid positions pop up now and again.
The answer to the question I posed earlier is “Wherever the coach see fits to play him.” The coaches are the one’s who ultimately decide where these players will play and what their duties will be. Sometimes the player’s skills dictate the coaches decisions and sometimes it’s just game to game match ups. Ultimately the rest of roster will give a player his overall position. A good group of the starting point guards could play shooting guard and not miss a beat. Defensively, guys guard multiple positions like the Warriors Draymond Green does up front or Kawhai Leonard guarding all the wing positions (all these terms and references are enough to give you a headache, arrrrghhh).
At the end of the day the NBA really comes down to a few labels like superstar, role player or bench warmer. What position they actually play will fall into place eventually. Let’s just not get caught up with who plays where and what their position is because you will always know who’s a baller and who’s not.