(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)


Opinion: The rise of breaking traditional roles in the NBA

Position versatility has led to a rise of flexible players that allows coaches to explore new possibilities.
<a href="https://highschool.latimes.com/author/zamersi0501/" target="_self">Zayaan Amersi</a>

Zayaan Amersi

October 17, 2023

Lately, the NBA has seen a big change in how the game is played, known as positionless basketball. This new approach challenges the traditional roles and positions that players usually have, and instead focuses on being versatile, having a range of skills, and being able to adapt on the court. As teams embrace this new concept, the game is becoming more fluid and dynamic, ushering in a new era of basketball. In this article, we will explore the rise of positionless basketball in the NBA and how it’s affecting the game.

In the past, basketball was divided into five positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward, and center. Each position had its own specific responsibilities and expectations. However, with positionless basketball becoming more popular, these rigid classifications are being broken down, allowing for a more flexible and adaptable approach to the game.

Positionless basketball values players who can do many things on the court and contribute in multiple ways. This has led to the rise of “hybrid players” – athletes who blur the lines between traditional positions. These versatile players can handle the ball, shoot from outside, drive to the basket, grab rebounds, defend different positions, and make plays for their teammates. They have the ability to switch between roles smoothly and create mismatches against their opponents.

Positionless basketball requires players to develop a wide range of skills to excel in the game. Point guards are now expected to score and shoot, while big men are encouraged to expand their shooting range and handle the ball. Wing players need to be skilled at defending various positions while also providing offense. This emphasis on versatility has led to teams investing more resources in player development, focusing on honing their skills across different positions.

By embracing positionless basketball, teams gain strategic advantages. Offensively, having shooters and playmakers at all positions creates more opportunities for open shots and driving to the basket. It forces opposing defenses to make difficult decisions and adjust to unconventional matchups. Defensively, positionless basketball allows teams to switch quickly on screens and rotations, making it harder for opponents to execute pick-and-roll plays and isolations.

Several influential players and teams have played a key role in popularizing positionless basketball. The Golden State Warriors, led by coach Steve Kerr, demonstrated the effectiveness of a small-ball lineup, featuring players like Draymond Green, who can guard different positions and contribute to the offense. The Houston Rockets, led by James Harden, have emphasized spacing the floor and shooting from all positions, using analytics to inform their strategy.

The rise of positionless basketball has had a significant impact on the NBA and is likely to shape the future of the game. As more teams adopt this style of play, the demand for players with versatile skills will increase. The traditional distinctions between positions may eventually become less important, with more focus on individual skills and teamwork. Moreover, positionless basketball has influenced basketball at all levels, from college and international play to grassroots development programs.

Positionless basketball is revolutionizing the NBA by challenging traditional player roles and changing the way the game is played. The emphasis on versatility, skills, and adaptability has led to the rise of hybrid players and teams that prioritize flexibility. As the league continues to evolve, positionless basketball will likely become the norm, pushing players and coaches to think outside the box and explore new possibilities on the court. The future of basketball is positionless, and we are only just beginning to see its potential.