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What Is a Point Guard? Basketball’s Team Leader


Love watching Steph Curry hit three-pointers? Or seeing Lindsay Whalen dribble down the court? What exactly do these point guards do? What is a point guard in basketball, even?

Well, every basketball team’s starting lineup is made up of five players (each team puts 5 people on the court): a center, small forward, power forward, shooting guard, and a point guard. Each of these players has unique skills that make them an asset on the court.

What is a point guard’s specialty? A point guard’s expertise is typically ball handling and passing.


What Is a Point Guard?

Point guards in basketball are expected to be great at dribbling the ball and great at passing, so that they can create opportunities for their team to score. However, they need to be so much more than that. They’re team leaders; they’re the person the team turns to to lead them on offense. They need to have positive attitudes because they’re the person their teammates turn to for support; they need to keep morale high.

The chart below shows the five players positioned on offense, so you can see how the point guard fits in with the rest of the team.


The point guard is typically one of the shorter players on the team (simply because this position doesn’t require height like some of the others). However, point guards are also usually the fastest players on the team because they control their team’s offense.


Point Guard Offensive Responsibilities

What exactly does the point guard need to do on offense in basketball? You have to master these six key responsibilities to be a top point guard.


#1: Bringing Up the Ball

The point guard (labeled number 1 above) is traditionally responsible for bringing up the ball from the other side of the court. This means after the other team scores, the point guard dribbles the ball (bounces the ball back and forth on the ground) back to your side of the court. The point guard then usually stands near the top of the key (the point shown in the diagram above) and figures out what play to make.


#2: Controlling the Pace

Because point guards bring up the ball, they end up setting the pace for the offense. If they bring up the ball slowly, walking while dribbling, they’ll slow down the offense. This can be good if the team needs a breather or if the other team’s offense is moving very fast, it helps reset the pace of the game. If they bring up the ball quickly, running while dribbling, they’ll speed up their offense. They might do this to try to catch the other team off guard.


#3: Calling Plays

After bringing up the ball, they may also call for the team to run a specific play. They may literally call it out loud by shouting something “James 45,” or they might make some sort of hand motion to signal for a play (such as putting their fist in the air).

Think of them as the team organizer, like the quarterback in football. They start with the ball and then try to organize the team to get the ball to the basket.




#4: Passing

As I said, the point guard is an expert passer in basketball. As a point guard, you need to be good at passing the ball because once you dribble the ball to your side of the court, you’ll need to pass the ball to your fellow teammates to create opportunities to score. You’ll never see a point guard who can’t pass well. It’s arguably their most crucial skill.


#5: Outside Shooting

The point guard needs to be able to make shots from far away from the basket. While some players, such as the center and forwards, play close to the basket, the point guard generally stays around the 3-point line or just inside, so they need to be able to shoot from farther away.


#6: Driving to the Basket

While you’ll primarily see point guards pass or shoot from the outside, you’ll sometimes see top point guards dribble past the defense down to the basket to shoot layups (a shot from right next to the basket). A great point guard has the skills to fake out the defensive players, get around them, and score.





Point Guard Defensive Responsibilities

The best point guards won’t just be strong on offensive but on defense as well. The point guard’s role on defense will depend on what kind of defense the team plays. In basketball, there are two main types of defense: man-to-man and zone. You’ll more typically see man-to-man play in the NBA (or some sort of hybrid of the two).

In man-to-man defense, each player is assigned another player on the other team to guard. They are responsible for guarding that player the entire game. In that scenario, the point guard will likely be matched with the other team’s point guard. They’ll try to stop the other team’s point guard from shooting or dribbling closer to the basket.

In zone defense, each player is assigned an area of the court to guard, and they need to make sure to guard any opposing team player in their zone. In that case, the point guard typically guards the top of the key. They make sure no one is able to shoot a basket from the top of the key.


Summary: What Does a Point Guard Do in Basketball?

  • A point guard is one of the 5 positions on a basketball team.
  • Point guards are the team organizers like quarterbacks in basketball.
  • On offense, they need to be great at dribbling, to bring the ball to their side of the court.
  • They need to be great passers, so they can give the balls to their teammates to create scoring opportunities.
  • They need to be great at shooting from around the 3-point line. The best point guards will also be able to sneak around defense players and make layups.
  • On defense, point guards are responsible for making sure the opposing team players don’t get shots off near the top of the key.


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Dora Seigel
About the Author

As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.

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