Brad Stevens 3 Basketball Positions Philosophy

I often speak with my fellow coaches on our lineups, players and the depth we have at certain positions. And when we speak on these lineups often mention 5 positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.

However, as the game changes with more movement, position flexibility and interchangeable skills, we’ve seen that the paradigms around positions has shifted in the NBA but also is cascading down to lower levels. Teams are playing smaller lineups (whether it’s Kevin Durant playing the 4 in Golden State or Josh Jackson at the 4 for Kansas) and prioritizing speed, passing and space in their offensive strategies.

So at the high school level should we think differently about positions and the lineups we put on the floor?

Brad Stevens only thinks in 3 positions

Brad Stevens is one of my favorite coaches for one of my favorite teams, the Boston Celtics. And recently he’s made news on his classification of positions that he considers when drawing up his offensive and defensive schemes. He has 3 positions not 5 for his players.

Those positions: Ball Handlers, Wings, Bigs

Ball handlers are players that can handle the ball and initiate the offense.

Wings are players that can play off the ball, shoot and cover other wings on defense.

Bigs are players that play down low, rebound at a high level and free up ball handlers and wings in the offense with screens on the pick and roll.

While most players can fit into multiple categories here and we see this the most in the small ball 4’s, I like the classification above. It simplifies lineup construction to ensure you have at least one ball handler and someone that can defend the big when they are on the floor. And then fill in the based on other positions.

It’s All About Who You Can Defend

I also received a good reminder from my fellow assistant coach and Saugus basketball legend Erik Stockwell on this classification the other day. While it’s great to classify players with different “positions”, it all comes down to who you can defend on the court. So while the ball handler, wing and big classification makes it easier to peg players in an evolving game, it may be too simple.

Certain wings can cover 1-4 and others probably can only cover the 2-3 with consistency. As your players evolve and you are building your lineups it’s important to understand the capabilities and flexibility of the players on the court. Off the court, it’s important to work on the weaknesses of your players in covering certain types of players (i.e. post defense) to create more situations where they can excel on defense.

How do you classify positions? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.


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