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Thread: Could someone please explain the PF and SF positions?

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    Default Could someone please explain the PF and SF positions?

    I've only been into watching NBA basketball for four years or so, and at least three of those years have been completely non-committal. The last year and a half or so I've been more into it, though, and for the last few months I've been binging on basketball podcasts. I'm pretty much hooked now.

    Anyways, I still don't really understand the difference between a power forward and small forward, and what their roles are on the court. Especially from an offensive standpoint.

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    Raptors Republic Superstar Axel's Avatar
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    Quote Lazarus753 wrote: View Post
    I've only been into watching NBA basketball for four years or so, and at least three of those years have been completely non-committal. The last year and a half or so I've been more into it, though, and for the last few months I've been binging on basketball podcasts. I'm pretty much hooked now.

    Anyways, I still don't really understand the difference between a power forward and small forward, and what their roles are on the court. Especially from an offensive standpoint.
    Wow, tough question as it would vary by team, player, and even era.

    Historically, the PF spot was more similar to the C position, while the SF was closer to the SG spot. PFs were expect to post up, rebound and generally be close to the basket, while SF were generally more perimeter oriented and really played as bigger SG who would help rebound.

    As the game has become more perimeter oriented, these roles have obviously evolved as well.

    You often have PFs who fit into 3 generic categories, traditional, stretch, or small-ball.

    The traditional PF is a bigger guy who can post up to score and gets rebounds. Examples of this would be David West of Indiana or Al Horford of Atlanta (when he isn't playing Center). They spend a lot of time near the paint on offence, either setting up in the low block or high post. They set a lot of screens as they are big and strong players, but faster than most Cs, so ideal for pick and roll plays.

    Stretch PF are bigger guys who have a good enough perimeter shot to force the defence to take another defender away from the hoop. Patrick Patterson would fall into this category, as would Ryan Anderson of New Orleans, and Channing Frye of Orlando. They are still expected to defend and rebound, but often are not as strong (physically) as traditional PFs and will struggle to rebound. Stretch 4s will spend more time on the perimeter and will often run pick and pop plays, where instead of rolling to the rim off a screen, they jump out for an open 3 pointer. They create a different dimension for a team defence as they have to cover more court with their bigger defenders.

    Small ball PF is using a player that is smaller than traditional PFs to take advantage of speed. Playing James Johnson, Paul Pierce or Carmelo Anthony at the PF spot, forces the defence to either match-up with a smaller player (thus removing a potential rim protector from the def) or risk their PF being too slow to guard the smaller, quicker offensive player (what we saw when Pierce was being guarded by Hansbrough in the playoffs). Small-ball PF often get the ball on the perimeter if guarded by a bigger PF and use their speed to attack off the dribble. If the defence goes smaller, then this player will try and post up a smaller defender. Matching up with another small ball PF is the ideal defence, but depending on your roster, that might not be your best player, so the offensive team is forcing the defence to do something they may not want to do.

    Exceptions to these categories obviously exist, as someone like Kevin Love can score in the post, shoot the 3 and is an elite rebounder.

    The small forward position is really a hybrid of the SG and PF positions. They typically aren't expected to shoot as well as a SG or rebound as well as a PF, but are still expected to produce both. Kwahi Leonard would definitely be the prototypical SF - he can defend both on the perimeter and in the post (quick but strong), can shoot from 3 but also is a strong rebounder.

    Hope this helps. Any other questions, feel free to ask. There are more than a few of us on here who have coaching experience and would be happy to explain anything.
    #provem - by playing well on the court. Don't worry about the twitterverse

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    That was really informative. Thank you for writing this up, Axel.

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    Quote suspenders wrote: View Post
    That was really informative. Thank you for writing this up, Axel.
    Was a pleasure. Nice to talk actual basketball instead of arguing about Casey, Lowry, Demar and JV

    There is obviously a lot more than can be said, but in an over-view sense, this is pretty accurate. Different teams would use their players different depending on the strengths/weaknesses of the players and opponents.
    #provem - by playing well on the court. Don't worry about the twitterverse

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    Really nice write up Axel.

    That is quite the question to answer in a single forum post

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    Quote Axel wrote: View Post
    Any other questions, feel free to ask. There are more than a few of us on here who have coaching experience and would be happy to explain anything.
    Awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer this stuff.

    I have a couple more.

    Two terms I didn't understand in your post were the "low block or high post". I looked up a picture, and I understand high post, but is the low block on each side of the painted area, or just the left side? And is the short corner on both sides of the paint as well? This is the picture I'm looking at:



    Also, I need to learn about the pick and roll and pick and pop. I see it on the court, but I can't really follow what's going on. I'd like to be able to tell when a player is competent at setting those up, or is using them properly/improperly.

    Again, thanks a bunch.

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    Raptors Republic Superstar Axel's Avatar
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    Quote Lazarus753 wrote: View Post
    Awesome. I really appreciate you taking the time to answer this stuff.

    I have a couple more.

    Two terms I didn't understand in your post were the "low block or high post". I looked up a picture, and I understand high post, but is the low block on each side of the painted area, or just the left side? And is the short corner on both sides of the paint as well? This is the picture I'm looking at:



    Also, I need to learn about the pick and roll and pick and pop. I see it on the court, but I can't really follow what's going on. I'd like to be able to tell when a player is competent at setting those up, or is using them properly/improperly.

    Again, thanks a bunch.
    Ah, the old coaches clipboard, spent many a days on that site when I was coaching. Lots of good stuff on there. For the diagram of the court, you can basically draw a line down the center, and both sides would mirror the other. So the block/post and short corner would be on both sides. They would be differentiated by left/right, or ball(strong) side/weak side.

    The low block or low post, is the area indicated in the pic, on each side of the basket. Many courts will have an actual "block" painted there like in the picture. Less so at the NBA level, but at college and lower levels, it would be quite common to see.

    Here it a pic of the Wizards court, and it shows the low block with white paint.


    Something on this pic that isn't on your diagram is the semi-circle under the basket. This is the "restricted area". The restricted area is an area where a defensive player cannot take a "charge" (offensive foul). Lowry is very adept at taking charges (where the defensive player is set and the offensive player literally charges into them), but on every charge call, the defender has to have both feet outside of the restricted area, as it is consider "under the basket". If the defender has part of their foot in the restricted area (so even a heel on the line), then they will be called for a defensive foul, even if they were in the area well before the offensive player.

    The short corner is a great place for big men to develop jump shots, as it is often a gap in the defence that is trying to cover the paint and the 3point arc the most. Former Rap, Rasho Nesterovic had a great short corner jump shot, and a few RR commenters have said they'd like to see JV develop that shot.


    Ok, PnR and PnP. The pick and roll is both the simplest offensive play and the most difficult to defend. Hence the beauty and frequency of it. On a pick and roll, the screener needs to set up with their feet set before contact. If they are still moving upon contact, it's an offensive foul (whether the refs call it, is an entirely different issue ). The screener wants to have a nice wide base and the ideal contact is to get the defenders shoulder/chin to hit the center of the screener's chest. That way, the defender can't go one way or the other any faster; thus increasing the options for the dribbler.

    Here is a screen set by Tim Duncan.

    Note that Duncan doesn't set up right beside where the defender (Wesley Matthews) is, but rather takes the angle of where the defender will need to turn to be if they follow the dribbler (Manu). If Duncan had stood right beside the defender, the defender would have been able to slip under the screen and cut off the dribble easily.

    Off of the screen, the dribbler has options depending on how the defence reacts. One, if their defender gets caught on the screen or tries to go under the screen, then the dribble may be open for a 3 point shot. Two, if the screener's defender doesn't help on the ball, then there is an open opportunity to simply drive to the rim. Three, if the screener's defender helps a lot, then the screen can "roll" to the basket (like Duncan does in above) and receive a pass in the paint. Four, if the drive and the pass are still defended perfectly, the play will often result with a big man defending the ball handler and a smaller defender on the screener. In the above gif, if that had happened, Manu would have had PF LaMarcus Aldridge defending him (a mismatch on the perimeter) and Duncan would have had 6'5 SG defending him.

    One thing we saw in the Washington series that was different from above, was that in above, the screen is set at the top, with the ball handler dribbling to the right side of the court. Against the Raps, Washington employed a side pick and roll, where the ball was starting on the side and the screen was set to allow the dribbler to attack the center. This adds a different wrinkle for the defence, as the offensive player now has more space to work in. The link below shows a side pick and roll at the end.

    Here's a great breakdown of what the Spurs did to Memphis in the 2013 playoffs using the pick and roll variations and disguises and how it forced the defence to react. (I have to say, the 2nd last play on here for the Bonner 3, is a thing of beauty.)
    http://www.sbnation.com/2013/5/20/43...2013-breakdown

    As for the pick and pop, it is essentially the same thing but instead of rolling to the rim for a pass, the screener will instead step out onto the perimeter. With both defenders often moving towards the ball (and the hoop), this often leaves a lot of space for a good shooter to get an open shot (often a 3 pointer). Can't find a great gif, but here is one from summer league where the screener gets an open 20 foot jumper.


    In terms of be able to read when someone is doing one properly, that can be hard because (like the Spurs link shows), there are a ton of variations, disguises and misdirection options from using the screen (which is why it's both the easiest play and most difficult to defend). Generally, the screener needs to get their feet set and make contact. If a defender is able to get between the screener and the ball handler (by fighting "over" [above] the screen), then that would generally mean it is a fail.

    I say generally, because another variation is the slip screen, where the screen shows up to set a screen, but slips away towards the basket before contact. This is used because if the defence adjusts for the screen before contact is made, then by slipping down the "screener" would be even more open than if they had set the screen potentially.

    Here is a pic of a slip screen option shown.


    Hope this isn't information overload.
    #provem - by playing well on the court. Don't worry about the twitterverse

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    Raptors Republic All-Star e_wheazhy_'s Avatar
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    Where/how long did you coach, Axel?
    A key that opens many locks is a master key, but a lock that gets open by many keys is just a shitty lock

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    Raptors Republic Superstar Axel's Avatar
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    Quote e_wheazhy_ wrote: View Post
    Where/how long did you coach, Axel?
    No where special

    Just at the club level for Bantam & Midget. 3 years in Midget, 2 in Bantam. Then stopped once the wife got preggo.
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    Quote Axel wrote: View Post
    No where special

    Just at the club level for Bantam & Midget. 3 years in Midget, 2 in Bantam. Then stopped once the wife got preggo.
    How'd you get into that? (Sorry if this is becoming the Axel thread)
    A key that opens many locks is a master key, but a lock that gets open by many keys is just a shitty lock

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    Raptors Republic Superstar Axel's Avatar
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    Quote e_wheazhy_ wrote: View Post
    How'd you get into that? (Sorry if this is becoming the Axel thread)
    Contacted the Club with an interest in volunteering. A lot of grass roots level programs need volunteers, as most teams just end up with parents who take the job.

    From there, you take the National Coaching Certification Program training. Mine was led by the former Women's Provincial team coach (and brother of one of my co-workers).
    http://coach.ca/coach-training-in-canada-s15408

    After that, there are various workshops and camps you can attend.
    #provem - by playing well on the court. Don't worry about the twitterverse

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    Thanks a bunch Axel. I'm not going to lie, I still don't fully understand all the variations and whatnot. I understand it at a basic level, though. I really wish I could go back in time and play basketball as a child/teenager. I wouldn't have made it professionally or anything (too short), but it would have been nice to learn the fundamentals and enjoy the game. It's actually really hard to learn the fundamentals of basketball as an adult. There's one bball club in town, and it's for youth, so yeah...

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    Quote Lazarus753 wrote: View Post
    Thanks a bunch Axel. I'm not going to lie, I still don't fully understand all the variations and whatnot. I understand it at a basic level, though. I really wish I could go back in time and play basketball as a child/teenager. I wouldn't have made it professionally or anything (too short), but it would have been nice to learn the fundamentals and enjoy the game. It's actually really hard to learn the fundamentals of basketball as an adult. There's one bball club in town, and it's for youth, so yeah...
    Just get a pedo-van and start hanging out with the youth league players. Act all shifty and friendly

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    Quote Lazarus753 wrote: View Post
    Thanks a bunch Axel. I'm not going to lie, I still don't fully understand all the variations and whatnot. I understand it at a basic level, though. I really wish I could go back in time and play basketball as a child/teenager. I wouldn't have made it professionally or anything (too short), but it would have been nice to learn the fundamentals and enjoy the game. It's actually really hard to learn the fundamentals of basketball as an adult. There's one bball club in town, and it's for youth, so yeah...
    No problem. Really enjoyed answering to be honest, so keep the questions coming

    There are tons of variations and differences in even the simplest of plays. Learning a specific teams offence is likely easier (although Casey isn't a great one to learn - so let's hope for a chance) as you will see the same basic sets/movements repeated but with slight variations. Some of the variations will be reactive to the defence and some will be to counter a previous defensive adjustment. But as you see them repeated over a season you'll learn to make the reads better and better.

    College ball is also a great place to learn as the play is generally slower and less athleticism based (more controlled by the coaches). Personally, I highly recommend Tom Izzo at Michigan State but there are any number of quality teams that you can easily watch.
    #provem - by playing well on the court. Don't worry about the twitterverse

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    Quote Axel wrote: View Post
    No problem. Really enjoyed answering to be honest, so keep the questions coming

    There are tons of variations and differences in even the simplest of plays. Learning a specific teams offence is likely easier (although Casey isn't a great one to learn - so let's hope for a chance) as you will see the same basic sets/movements repeated but with slight variations. Some of the variations will be reactive to the defence and some will be to counter a previous defensive adjustment. But as you see them repeated over a season you'll learn to make the reads better and better.

    College ball is also a great place to learn as the play is generally slower and less athleticism based (more controlled by the coaches). Personally, I highly recommend Tom Izzo at Michigan State but there are any number of quality teams that you can easily watch.
    The more and more I read, the more I feel the RR forums should takeover as HC, with you as our mighty leader. Heck, I bet we'd make a very good team.

    By the way, how did your teams fare? It seems like you would make a excellent coach.

    I think I like smilies too much.

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    Quote Cody73 wrote: View Post
    The more and more I read, the more I feel the RR forums should takeover as HC, with you as our mighty leader. Heck, I bet we'd make a very good team.

    By the way, how did your teams fare? It seems like you would make a excellent coach.
    I think we did pretty good. Feel free to pass my name on to Masai Ujiri once the ax falls on Casey.
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    I only just learned during Clips/Spurs game #7 that the restricted area doesn't apply if the shot attempt begins in the paint. Makes sense, but never thought about it before (there was no restricted area when I played).

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    Quote S.R. wrote: View Post
    I only just learned during Clips/Spurs game #7 that the restricted area doesn't apply if the shot attempt begins in the paint. Makes sense, but never thought about it before (there was no restricted area when I played).
    Yeah I just found that out as well. The restricted area is an NBA only rule, so unless you played in the NBA, it wouldn't have applied to you no matter how old or young you are.
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    Quote ezz_bee wrote: View Post
    Yeah I just found that out as well. The restricted area is an NBA only rule, so unless you played in the NBA, it wouldn't have applied to you no matter how old or young you are.
    I don't think I played in the NBA I'll have to check my yearbook.

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