A successful coach said to his players before a big game, “If everyone plays their position, we’ll win this game”. One player asked what he meant. The coach responded simply, “We’ve worked on our plays and your position responsibilities in practice. Play like a team, trust your teammates and we’ll win”
It amazes me how often the point guard drives to the basket, misses several passing opportunities in route, and doesn’t finish. Or how often the big settles for a 5-8 foot shot when a pivot and a dribble or two could have produced an unstoppable layup. I attribute this to players not understanding their position responsibilities or more simply put, not playing their position. A layup is not a high percentage shot for a point guard in a half court offense when he has the ball 25 feet out and must get past his man as well as help defenders to score. Sure it happens but is this because it’s a good play or the result of poor defense?
The job of the point guard is to get the ball to the person who has the best opportunity to score. That can be out of a set play or an improvised opportunity, but a point guard that is constantly driving to the basket is not doing his job. The best guards use the dribble drive to collapse the defense and make the pass to a player who finishes consistently. Bigs that settle for short jump shots are not doing their jobs. Just like shooters shouldn’t settle for three point attempts, bigs shouldn’t settle for medium percentage shots when a little footwork and a power dribble can get them a high percentage finish.
Playing your position begins with knowing your job. Every player has the obligation and, hopefully, the ability to score but they should always opt for the best opportunity. Bigs should be using the high and low post and catching in the paint as often as possible. Their only scoring opportunities shouldn’t come on offensive rebounds (even though that an important part of their game). 2s and 3s shouldn’t make all their catches above the 3pt line and settle for long jump shots or slashes to the basket. That really eats up the shot clock and slows down the game. 2s and 3s should be flashing the foul line and posting as often as possible. Point guards need to make the right pass at the right time!
Coaches have to define player roles and get players to master their positions. Ok, Coach K wants his guards to kick the ball outside for 3 pointers. That’s Duke’s offensive. What’s yours? What do you want your players to do during the game? Where do you want and expect scoring opportunities? How have you prepared your players in practice to exploit and score on those opportunities? Players, and stats, get better when you players know and expand responsibilities. You will win more games when your players get better at playing their positions.