About a week ago I had a conversation with a friend about how positions were no longer needed in the NBA. Then I saw Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game tweet about it. Rob made two statements out of the 5 tweets that were posted that really got me thinking. Here they are in short–1. Positions are useless and must be thrown out of the window in order to focus more on a player’s individual skill set and 2. do positions take away credit from what the players themselves.
NBA positioning has been intriguing to me for a while now. I read an article on ESPN.com through the TrueHoop Network that had created a system of revolutionized positions. They were created through a system of numbers. They stayed along the positional lines of 1 meaning the point guard, 2 meaning the shooting guard, and so on and so forth, however every number had a branch off of it. For example, there would be a 1A position for point guards who were primarily passers but a 1B position for combo guards who primarily liked to score the ball.
A great example of this would be Russell Westbrook. We would look at him as a 2 guard, but he has some of the characteristics of a point guard. The revolutionized positional system would’ve listed him as a 2b. This is a shooting guard with point guard skills.
This system is not my idea originally, so if anyone can find the article that I’m speaking of it would be awesome.Please forward it to me. But this brings me to a greater point, the fact that tweeners are looked down upon in the NBA doesn’t do them enough justice. The league is really full of players who are versatile and can play multiple positions. As Mahoney pointed out in his tweets, the fact that positions are still valued highly does bring down the value of prospects that are fully capable of playing multiple positions.
GMs and front office execs devalue a player because he isn’t “pure” at a said position. For instance, Pau Gasol has been called soft for many years because of his European playing style. While he is primarily a power forward, he can play center. He isn’t exactly an enforcer down low but he protects the rim very well and plays above average post defense. He also brings some range to his position from 15 to 20 feet out consistently; since this is not the tradition for 7’0 players who are normally regarded as centers Pau has been labeled soft. His game puts a different mark on a basketball contest, but it still results in the same outcome it would if he was a bruiser in the paint. Pau was a key cog in the success of the Lakers in 2009 and 2010. Without him they don’t win any championships in the latter part of the decade and Kobe Bryant’s legacy would be in question. How is that for a tweener?
There have been many successful tweeners in the NBA. You look at players like Penny Hardaway, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan, and the list goes on. These guys could play multiple positions and leave their mark on the game in the same way. Positions do not define players, but their skill sets do. Being a passer, scorer, bruiser, defender, etc should be the new definition of a player. Dead are the days of the point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.