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A point forward is a forward who is responsible for being the primary facilitator on offense. The player is typically responsible for bringing the ball up the court. In some cases, the point forward directs the offense once a traditional point guard dribbles the ball up-court. The role is generally filled by a small forward and rarely by a power forward.
ESPN analyst Dave Telep believed that a point forward was more than a forward who was a good passer, but also needed to facilitate the offense for teammates at least half of the time. Former National Basketball Association (NBA) player Larry Bird, lauded for both his scoring and passing skills, once said "I'm a point forward now" after he believed coaches wanted him to score less and pass more.
Don Nelson, a coach often associated with point forwards in his Nellie Ball system, used them to compensate for weaknesses on his team, such as having guards that were not strong ball-handlers. Other coaches have used point forwards to free their guards to score. In some cases, a team employs a point forward when a forward is their best playmaker.
Origin of term
Three former members of the Milwaukee Bucks in the National Basketball Association (NBA) all claim to have originated the point forward term. Former Bucks player Marques Johnson claims to have coined the term. During the 1984 playoffs, Milwaukee became short on point guards after Nate Archibald was sidelined with a hamstring injury. His coach, Don Nelson, instructed Johnson to set up the offense from his forward position. Johnson responded, "OK, so instead of a point guard, I'm a point forward". However, Dell Harris, then-Bucks assistant coach, claims that he first mentioned the term to Nelson while discussing strategies to use Paul Pressey. Harris says he came up with the term while coaching Robert Reid with the Houston Rockets. Harris credits his predecessor as Rockets coach, Tom Nissalke, with creating the point forward strategy with Rick Barry's role in Houston.
Styles of play
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One of the first examples of an NBA point forward was John Johnson, who played the point forward role for the Seattle SuperSonics of the 1970s, alongside two guards who were more scoring-minded in Gus Williams and Dennis Johnson. Some other notable examples are Marques Johnson and Paul Pressey, who both played that role while under Head Coach Don Nelson for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 1980s. Perhaps the most notable NBA point forwards are the 6'9" Larry Bird, who while playing as a small forward or power forward often ran the offense for the great Boston Celtics teams of the 1980s; the 6'9" Earvin "Magic" Johnson, who orchestrated the Los Angeles Lakers' offense in the 1980s as the team's point guard, moved to a point forward role upon returning 27 pounds (12 kg) heavier after his HIV announcement; the 6'8" Scottie Pippen, who played with the Chicago Bulls, Portland Trail Blazers and Houston Rockets, and ran the offense. An example of a Euroleague point forward of this type is the 6'7" Greek player Theo Papaloukas, a player that brings the ball down the court, runs the offense, and creates plays.
LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers is one of the most well known point forwards in the current generation of NBA players. Boris Diaw, Lamar Odom and Hedo Türkoğlu are also notable point forwards currently active in the NBA.
Alternatively, a point guard playing like a conventional forward can also be considered a point forward, although this usage of the term is uncommon. Guards playing as forwards, going for the rebound, scoring points, giving assists, able to post up guards and even with the ability to guard bigger wing players. Oscar Robertson (who had the size of many small forwards in his era) is an example of this, who averaged near career triple-doubles including both rebounds and assists. Other examples of this type of player from the Euroleague are Dimitris Diamantidis, Chuck Eidson, Ramūnas Šiškauskas and, now NBAer, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
At the high school level, since height can sometimes be an issue, a point forward is often used as a guard on offense and as a big man on defense. At this level of play, the typical size of the point forward would be very tall as well as skinny and lengthy. On some high school teams where size is an issue or they have a great player who is too big to be a guard, the player will trail behind the point guard and be a secondary play maker. On defense the point forward may be asked to defend bigger guys such as the power forward. On offense and defense they will use their speed and length to their advantage.
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|Guards||1. Point guard||Combo guard|
|2. Shooting guard||Guard-forward / Swingman|
|Forwards||3. Small forward||Stretch forward / Cornerman|
|4. Power forward||Point forward|
|Center||5. Center||Forward-center / Bigman|
|Backcourt | Frontcourt | Captain | Head coach | Referees and officials|