What is a Small Forward in Basketball?

What is a Small Forward in Basketball

Last updated on October 25th, 2023 at 07:44 am

The small forward in basketball is also known as the “three” or the “swingman.” Since they are the “three,” these players are usually in the middle of the team in height and weight. These players tend to be bigger than guards but smaller than power forwards or centers. Ultimately, the small forward’s job is to score points and defend the opposing team.


But beyond these all-encompassing roles, what is their expectation of them on the court? What are the numbers on a basketball team, and which one belongs to the small forward? What makes a great small forward? And what is the difference between a small forward and a shooting guard?


Read on for a complete breakdown of a small forward in basketball.


What Is the Role of a Small Forward in Basketball?

What Is the Role of a Small Forward in Basketball

The small forward position scores points and plays defense against the opposing team. You may ask, “isn’t that what every player is responsible for?” While that is true, small forwards are generally the most versatile players of all basketball positions, which makes them essential.


The small forward is the middleman on the team and can guard against small and large players during games. They can make long- and short-range shots but are usually best at mid-range shots like jump shots. A small forward needs quickness to help with assists and steals. Larry Bird of the Boston Celtics was among the most famous small forwards in the NBA.


Meanwhile, centers and power forwards are the “big man” on the court and are usually responsible for scoring layups or dunks at close range. These larger players are primarily accountable for blocking shots and rebounds on defense. LeBron James is a famous power forward, while the point guard is also known as the ball handler. The shooting guard is the team’s best shooter and is especially adept at making long-range shots, such as those from the three-point line. Kawhi Leonard is an excellent example of a shooting guard.


Is a Small Forward the 3 Or 4 on the Court?

Is a Small Forward the 3 Or 4 on the Court

While on the basketball court, a small forward identifies as a “three” for short. The middle number hints at their versatility, suggesting that their skills and benefits to the team are right in the middle of all the other players.


The number one is the point guard, who is usually the shortest and the best ball handler. They can also be known as the “playmaker.” Number two is the shooting guard, who sets up on the wing and is looking to pop a three-pointer. Numbers four and five are the two post players, the power forward and the center, respectively.


Another notable “number’ in a game of basketball includes number six: the sixth man. In most cases, the sixth man is just as skilled as the starting five players. They are usually a very versatile player who can substitute for any fatigued player on the court.


What Makes a Good Small Forward in Basketball?

What Makes a Good Small Forward in Basketball

Since they are one of the most versatile players on the court, a small forward usually exhibits some talents from every position. Though they are not the primary ball handler, there may be times when they need to bring the ball down the court. They are also not the largest players on the team, but occasions may arise when they are required to fill a guard position.


Shooting guards are usually the team’s best shooters, but a small forward will still need to put up many points if they wish to maintain their starting position. Most small forwards can handle long shots and take the ball in for layups. On defense, they will need to guard basketball players that are larger or quicker than they are.


Perhaps most importantly, small forwards will need to have plenty of conditioning. Small forwards are frequently required to rebound, play a thorough defense, and continually run from one end of the court to the other. For this reason, a small forward must be able to keep up for as long as they are in the game.


What Is the Difference Between a Small Forward and a Shooting Guard?

What Is the Difference Between a Small Forward and a Shooting Guard

In many ways, the small forward and the shooting guard are very similar positions. The shooting guard’s main responsibility is to score points. They are very good at cutting to the basket with or without the ball, and they are also very good at shooting three-pointers and jump shots. These are also responsibilities of the small forward, though their position requires even more.


To start with, the shooting guard is usually a smaller player than the small forward. Their size allows them to be quick, and their excellent ball-handling skills make it easy for them to cut into the basket. A shooting guard will usually set up high on the wing, ready to help the point guard out should they need it.


On the other hand, a small forward will set up low, between the paint and the three-point line. Since small forwards are a jack of all trades, they should be able to score, defend, rebound, and pass. They will usually be bigger than the shooting guard, as well. A shooting guard makes points, whereas a small forward handles whatever the team lacks from its other players at the time.


Conclusion: What Is a Small Forward in Basketball?

In conclusion, a small forward is the most versatile player on the team. They handle many things and are often between the other players in size. Finally, they should have no problem performing the tasks of the different positions.


A small forward is also known as the number three position, proving they are “in-between” players. Though they carry some of the same responsibilities of a shooting guard, they are also quite different players. A small forward may occasionally be required to post up or play defense on the posts, whereas a shooting guard generally stays outside the paint.


To be a great small forward, you have to be able to do it all: run for long periods, shoot well, dribble decently, and pull down enough rebounds. Small forwards are usually the players with the best grasp on the fundamentals of the game.


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