The Shooting Guard: Offensive, Defensive Role, Different Types of SG

what does a shooting guard do?

What is SG in basketball?

It’s the shooting guard position or the two off guard. The shooting guard is often identified with other small positions (point guard and small forward), so it’s common to hear people calling them just guards. And it’s fine if you think of them as a group. But it should be clear that the only real guard in basketball is a shooting guard.

In my last article, I talked about how the point guard is the most important position in the team and that without organization there’s no game. Shooting guard is not irreplaceable, but he is indeed someone who does the most important job on the offensive end.

What does a shooting guard do in basketball? Well, the shooting guard is someone who suffers the most beating by the opponent and doesn’t get any prize for it. I’ll explain.

  • Given that his primary task is shooting the ball, the coach’s idea is that he takes the most shots as possible from open positions. In order to have an open shot at position offense, he needs to run from the player who’s guarding him. He then passes around a block and often encounters with much stronger players. The referee tolerates that kind of contact which is never light, and that kind of foul it’s almost never called.
  • On the other hand, the shooting guard is someone who can bury an opponent by himself. Since he’s often the best shooter on the team, that’s not even surprising.

If the coach has a good strategy and tactics in getting open shots, if the team’s moving the ball well, and if this player’s feeling relaxed, he’s almost unstoppable.

Shooting guards on the offensive end

I recall a coaching philosophy that I agree with. It says that it’s not good when a player is stacked with a large number of points compared to the rest of the team. It’s even worse if this is happening through the whole season. However, the nature of the game is such that this happens too often. It’s sometimes a tactical variant to draw attention to the opponent so that other players take on the key role in the 4th quarter. For that kind of job, a shooting guard is the best solution.

These three offensive skills pretty much sum up what shooting guards do on the basketball court:

  • He needs to shoot the ball well.
    I think this is clear enough. Only if the player is a defensive specialist, he’s allowed to have a bit worst shooting percentage.
  • He needs to move without the ball well.
    While the point guard usually has the ball in his hands most of the time, shooting guard needs to find the ways to get an open shot. It requires excellent physical capacity but brings a lot to the table. It’s not very hard to defend if everyone is standing still, but when every player works for a shot, it’s a different ball game.
  • He needs to handle the ball with ease.
    After the point guard is pressured to pass the ball, the secondary ball hander – SG, takes over the ball handling and a part of playmakers responsibilities. And if a point guard has a solid and reliable replacement when the game is on the line, it means less stress and more fatigue for him.

The defensive end

In the basic 1 on 1 defense, he guards the opponent at the same position. In the zone defense, he’s in charge for shots at a 45 degrees angle or for the side threes.

Some coaches like to play miniatures, and if they have a shooting guard at the disposal, they rotate. Then he takes the point guard or small forward, depending on the opposing team’s players.

What’s specific is the shooting guard’s role in the transition defense. Since the point guard is the one who is (in theory) the first to return to defense, that player shouldn’t commit a foul. So the shooting guard, as the next who’s returning to defense, is often forced to be the one who will prevent safe points with a foul. The problem is that you sometimes play against the teams who push the transition game during the whole game, so the shooting guard can quickly get into foul trouble.

Decision making

This is the biggest problem of all shooting guards, was and will be. Sometimes the shots over the opponent go in, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes the player’s closing open shots like it’s nothing, and sometimes he doesn’t. And that’s okay. But then it depends on a player will he continue shooting or he’ll assist more. Kobe, Michael, Wade, Tracy… Every great shooting guard knew how to make a great decision when it counted.

Balancing the decisions in different situations – the key skill to be a star shooting guard. Don’t get me wrong, there are other elements, but this is something we don’t talk much about.

Four types of shooting guards

Not all shooting guards play the same game. Some of them are shooting specialists who’re primary task is to run around the blocks and get into an open position, some play great defense, and some are point guards on the team in the same time. Now we’ll take a look at four different styles of playing and what they mean for a team.

  1. Combo Guard
    A combo between the point guard and shooting guard. These are the players like Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Eric Bledsoe or Isaiah Thomas. Except for the great ball handling (the requirement of the point guard position) and the shooting ability (shooting guard position), this position requires a high basketball IQ and top-level court vision. It’s like that because these players often need to make difficult decisions along with playing different positions, which is already pretty hard.
  2. Swingman
    The combo between the shooting guard and small forward. Some of the greatest players of all time were swingmen. We’re talking about Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Scottie Pippen, Tracy Mcgrady, etc. Today, the game has changed (evaluated), and this type of elite shooting guard is rare to see. Some of the representatives are Paul George, Will Barton, and Lebron James who can play it all. This player needs to be quick, shoot well inside the lane, and has to go on every offensive rebound.
  3. Shooter
    These are the players that define a pure shooting guard. Some of the names are Ray Allen, Klay Thompson, Kyle Korver, and JJ Redick. All of these shooting guards have two things in common; they are active in the offense moving without the ball, and they shoot the ball (the 3-point shots especially) with high accuracy.
  4. Defense Specialist
    This is as clear as the baby’s skin. Every position has its defense specialist, and they also can be shooting guards. Although shooting guard probably won’t get the defensive player of the year award (the last SG who got it was Michael Jordan in 1988), this position brought us a few phenomenal defense specialists through years.