"Swingman" is a throwback term referring to a team's small forward or shooting guard. These players can "swing" between the two positions of small forward and shooting guard because the positions are so similar. A swingman is often a team's most potent scorer, having a strong outside shot and the ability to get to the basket. Players such as the Minnesota Timberwolves' Latrell Sprewell and the Toronto Raptors' Vince Carter are classic swingmen who can play both shooting guard and small forward.

A small forward will often try to take advantage of a mismatch. Against larger players, the small forward will use his quickness and athleticism to drive to the basket. Against smaller players, the small forward will use his size to post up or shoot over his defender.

Swingmen in the 80s

Basketball U The 1980s may be considered the premier era of the small forward position. NBA franchises were built around their All-Star small forwards, such as Dominique Wilkins (Atlanta), George Gervin (San Antonio), Terry Cummings (Milwaukee) and Bernard King (New York). In the 1983-84 season, the top 10 scorers in the NBA all played the small forward position, led by Adrian Dantley of the Jazz (30.6 points per game) and followed by Mark Aguirre of the Mavericks (29.5 ppg).

Larry Bird (Boston), Julius Erving (Philadelphia), James Worthy and Jamaal Wilkes (Lakers) all starred on championship teams during the 80s. Bird, Erving and Worthy were each chosen as members of the NBA's 50 all-time greatest players.


Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant is one of the NBA's top swingmen.
(Catherine Steenkeste/
NBAE/Getty Images)

Swingmen are often the most versatile players on their teams and are expected to contribute to the team not just in scoring, but also rebounding and passing for assists. The Lakers' Kobe Bryant and Magic's Tracy McGrady averaged more than 25 points, five rebounds and five assists per game in 2002-03.

The future of the game is the versatility in the two, three and four spots: the shooting guard, small forward and power forward positions. The Indiana Pacers often play an interchangeable lineup of young guards and forwards with every player on the floor between 6-9 and 7-0, including Al Harrington (6-9), Jonathan Bender (7-0), Austin Croshere (6-10) and Jermaine O'Neal (6-11). Each player has small forward size and can guard a teammate's man or create a matchup problem for his defender due to his size advantage, speed or shooting ability. Most opposing teams cannot match up defensively with the Pacers' versatile lineup.

Point Forward

Dallas Mavericks head coach Don Nelson is famous for creating mismatches on the offensive end. While coaching the Milwaukee Bucks during the 1980s, Nelson used small forward Paul Pressey in the unique role as "point forward". Like a point guard, the point forward would initiate the team's offence once the ball entered the frontcourt. However, with the small forward's size, he was able to see over his defenders to create scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Point forwards must be multi-talented players who can see the court and handle the basketball well. In Boston, forward Antoine Walker often runs the offence because of his ball-handling skills. Scottie Pippen played the point forward role while playing for the Chicago Bulls' championship teams in the 1990s, and Tracy McGrady plays a similar role today in Orlando. Pressey is currently an assistant with the Magic.