5 Unique NBA Players Who Don't Fit in a Category
For decades, NBA players have had to fit into one of five traditional positions: point guard, shooting guard, small forward, power forward and center.
But the league is becoming increasingly positionless, and the players here signify that better than any others. There's really no single position, designation or category you can fit them into. They simply do too many different things at an elite level.
Each of the following is still listed at a specific position (since everyone in the NBA is), but as you'll see, what they do completely defies their listings.
You don't think of an NBA center as someone much shorter than 6'9" or 6'10", but 6'7" Draymond Green may be busting that stereotype this season.
He's only played 14 percent of his possessions at the 5 this season, but those possessions are when the Golden State Warriors are at their best.
The Warriors' so-called "lineup of death" consists of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes and Green. It's been on the floor for 149 minutes this season, outscoring opponents by 50.3 points per 100 possessions in that time.
That's the best net rating of any lineup with at least as many minutes, and second place isn't close. The Toronto Raptors' lineup of Kyle Lowry, Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson and Bismack Biyombo is plus-22.2.
Golden State's otherworldly dominance with Draymond at the 5 is largely a product of Green's defensive versatility. Few, if any, 6'7" players in the league can legitimately defend any position, including 7'0"-plus centers.
And on the other end, Green is equally as versatile, leading all players his height or taller in assists per game at 7.4.
We've truly never seen anything like the offense being displayed by Stephen Curry this season, as he's at or near the top of all of the following all-time leaderboards.
- Points per 36 minutes (5th)
- Three-pointers per game (1st)
- Player Efficiency Rating (1st)
- Offensive Box Plus-Minus (1st)
Curry may be listed as a point guard, but one-man offense may be more appropriate. His shooting range commands attention, often from two defenders, the moment he crosses half court.
That leaves defenses horribly out of position when Curry whips the ball to Green, who's then moving downhill toward a four-on-three advantage. The unique setup has led Curry to a comfortable league lead in secondary assists (think hockey assists) this season at 2.5 per game.
His mere presence on the floor is one of Curry's greatest weapons. As ESPN's Ethan Sherwood Strauss put it, "He doesn't even need to touch the ball to completely wreck your defense."
Milwaukee Bucks coach Jason Kidd first started toying with the idea of 6'11" Giannis Antetokounmpo playing point guard during the 2014 summer league.
At the time, Antetokounmpo said, per NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, "Whatever coach wants me to do... I’m going to do that." And that attitude clearly persists today.
The experiment initially fizzled out, but Kidd fully embraced it this season when he sent traditional point guard Michael Carter-Williams to the bench on February 9.
Since then, Antetokounmpo has run Milwaukee's offense, and he's averaging 18.2 points, 8.7 rebounds and 6.8 assists. He has three triple-doubles in that span.
For a player to be able to run an offense on one end and defend centers on the other is truly unprecedented. The all-time record for assists per game for a 6'11"-plus player in the three-point era is Kevin Garnett's six, but he wasn't starting things from the point.
If Kidd allows Antetokounmpo to carry this role through next season, he'll almost certainly top Garnett's average.
Perhaps the best way to put James' singular talent back into perspective is to look at him through the lens of 20-point, five-rebound, five-assist games.
LeBron doesn't fit into any one category because he legitimately does everything on a basketball court.
Kevin Durant, who's still just 27 years old, is already in seventh place all time for three-pointers made by a player his height (6'9") or taller. In the same group, he's second in career scoring average (27.4), behind only Wilt Chamberlain.
Durant has the frame of a power forward (or even a center, if he went by his draft combine height) but scores with the efficiency and smoothness of the best guards or wings the game has ever seen.
In December, LeBron James told ESPN's Dave McMenamin that he thought Durant could eventually challenge Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's all-time scoring mark:
His ability to score the ball is obviously up there with the greatest to ever play. I know that's not in his memory bank right now, him trying to help the team get better and better, but long term he definitely can challenge that.
Longevity and durability will be the key for that possibility. But even on the more likely chance he falls short, there's little doubt Durant will go down as one of the best, most versatile scorers ever.