How Many Players are On A Basketball Team?

Basketball is one of the most popular games that is played in many countries across the globe. If you, too, are interested in the game and would like to know more about it, then you are at the right place.  

Is anybody interested in the game would have the first basic question in his/her mind- How many players are on a basketball team? 

The query might look straightforward and to the point, but it is actually not so. Unlike other sports, the answer to this question is ambiguous for basketball. It creates plenty of confusion regarding the sport. In this write-up, we would explore the answer to the query and cut on the ambiguity around it. Stay hooked! 

How many players are on a basketball team? 

The answer to this query is especially important for all those who intend to play basketball as it would help them follow the team’s roster or its changes with minimal difficulty.  

Unfortunately, as pointed out, the answer to the question is not precise. Broadly, the number can vary from one to 20. It is despite a conventional rule of five players from each side on the basketball court at the time of the game.  

A basketball team has a roster. The reason for the ambiguity is that different basketball leagues around the world have a different number of players on their roster. 

Basketball active & inactive List  

The basketball team roster has two components- The active list and the inactive list.  

The number of players active on a team roster constitutes the active list. By this, we mean all those players who can be put into the game off the bench or even as a starter. It might be pointed out that healthy scratches are not counted in this list. Healthy scratches are all those healthy players who do not dress up for a match and, thus are not used by the coach.  

The inactive list is made up of healthy scratches and players who are not physically fit to play the game at that time. These players serve as substitute players. If an active player gets injured or is not performing as desired, they will be replaced by these players to enter the game and increase the chances of winning.  

Before any match, the players of the active and inactive list can be interchanged for the benefit of the team.  

Players on the conventional roster  

The NBA is considered the standard of the basketball team. Conventionally, there are five players per team that can be on the court and are referred to as starters. However, the NBA roster has a total of 15 players of which 12 can get dressed for a particular match.  

For a match, there can be 13 players, including starters, on a bench. The count adds both the team. Each team can have a maximum of eight players on their bench for any regular season’s game.  

Likewise, each team is only permitted twelve active players throughout the season. 

The total number of players is decided by the extent the NBA team is in a particular season. In an offseason, i.e., anytime between the last game of a season and the first game of the next season, a team is allowed to have a maximum of 20 players signed. It might be noted that with no minimum rule, a team can have even zero players signed during the offseason.  

The NBA hardship exception 

Like all games, even basketball players are highly vulnerable to injury. For this, the game has the hardship exception rule in place. The rule comes into play when any team has more than four of its players seriously injured. In that scenario, they can increase the roster size to 16 players to keep things fair. The extra person proves valuable here. However, such a situation is a rare occurrence.  

The makeup of the NBA teams 

In a basketball match, the players play in five positions, namely the point guard, shooting guards, power forwards, small forwards, and centers. Each position carries its own duties and responsibilities. However, as the game advances, it is not uncommon for the players to blur the line between one or two positions.  

It must also be pointed out that despite plenty of roster rules, there is no rule on the number of players a team must-have for a certain position. A team can fill up the roster with any kind of players that they desire. But most teams go for a balanced approach to maximize their chances of winning.  

Variation in the number of players in different basketball leagues 

We have already mentioned that the list of limitations varies in basketball based on the specific league in question. Let’s walk through a few of these variations in different basketball leagues.  

High School Basketball Team 

This team can have a maximum of 20 players on each roster on game day. It should be noted that they have the largest number of players rostered. The reason for it is quite simple.  

High school basketball teams constitute one of the grassroots levels of teams. Given that coaches and League officials try to give opportunities to as many players to play as possible. 

But while 20 players are rostered, only 15 are allowed to play in any one game. Moreover, schools are given the freedom to change the roster size from 20 to any below number, depending on their financial capability, games’ venue, and the importance of the game.  

College Basketball Team 

It is an upgrade of the school team. At this level, the aim is not to give exposure to as many players as possible, but it is more focused on championships and making it to the pros. The teams here are referred to as NCAA.  

Here the roster limitation is 15 players, which is the same as the NBA. Of it, only 13 are allowed to dress up for any game. The difference lies with the inactive players who are allowed to sit on the bench in the NBA. In the college team, they must sit behind the bench. 

It is not mandatory for any college team to have inactive players. If desired, a college basketball team can also have their roster size reduced to 13.  

The NBA Team  

The next team after the college teams are the NBA teams. They are the pro-league teams. We already know about their roster size.  

The WNBA Basketball team 

The WNBA constitutes one of the smallest professional basketball leagues. Currently, it has 12 teams and thus 12 available roster spots. It is similar to that of FIBA competitions.  

Wrapping up 

We hope that by now, you have the clarity to the question, ‘How many players are on a basketball team?’ Their roster size, number of active and inactive players, substitutes and coaches, etc., all depending on the team, their level, and the importance of the competition.