How Many Players are on a Basketball Team?

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Would you like to know how many players are on a basketball team? The answer to this question is sometimes confused because we keep hearing different numbers from different persons. If you are a basketball player or a basketball fan, it is essential that you know how many players does a basketball team has so that you can keep track of your teams’ roster and follow roster changes easily. Because this is not a very common question, you may find it harder than expected to get the correct answer. 

Do not worry. Today we will be providing you with quality information. Let’s review the different leagues and the number of players that are allowed on a basketball team’s roster.

How Many Players Does a Basketball Team HaveHow Many Players Does a Basketball Team Have?

This question is not as clear-cut as one would like to think. The broad answer is anywhere from 0 to 20. I bet that was not the answer you were expecting to get. You see, the thing is each basketball league will have different roster requirements, and the NBA also has a different amount of rosters specifications based on where the season is. 

In the NBA’s offseason, a team can have an empty roster and all the way up to 20 players. As the season progresses, this number will be reduced to 15. In other leagues around the world, the roster number will be different.

Number of Players Per Team on the Basketball CourtNumber of Players Per Team on the Basketball Court

Each team is allowed to field a maximum of 5 players at the same time on the basketball court. There are no limitations as to what players are allowed to be on the court unless they are fouled out. This rule remains constant throughout all basketball leagues. You can have multiple players of the same position on the court. However, the maximum still has to be five. 

Once the team is able to put five players on the court, they cannot opt to do any less.

On the other hand, if players are fouled out or injured, making them unable to complete the game, a team can play a basketball game until they reach the minimum player amount allowed. In some leagues, this amount is two, while in others, it is three. In the NBA, a team must present a minimum of eight players in uniform on game night. These players must be suited and ready to play.

How is the Number of Players Different in Every Basketball LeagueHow is the Number of Players Different in Every Basketball League?

As with many other things in the sport of basketball, the list of limitations will vary based on the specific league in question. There are different reasons for the variances in their roster limitations. Let’s look at the amount of players allowed in the different leagues.

High School Basketball Team

Varsity and junior varsity teams are allowed a maximum of 20 players on each roster. This is the largest amount of players that can be on a roster on game day. This is understandable as high school is one of the grassroots levels of basketball, so one should expect that coaches and League officials would want as many players to get opportunities to play as possible. 

Even though 20 players are allowed to be rostered, only 15 are permitted actually to play in any one game. Some schools may find it difficult to finance a 20 team roster, so you may have fluctuations in the number of players on a roster, depending on the games’ venue and the importance of games.

High School Basketball Team

College Basketball Team

At the Collegiate level, basketball is more about championships and making it to the pros than it is about giving everyone a chance to play. With that said, you should expect that the roster limitations for the NCAA are going to be less than that of high school leagues. 

The NCAA has a roster limitation of 15. This is the same as the NBA. Fifteen players can be on a team’s roster. However, only 13 are able to be suited at any given night. The inactive cannot sit on the bench like in the NBA. They need to sit behind the bench.

NBA Basketball Team

During the offseason, an NBA team is allowed to have up to 20 players on its roster. Technically they don’t need to have any players as there are no minimum requirements. When’s the NBA season officially begins, each team is allowed 15 roster spots. They can have 12 to 13 active players, and the remaining players will be listed as inactive. Throughout the game, coaches will only have access to active players. The good thing is that there is nothing preventing the team from changing the active players between games. 

They allow injured players to recover and the tired players to get rest while giving opportunities to other players. NBA teams can modify their rosters by signing or releasing players if they see better fits outside of the current roster. 

If four or more players are out with injury, from the same team, that team can apply for an exemption that will allow them to add an additional player to their roster. This exemption is known as the NBA hardship exemption. The aim of this is to allow teams that are ravaged by injuries to not simply fail out of the NBA. The opportunity to add an extra player without being penalized by the NBA allows teams in this situation to stand a fighting chance to progress in the league.

WNBA Basketball Team

The WNBA is one of the smallest professional basketball leagues that you can find out there. Currently, the WNBA has 12 teams, and this year they only have 12 available roster spots similar to that of FIBA competitions. 

A lot of teams this year seem to be focusing on developing young talent and keeping their rookie and sophomore players with the teams. Maybe after the season starts, there will be changes in their rosters if the teams decide to go in other directions.

How Many Players Should Each Position HaveHow Many Players Should Each Position Have?

“Should” is a very tricky word in this question. As you know, a lot of teams play with different playing styles, and they rely on different types of players for different reasons. Because teams play differently, coaches and team management do not have a specific route map to follow as it relates to choosing their teams. They just have to make the best team they can, one that can compete and win. 

There is no rule in any league that stipulates how many players for each position a roster should or should not have. Some teams will try to get the most talented players regardless of their positions, put them together, and hope for the best. 

Other teams will evaluate their needs and consider these when they are going after players. Even though teams differ with their approach to fill out their roster, teams generally have at least two players on the roster for each position. 

As the season wears on, you may find that injury and suspensions may force teams to fill their rosters hurriedly, and sometimes you may find that some positions are left short-handed. More often than not, you will find third-string players on a team’s roster. Third-string players are typically selected based on a variety of reasons. They can be chosen as injury backups, mentors for younger players, or third-string reserves that do play from time to time. 

How Many Players Should Each Position Have

This allows other players to rest. It is also generally good to have at least two players at the same position. They can offer you variety or diversity. We are trying to say that a player that comes off your bench and plays differently from the player you are taking off the court can be a very good thing for your team if appropriately utilized. 

Players that play the same position, even though they have different playing styles, can keep your opponents on their toes and provide you with that extra advantage you need. It can also be a disadvantage if your replacement is very different from your starter. This could cause disruption in the chemistry of the team on the court and cost you games. 

How Many Reserve Players Does a Team Have to HaveHow Many Reserve Players Does a Team Have to Have?

This question can be answered in one of two ways if you are at the high school level. It is always good to fill your roster out with the 15 additional players if you are at a high school with lots of students who want to play and learn the game of basketball. These 15 reserves will have opportunities to get on the basketball court and to gain some experience while possibly improving their skills. On the other hand, if you are looking to maximize the skill sets of specific players, you may not want to expand your roster too much. 

A roster of 12 players, a roster with 7 reserves, may be easier to handle than a roaster of 20. A team needs to make sure that they have a deep bench to carry the team when the starters are off. A basketball team should have enough reserves to take the pressure off the starters comfortably.
The NBA allows a minimum of three reserves to start a game. If teams are depleted by injury, and they feel they need extra bodies, they may reach out to their scouts to see what players are best to sign.

Wrapping Things Up: Number of Players on a Basketball Team

The number of players on a basketball team will depend on the league that is being played. High School leagues will allow up to 20 players to be registered and 15 to be suited for each game. At the University level, 15 players are allowed on the roster. 

However, only 13 can play each game. It is similar to the college roster amount at the NBA level at 15. 12-13 players can be suited for an NBA game. In the WNBA, the roster limitation is similar to that of FIBA. Twelve players are allowed per roster. Until next time of ballers, make that roster!

Did you find this post helpful? Then you may also like to read our post about basketball positions here.

Check out other basketball FAQ articles here:

> How Long is a Basketball Game?

> What are the 5 Basic Skills of Basketball?

> What Position Should I Play in Basketball?

Hoops Addict
Hoops Addict

Hoops Addict was created to help basketball fans of all ages learn more about the sport and find the best basketball gear to improve their ability to hoop. He has been a huge basketball fan for decades, watching thousands of basketball games through the years to learn the ins and outs of the game.

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