How Many Players On A Basketball Team?


Basketball has the least amount of players on a team and on the court when comparing it to any of the major team sports played in North America. When we look at the bench while we are watching a game we can see a lineup of players and coaches sitting there, which looks like a mile long.

How many players are on a basketball team? This will depend on the level of play, the league, and its rules but in general, there are 12 to 15 players on a basketball team. While out of those 12 to 15 players on the team, only 7 to 10 players may actually see consistent playing time, as this varies from coach to coach. The best players on the team will see the most playing time usually.

As a Coach how do you determine what the right number of players you should have on a basketball team, there are some things to consider. What would happen if your whole team were to foul out, this actually happened in the NBA and discussed in this article later.

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How many players are on the court at the same time?

There are 5 players from each team totaling 10 players on the court at the same time playing a game of basketball against each other.

There wasn’t always 5….. When basketball was first invented by Dr. James Naismith, while teaching students to be instructors at the YMCA in 1891 in Springfield, Massachusetts. Naismith was advised to create a game for his students by his superior to keep them bust through the winter months.

Naismith had 18 students in which turned the game of basketball at the time into a 9 versus 9 game in his class and thereafter. The rules were already in placed and it was until thereafter that when the game took off it was changed to a 5 versus 5 game.


Junior High/ High School Basketball Teams

I have coached basketball at this level for many years, players come and players go. Depending on if your a basketball school and ball is life to your players you can afford to have just 12 players with two of those players as managers that are taking stats during a game if you need it.

12 players will be more than enough and will show up to practice to play, players will look at basketball as their first priority. If you have a dedicated core this is a perfect number, fewer players to complain about playing time, less drama amongst players, and enough bodies to run a scrimmage during practice.

Some things to consider if you are not from a basketball school or you know that you may possibly have a difficult season, you will want to consider having more players on a roster. When a team is not doing well, you get a lot of players who will decide not to show up to practice sometimes.

The worse thing that happens from first-hand experience is having 9 guys at practice and you spent an hour of your time preparing a practice that needed 10 players for 5 vs 5. (Zones, Press breaks, Etc.) Having 12 or more gives you flexibility and allows for injuries, schoolwork, and appointments to take place.

Some other things to consider when having more than 12 is that some leagues and tournaments only allow for a certain amount of players on the bench and to be dressed. Also, traveling can be beneficial with more players as you will be cutting costs if players are fundraising or paying out of pocket. It can also cost more if it’s from a budget expense and you are bringing every player on the team on the trip.

While basketball is an obvious popular sport if you have an influx of players who want to play, it might be beneficial to the school to have two teams. The players that do not make the team can be a part of a developmental team in which they can be entered in tournaments during the season and have practices coached by someone other than yourself. Although they will not be able to play season games they can play exhibition games while developing talent. You may get a player who comes out of the woodworks, This could also help in bringing in players from the developmental team to the competitive team.


College/ University Basketball Teams

On a college basketball team, there can be up to 15 players on a team, but only 13 players may sit on the bench and suit up. The other two players are not allowed to sit on the bench but behind it. That is if the school can afford to take those players on the road trip within the school’s budget.

Some schools to save money in their budget will not have more than 11 to 13 players travel, which is understandable as not all players play anyway.

When a college or University recruits they do not hand out all full scholarships to every player on the team. Some players get partial scholarships or none at all. Not every school is a Duke or Kansas City, where they are not worried about money when it comes to programing as I’m sure they get enough support from charitable donations for their athletic programs.


NBA/ Pro Leagues

In the NBA up to 15 players are allowed on a team, 13 of those can be considered active. Teams are allowed up to 3 players on the injured reserve, while all players will travel with the team from the city to city unless injured and deemed a bad idea, to not prolong the injury while getting the rest and recovery that player needs.

When players are injured and teams need replacements they will sign players from the G-League know as the development league. Players generally sign a 3 day or 7-day contract, while having it be extended from contract to contract based on the team’s needs and how the player plays. If a player does really well, someone spot can be taken if they have too many players.


How many players per each position?

This is easier on paper then it is then when it is tryouts and your picking the team. The go-to is to have a backup to each of your starting five. Although most times, players will outshine the backups and you tend to forget that notion and just picking the best players that you can use to create the ideal team with a couple of bigs amongst those 12.


The Game where the Warriors had no players left to play? Craziest Game Ever!

On April 4, 2010, The Golden State Warriors vs Portland Trailblazers

During this time the Warriors were not going to make the playoffs and it was the last game of the season. The Warriors only had 6 available players to play but they needed 8 to start the game so they took 2 players from injured reserve and suited them up and sat them on the bench.

Unfortunately at the beginning of the game, Chris Hunter of the Warriors went down with an injury resulting in only 5 available players who played the majority of the game. Towards the end of the game, Devin George fouled out and the Warriors had no other way but to play their injured players. At the time Don Nelson was the Coach and did not want to play them for obvious reasons.

So after arguing with the refs Don Nelson’s Brilliant plan was to sub in his injured players who physically could not play and stop the game due to injury and leave the game while heading back to the locker room. But they still only had 4 players? Don Nelson knew the rule that if a player who fouled, in this case, Devin George and there are no other players to take his place on the court then Booker may enter the game and continue to play.

Devin Booker being in the game was charged the common foul, the team foul and a team technical foul. Every foul after that was a common foul received if Booker fouled. He could have had 10 fouls in this game. I am not sure why the team chose not to sign players from the G-League for this game.

The Warriors ended up beating the playoff-bound Blazers in Portland while Montai Ellis and Steph curry went off for 76 total points for the team.


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