How Many Players Are on a Basketball Team? Explained

NBA teams can have up to 20 signed up players during the offseason and up to 15 players during the regular season (and a minimum of 14 players).

Also, players can be divided into “active” and “inactive”. Players can be inactive for a variety of reasons. Most commonly because they’re injured and can’t play or because the team doesn’t want them to play. This generally results in only 12-13 players being suitable for play in most games, as there’s generally going to be 2-3 players who are inactive. And even after that reduction on active players, not all of them end up playing in the game, as only 8-10 of the active players generally end up participating in the game.

The team coach determines when players enter or leave the game. The reserve players enter the game through a process called substitution, which only occurs when the game stops, such as during a break or when the referee marks a violation.

But... Who's who? - 5 Positions

Now you know how many players there are in a team. But have you ever wondered who’s who in a game of Basketball?
Rules-wise, there are no required or fundamental positions.

However, the game has evolved and developed in a way that has given rise to the current 5 traditional positions. Each position has its respective positioning, tactical functions, and most prized skills for the role. The 5 positions are:

1. Point guard (also known as “1” or “PG”):

This player is, in general, the best dribbler and best ball passer in the team and generally tries to control the pace of the game. Their main function is to control the ball and making sure the right player has the ball to help their teammates to score.
Famous point guard players: Magic Johnson, Steve Nash, Stephen Curry, and Chris Paul.

2. Shooting guard (also known as “2” or “SG”):

 Often the best shooter on the team, this position is generally the main scorer of the team. The shooting guard player is often able to shoot from any area of the court with their shooting skills.

Famous shooting guard players: Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Klay Thompson, and Ray Allen.

3. Small forward (also known as “3” or “SF”): 

This is generally the most versatile player on the team, having a good balance of various skills. This position is often tied with shooting guards for the best scorer position. Often focuses on rebounds and steals on defense. Due to the shooting guard and small forward’s similarities, they’re often called “the wings”.

Famous small forward players: Larry Bird, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and Paul George.

4. Power forward (also known as “4” or “PF”):

The Power forward is the basketball player who acts closest to the basket and the three-point line, but has more mobility than center players. In defense, the player in position 4 has the function of blocking opponents and catching rebounds. In the offense, the power forward acts both in the three-point line and makes mid-range shots.

Famous power forward players: Tim Duncan, Anthony Davis, Charles Barkley, and Kevin Love.

5. Center (also known as “5” or “C”):

 The center player is usually the tallest player on the team. The center player’s role is to establish a position close to the basket, allowing him to more easily score. In defense, he tries to block shots and catch rebounds. The power forward and center share similarities and responsibilities; as such, they’re often called “post players”.

Famous center players: Bill Russel, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Bill Walton, and Shaquille O’Neal.

It is important to mention that the above positions and descriptions are very flexible. Different players, teams, coaches, and strategies require some of these descriptions and position strategies to change. Not only that, but some teams use different denominations for their positions and formations.

How many players are there of each position in an NBA team?

Well… it depends. There are no strict rules on that. Different teams go for different ratios of players per position.
The 14-15 player NBA teams are free to have any number of any position in their rosters.

For instance, one team might choose to have 5 point guards, 4 shooting guards, 2 small forward, 2 power forwards, and 2 centers. While another team might choose to have 3 point guards and 6 shooting guards instead.

Summary

To put it shortly: Basketball teams have anywhere between 14 and 20 players.
14-20 player teams can be effectively reduced in size because of inactive players, who generally reduce the number of active players to 12-13. In addition to that, not every active player plays in every game, further reducing the number of players in a game.

There are five main positions: Point guard (PG), shooting guard (SG), small forward (SF), power forward (PF), and center (C). Each of these basketball positions has different individual strengths and tactical considerations that motivate different players to play different roles.

And lastly, NBA teams have no restrictions on the number of players in each position. Their rosters can be made up of any combination of positions they wish.

Hopefully, this article has helped you better understand how many players on a basketball team there are and the different basketball positions!

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Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

My name is Aaron and I am the owner of Make Shots. On this site, I discuss the most frequently asked basketball questions and give my opinions. My love for basketball started in 2010 and ever since I have fallen in love with the sport.
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