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This is part four of our CBA Walkthrough series. If you are interested in reading our intro to the walkthrough, you can get started here. One key section of the foundation that the illustrious CBA stands upon is the concept of roster construction. As you may know, each NBA team is required to have at least 14 players on a team at the beginning of the regular season and can hold up to a maximum of 15 at any given time. Each team that is participating in a game must submit their final rosters with more than one hour remaining until tip time. Those are the simple facts of NBA rosters. As with anything within the broad lines of the CBA however, there are exceptions that we will dive into here shortly. At it's core, the league must even the playing field when it comes to employed players on each of the 30 teams. This is an easy concept to grasp, but what about more nuanced details within this arena? Building a roster that fits together on court is difficult enough in it's own right, but the difficult ramps up significantly when you factor in additional restraints that are based on money, periods of time, and years of service. Front office personnel must keep a close eye on not only the total team salary throughout the year, but also the roster count. The rules and regulations on how many players can be retained, and how many may be need to be cut and differ greatly based on the time of year. Clearly, roster building is much more nuanced that it may seem at first glance. It's time to examine the behind the process of building a team. 




Minimum Roster Limits

As previously mentioned, the NBA places strict limits on how many players a team can carry at a certain point in time. Although a team must have 14 players on the roster coming into the season, that number can actually dip to as low as 11 for a two week period. Why? Unforeseen circumstances. The NBA season is incredibly long and quite a bit can happen when hundreds of players with their own unique set of circumstances are playing 82 plus games per season. You can probably deduce from simple math that it takes more than a couple injures to crop down a roster from 15 total, to just 11. For the sake of clarification, it's worth noting that this roster size is only referring to active players on the roster. For example, the Atlanta Hawks can't just decide that a few of their lower end players are underperforming and cut ties with them without filling in those empty spots with players to replace who were lost. It's fine if the Hawks have to slide Vince Carter and Chandler Parsons over to the inactive list because they are injured, but they can't be shaved off the roster completely to save money, or anything of that nature. 

Each and every team operates with active and inactive players on the roster. Active players dress and are eligible to enter game action at any time during a contest, while inactive players are technically on the roster and count towards total team salary, but are not eligible to play in games for the duration of their time on that list. Injured players are typically placed on the inactive list since they are not in the proper condition to play anyway. Inactive players are easy to spot at game, since they will not be dressed to play. In a best case scenario where the whole team is healthy, you will still see two inactive players on the bench each gameday, since only 13 players can be active at any point during the season. 

In the most recent revision of the CBA that was introduced in 2017, Two-Way contracts were introduced. In the most simple terms, these are players who are granted dual eligibility between the G League and the NBA. They are given up to 45 days to spend with the official squad, which in Charlotte would be the Hornets. However, the rest of their time must be spent with the G League affiliate (Greensboro Swarm). Two-Way players are classified as either active or inactive, depending on where they are currently their days of service. This naturally changes the number of active and inactive players on a roster. In any case, the total number of active players cannot be dip below 11. Also, it cannot remain at 11 or 12 for more than two weeks total.

Maximum Roster Limits

At the opposite end of the spectrum, a team cannot have more than 15 players on the roster, not including Two-Way players. They do not count towards the limit. If we break it down into active and inactive classifications, the team cannot hold any more than 13 active players and 2 inactive players. As stated in the previous section, the proportion of players can change. For example, it's ok to have 11 actives, if there 4 inactives. As long as the total remains at 15, there are no rule infractions. If we include two constantly transitioning Two-Way players to the equation, we end up with an absolute maximum of 16 players on a roster.  

Gray Areas

To top off this section of the walkthrough, there is one more component of roster CBA regulations that must be addressed. This is a dead zone of sorts, which is to say there are a few types of players that aren't considered to be active or inactive. Those are only two of several types of lists. Here are the others:

  • Suspended

  • NBA Draft Rights

  • Voluntarily Retired

  • Armed Services

These lists are pretty self explanatory. However, there is a list for two-way players that comes into play if they are playing in the G-League. In those instances, they are on their own list and don't count towards the active, or inactive count. 

Here is a small elaboration on a couple of these lists. First off, with the retired players mentioned here, the emphasis must go on "voluntarily", because that means the player can remain under contract. If the player and team agree, they can return in one year.

Next, in regards to the suspended list, it only includes players suspended four or more games. They get transferred from the active roster list to the suspended list after three games or four games, depending on the exact length of the suspension. 

That sums of the basics of the guidelines of roster construction. This is more of a straightforward concept of the CBA that doesn't differ very much between each team, so it didn't call for as much content as usual. If there is anything that was not covered in this post you may be curious about, or you believe should be added to this edition of the walkthrough at a later date, please drop us a message or a leave a post of the "website suggestions" section of the forum. 

*Specifics on each of these concepts are attributed to Larry Coon and his insightful CBA FAQ.*