All-Star Rosters, Game Clock Overdue For A Dose Of Modern Inflation


So many deserving players, so few roster spots.

Depending on your sense of history and your definition of “All Star,” that statement about the NBA’s All-Star Game and selection process either is painfully true or a little snarky.

Every year at this time — the day the reserves for the Eastern and Western Conference squads are announced, as chosen by the coaches (7 p.m. ET on TNT) — someone (or some two or three) who played well enough in the season’s first half to earn an invitation instead gets snubbed. Then again, by the time you get to the 12th man on each side, the step down from the starters generally is evident and a pecking order seems clear.

Mathematically and historically, however, one can make a solid case that 12 is an insufficient number of All-Stars for the modern NBA.

allstar-13-200In the game’s infancy — which also was the league’s relative infancy — All-Star rosters went 10 deep. Back then, the NBA was an eight-team league. Later, the rosters bumped up to 12 players per side, which became the standard, mirroring the NBA roster limit during the season.

Actually, there were a few years in the 1970s when All-Star rosters were increased to 14 as the league’s membership expanded to 17 franchises, then 18.

Even with the absorption of four ABA franchises in the late 1970s and the expansion into Dallas, the All-Star rosters dipped briefly to 11, then settled back at 12. And that’s where they have been ever since. Through the addition of Miami, Charlotte, Orlando and Minnesota in 1988 and 1989. Despite the creation of the Raptors and the Grizzlies and, after the Hornets relocated to New Orleans and the NBA’s return to Charlotte.

For the past two regular seasons, sparked by the post-lockout scramble in 2011-12, teams have been permitted to carry 13 active players. So let’s do the math:

  • 17 teams (12 players each) / 24 All-Stars = 1.41 All-Stars per team, with 11.8 percent of the league’s players classified as “All-Stars.”
  • 30 teams (13 players each) / 24 All-Stars = 0.8 All-Stars per team, with 6.2 percent of the league’s players classified as “All-Stars.”

Clearly, All-Star-ness hasn’t been keeping pace with inflation.

Chicago coach Tom Thibodeau talked with reporters Wednesday about the difficulty of filling out his ballot for the seven East reserves. “There are a lot of guys who are deserving, and you hate to leave anyone off,” he said. “It’s unfortunate there are limited spaces.”

What if, though, the NBA increased the size of All-Star rosters to 15? That would alleviate some of the tough calls and bruised feelings that follow each time a worthy candidate gets snubbed. It would get the per-franchise representation up to 1.0 All-Star per team. And conveying the status on 7.7 percent (30 of 390) of the league’s player population hardly would cheapen the designation.

One hitch: Some guys wind up with their feelings bruised not by being snubbed but by sitting too much on All-Star Sunday. They give up their one shot at extended rest or recreation during the grind of the season, then make only a cameo appearance in the big game.

“It’s very difficult to get playing time for 12 guys,” said Thibodeau, who served as East coach last February in Orlando. “You’re trying not to offend anyone in those games. You wish the game was a little bit longer so everyone could get an equal amount of time. But it doesn’t work that way.”


How ‘ bout a proportionate increase in the game itself? Boost the quarters from 12 minutes each to 15 — same as the rosters — for a game that lasts 60 minutes rather than 48. That would keep the per-player average at 20 minutes, same as now.

“I thought maybe a shorter game, to be honest with you,” joked Detroit coach Lawrence Frank, who also has worked the All-Star sideline.

Frank’s barb speaks to a coach’s concern for undue wear and tear on his players, along with the lackluster play of many All-Star Games. The defense and intensity that serve the NBA so proudly during the season and playoffs is largely absent until the final minutes or maybe the fourth quarter of a close All-Star contest.

Still, lengthening the game with deeper rosters wouldn’t boost anyone’s workload. Nor would it markedly hurt the quality. We’re still talking about the 13th-, 14th- and 15th-best players in each conference. And a 25 percent boost in game clock to enjoy them all.

Obviously it’s not going to happen this year. So players already secure on the East and West squads, and those added tonight via the coaches’ picks, should take a little extra pride in how select the status really is. They’re all part of the elite 6.2 percent.

As Frank said: “It just puts that much more value on it. Look, there are going to be times you get snubbed. It happens all the time. And there are going to be times when a guy gets voted in who maybe shouldn’t get voted in. But it’s an All-Star Game.”


  1. Tyler Smack says:

    Me personally, i do not like the fact of “FAN PICKS” for the all star game. I would say let the Coaches choose the best 12/12 players in the league. Then, allow the fans pick who should start by position.By leaving out a ballot of who should go, you are eliminating the possibilities of some all worthy players not to make it. For example, Monte Ellis for the past 3 seasons was my pick for the all star game when Curry went down he was the best player on the warriors n so on with arguments. Pau Gasol on the other hand shouldnt have gotten in for his (Explicit) game he played before the break. fan picks are ignorant and no point just allowing fans pick the starters are best for this game and allow the coaches and the organization put in their bid for who are true all stars to go

  2. ko0kie says:

    good idea, steve! is there anything like this planed? or even on some agenda?

  3. STEVE says:

    I think 15 is the way to go for the roster, some Players like Duncan dont want to play a lot of minutes anyway but deserve to be selected. Usually there are only 2-3 deserving players from each conference that get snubbed, so that would solve the problem. Players know the pecking order regarding Star status and All Star Game minutes, but someone is always pissed off no matter what you do.The Starters should finish the Game regardless.

  4. Nate says:

    I feel like being picked for the All-Star game is a semi-meaningless accolade. Championships and clutch play are all that matter.

  5. zgillet says:

    Make the game decide home court advantage in the Finals and remove fan voting. Bam, problem solved.

  6. baledii says:

    I propose the voting stay the same. The fans choose their picks first then the coaches fill out the rest of the rosters. However, no starters are designated. After the rosters are finished the coaches then decide on their starters. Sounds fair to me. Take it under consideration, Comissioner!

  7. Shadowspinner says:

    I have to Agree with Dave – eliminate the fan voting and you’ll end up with a better all star game.

    If anyone needs proof – 2 western all star starters won’t see the playoffs. 2 eastern all stars might not see the playoffs. Jeremy Lin almost got voted in as an all star starter. All of these things are a problem with the all star game system right now.

    Bumping up the roster size might help with that element, but then you see less of each good player, so keep it at 12 – which is already too many to try and divy playtime out for.

    Making the game longer is also a bad idea as players have a rhythm when it comes to games. It’s built into their mindset and their bodies at a subconscious level. Adjusting the allstar’s minutes already messes with that, but making the game longer would just make it worse. Not to mention you’d have to adjust a whole host of things if you change the format of the game for just one game in the season.

    Leave the game alone, fix the way the all stars are determined if you want a better allstar game. And talking about percentage representation doesn’t make a lot of sense either unless you change the system so each team sends one player to the all star game. Being on a bad team can inflate an average player’s numbers to make him seem better than he is. Being on a good team can make make a great player put up lower numbers to be more successful. Having people that don’t appreciate the game and base their votes on how many highlight reel plays a guy gets is the worst way to fill an allstar game.

    • RJ says:

      Being on a mediocre or poor team, despite working their butt off, can also make people forget how deserving a player is as well. I’m glad for Kyrie Irving, at least. He’s deserving. He keeps them close, and gives a thin Cavs roster with injuries wins that they shouldn’t even get. That should be the worst team in the league. It’s not quite, thanks to him. J.R. Smith should have legitimately made it this year. He’s actually been a pillar of stability and utilizing his talents for that team. Jamal Crawford, not so much, though if we were saying after 20 games, I would’ve said yes.But he’s been a bit of a volume scorer more often than not lately, which is why their bench hasn’t been holding leads as well of late. So some of those highlight players do deserve it, some don’t.

  8. EmperorPhil says:

    If you click repeatedly around 1:54. It sounds like one of them is saying the f word.

  9. Javier says:

    Go Heat!!!!!!!!!!!!

  10. Dwade says:

    yah fan vote…. ur an idiot fan to vote kobe ballhug and blockbuster artist Duwaghoward….

  11. ism says:

    given that blake griffin easily makes the cut, whereas tim duncan isn’t even seen as a reserve by some, the word “elite” should always been taken with a huge chunk of salt when used in the context of the all-star-game.

  12. justsaying says:

    A sensible proposal.

  13. vern says:

    The starters are fan voted so it’s not necessarily a deserved spot, it’s just who the fans like to watch. IMO, it’s the reserves that earn their way on the roster. It’s the coaches that vote on who’s been playing their butt off and who they believe is all-star material. Nowadays, there’s a lot of good players deserving in the league. Unfortunately the league limits the players. They can either expand the roster and each player gets very few minutes play time or leave some off.
    Do the players get to vote? If so that could make it easier. The players pick who they think is deserving. They’ll pick players that give them problems. Whoever happens to be left off was left off because your peers left you off so just play harder next season.

  14. dave says:

    more players would be degrading to the quality of all-stars. just get rid of the fan voting once and for all. its not “us” the fans voting. its the 9-12 year old kids who love Dwight Howard cause he’s always smiling. the fans who actually vote know nothing of the games history or what it really takes to be an all star. yeah the nba is a family game but i’m sure these little “raised on the internet” kids are voting like once a day for the whole first half of the season so they can maybe see Jeremy Lin. without the lame fans voting in KG and D-How, there will be room for 5 more coach voted all stars that really deserve to be there. a more pressing issue is whats to come of the dunk contest? that needs some real thinking about Aschenburg.

  15. Rutger Brouwer says:

    How about a all-star tournament with 6 teams from each division.
    Selected through draw into 2 poules of 3 teams.
    The number 1 of poule a plays number 2 of poule b and number 1 of poule b plays number 2 of poule a.
    So poule play is done on saturday and the semis and finals will be on sunday.
    A team from the division that wins gets the all-star game the next year

  16. Gio says:

    Some of you people make it seem like there is a HUGE drop off in talent once you add three more players and that’s not true…

  17. N says:

    Westbrook needs to be an all star
    And dwigt is an idiot

  18. Jeremiah Storkson says:

    I think Russel Westbrook should be an all star starter. Don’t get me wrong Chris Paul is great but if u look at the all around game Russell westbrook can do more. I dont know they are both so good maybe chris paul starting at the point guard spot and russel westbrook at the shooting guard. That would be entertaining.

  19. franck says:

    IF anything the league is watered down so much I would get rid of a few teams especially ones which get no interest from the local comunity like the bucks, hawks, pistons post economic crisis we all know how hard detroit has been hit. Also the bring back legitamacy back to the all star game fans should not account for voting anymore.
    What would make the all star weekend amazing is if the players selected for the all star game are the only ones allowed to participate in saturdays festivities, dunk contest 3 point etc.

    It would also be great if we saw some old timers have a crack at playing again, I like the idea of team espn vs TNT for example. Each year there should be some sort of event like that to make it more fun and interesting for the fans. Like Barkleys race is a good example for that.

  20. dd def says:

    i like this idea, except for the fact that no one really plays in the all star game anymore, it’s generally not that entertaining watching people walk up the court and give eachother clear lanes for alley oops and lethargic attacks

  21. joe says:

    I don´t know who vote the bench? Only coaches or also reporters? Well, I´ll refer at them as coaches.
    What about this idea? :
    Instead of having fans voting the starting five, and then the coaches voting the bench, for me it would make more sense to have the coaches voting the 12 players on each side, and then fans voting the starting five among the 12 players. Like this, you avoid what might happen one day, A Jeremy Lin in the starting five instead of a Chris Paul,
    Then find a solution so that the internet vote is one per person, right now, anyone can vote a million time.
    I don´t like the idea of more minutes, it´s ok if a player just plays 5 minutes and take only one shot. What matters for an all-star is to be an all-star, it increases his value. Just be named is enough.

  22. Vinh-dication11 says:

    Very good post by Steve.
    -It makes sense and it gives an increased chance for the less likelihood of snubbed choices.
    The talent level in the NBA is increasing so it would only be necessary to accommodate the wide array of talent. 15 All stars is a worthy number, I mean it’s only 3 more players!

    -The increase playing time is also good because it’ll give a chance to even out the minutes between the players. It’s fair for all parties involved. What bad can 3 more minutes to every quarter be? It only gives us more time to enjoy the players play.
    Coaches and teams may worry about injury but the players in the game don’t play all out. The All Star game is pretty mellow and players are just having fun and play casually which rarely leads to injuries.

    Do it Stern!

  23. Jalen Minor says:

    Make the game LONGER so it can be more DUNKS, and 3 and so it can fair for the first time players

  24. Adam says:

    I’m still surprised that both dwight ahd Kobe made it. They are great players but will bring the west down.

    • John says:

      Why would you be surprised? It’s a fan voting system. We, the fans, vote for the players. Just cause you think one way doesn’t mean the rest of the world does too. You have the leading scorer in the game and the leading rebouonder in the game in the all-star game. Think a little next time.

      • aaaaaa says:

        I understand its what the fans want to see, but I also look at it as a team accomplishment, and I don’t think the Lakers deserve two All-Stars. Same with the Celtics (and I’m a die hard Celts fan), they just haven’t been as good as they should be. Also, with the Celtics, Paul Pierce will probably be an All-Star, which I honestly find unfair to other players. The Celtics at the moment are below .500 and shouldn’t have 3 All-Stars.

      • genoa says:

        Why didn’t verajao get more votes on the east side then if leading in rebounds matters? Fact is Dwight Howard has not played like the best center in the west, hes shot the team down more than a couple times with his poor free throw shooting and stagnated offensive game. Plus the Lakers are 8 games below .500. I’m not sure what criteria you use to justify saying “Dwight is my pick for all-star” when there are at least 4 players with more productive numbers making an impact for a winninger team.

  25. abchome says:

    No. Longer playing time for more borderline allstars = lower quality.

  26. Giddi says:

    Sorry, but it’s just wrong if the player limit would be increased there would be less snubs. The gap between players skills/productivity becomes smaller if you go more down the ladder, so there are even less “clear choices” so the decission is more based on personal preferences/media presence/market.