Time To Expand All-Star Rosters to 15

VIDEO: The Starters make the case for additional All-Stars

DALLAS — When Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks made each of his four All-Star teams from 1983 to 1988, the NBA had 23 teams. Twelve players from each conference, one made up of 12 teams and the other 11, made the All-Star team.

Today the league boasts 30 teams, 15 in each conference. That’s seven more teams and approximately 105 more players than in Cheeks’ day (approximately because not all teams carry a full 15-man roster). Yet only 12 players still represent each conference in the All-Star Game. The NBA has not only grown by the number of teams and players, but it has also evolved in the style of play, the development of young players and, above all, their remarkable athleticism.

“You got guards that are big guards, they run, they jump,” Cheeks said. “These guys are more athletic than when I was playing, from [point guard] to [center]. These guys, they play more pick-and-roll, they shoot the ball from a 4-position or 5-position.”

More athletic, of course, doesn’t necessarily mean better, but there certainly is an argument to be made for a number of players awaiting an All-Star call. And here we are again anticipating the unlucky All-Star snubs maybe more than those who actually make the team. There’s that many All-Star-worthy candidates, particularly in the overloaded Western Conference, that multiple players will be heading to the beach Feb. 14-16 instead of to New Orleans for the 63rd All-Star Game.

The seven All-Star reserves in each conference, as selected by the respective conference coaches, will be announced at 7 p.m. (ET) Thursday on TNT.

“Like the West this year is just rife with great players,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “There’s going to be half-a-dozen guys who miss just because there’s not enough spots.”

Which begs the question: Is it time to expand the All-Star roster?

A few years ago the NBA expanded the active game-day roster from 12 to 13. Why not do the same for the All-Star roster? Better yet, just take it all the way to a full 15-man roster.

LeBron James lobbied for just that a year ago on Twitter: “Always believe there should be 15 on both rosters so there’s no snubs.”

There will probably always be a snub or two, but that’s no reason not to expand rosters. Carlisle is a member of the league’s competition committee, but he declined to acknowledge if the topic has come up in past meetings.

“Categorically, I wouldn’t see the harm in it on the one hand,” Carlisle said. “On the other hand, how much do you want to water down the privilege? That’s the other thing to consider. Not that it would always be a water-down situation.”

That’s when Carlisle noted that half-a-dozen players in the West could be on the outside looking in, even with injuries that will keep Kobe Bryant out and potentially Chris Paul, too, in the West, and Derrick Rose, plus Rajon Rondo (who recently returned from an ACL injury) in the East.

“You add one spot and five other guys miss. I don’t know,” Carlisle said. “The other thing is if you’re coaching the game, which I’ve had the privilege to do once as a head coach and once as an assistant, is you add another guy to the mix, it’s hard enough to get guys minutes as it is. You always love the guys that say ‘Hey, I’ll just play a few minutes here or there, I’m good.’ Then the guys who don’t get in there enough, and then the next time they play you they’re trying to kill ya. The minutes thing is another part of it.”

Carlisle was joking, sort of, about the last part, but divvying up playing time is a fair point. Still, there seems like there will always be veteran players like a Tim Duncan (played eight minutes last year) or Dirk Nowitzki, who would be happy to be on the team, play a few minutes and give way to some of the younger stars. Or a younger player who will earn minutes for future appearances, such as a Brook Lopez, who logged 11 minutes last year as an All-Star newbie.

An expanded roster could also help perk up TV ratings in certain markets. In Phoenix, more TVs will be tuned in if Goran Dragic were selected to the team instead of leaving the Suns without a representative. Same with New Orleans if Anthony Davis were to make it as one of 15 instead of snubbed by a roster of 12.

“There’s a lot of arguments that would favor it, but there are some that would probably caution against it,” Carlisle said. “But, I think this league is all about recognizing great players, especially great players that are winning great players, and that’s what guys in the All-Star Game are.”


  1. dmh says:

    I had another idea to expand the allstar game nominees to make things a little more fair. We can all pretty much agree that the east is horrible this year with the exception of the sleepwalking Heat and the surging Pacers. It should be a 3 team affair with the East, West and a mix team. The first team to win 2 games wins allstar weekend. The East and West starters are selected first. After that the voting is opened back up for the mix team starters regardless of conference. After that the reserves for everyone are selected by the coaches as a popular vote by the coaches in a systematic matter that represents the outline of the representation. IE…. West and east pick their 1st pick then the mix picks their first pick, West and East gets their 2nd pick then the mix picks theirs and so on and so forth until each team has 12 players. The coach of the mix team is the best eligible coach by record after the east and west selects theirs. It would highlight the teams that are doing things right better by having a mix team.

  2. Eli Odell J. says:

    and when there’s 40 teams then will we need 20?
    where will it end?

  3. Nba-Blog-A-Holic says:

    An NBA “snub” is a popularity contest..

  4. Nba-Blog-A-Holic says:

    Just let the NBA be an All-Star tournament.. 16 teams, 60 games, everyone makes the playoffs….

  5. Nba-Blog-A-Holic says:

    No. Just let them play one-on-one elimination all weekend.!

  6. joe says:

    15 instead of 12 so that they´re no snubs… there will be snubs who don´t make the 15… Plus the problema of giving minutes to every player…
    I think who gets to be an all star is a mix of deserving stat players, best players on winning teams, favorite fan players (starting five) and players with history (Nowitski for example). You have to have this mix so that you have great players with and agaisnt younger players.
    Also, to let a chance to players who haven´t played a lot of games like Bryant is ok, Remember 1992, it was one of the most beautiful all star gamess, Magic MVP, who was voted by the fans even though he didn´t play that season. You have to leave a spot for magic.
    As for guys like Dragic, Cousins, they still have a chance with injured players. And whoever doesn´t get to the all star game this year, still have a chance next year. Curry is here this year.

  7. Patty says:

    Lance Stephenson should have been an all star but the coaches saw fit to send other players to the all star game. Shame on the coaches.

  8. tenby says:

    I truly agree with the 15 man lineup idea. I hope incoming commissioner Adam Silver and Mr. Tatum will initiate changes. The more players added into the All-Stars lineup, the more marketing reach the NBA can gain and less yearly grumbling about snubs . Instead of the rookies & sophomores all-star game before, why not an All Foreign Players Team vs. Team USAB Selection? In this way, the NBA can reach more marketing milegage to the farthest end of the planet, most especially countries with an All-Star representative. At the same time, it would showcase the next generation of USA (Dream) National Team, which is also in line with Coach K’s and Mr. Colangelo’s vision of USAB continuity program…

  9. dustydreamnz says:

    Reithor raises some good options, I like the idea of divisional teams.

  10. vinsanefan says:

    I like the idea of a tournament that some people already mentioned. That would also help increase the competitiveness of the game. I think the NBA should certainly consider that change.

  11. Don'tRenameTheBobcats says:

    If you don’t want to expand it all the way to 15 spots for whatever reason, why don’t just expand it one spot to 13 like the active NBA game-day roster is at right now.

    That way there’s one less snub on each team, and there’s not too much more playing time cut from the other players.

  12. standard says:

    imagine that KD and lebron in the same team ha

  13. NITRO says:

    Goran Dragic has to make to the all stars!!

  14. The Voice In The Distance says:

    It’s an idea with good and bad. Right now the West would still have snubs even with 15 players whereas the East would struggle to fill 15 spots with plausible options.

    It may be a crazy idea but you could have the coaches with two best records in the league (as it happens those two are the All-star coaches anyway) and have them take turns selecting an All-Star roster where they can choose anyone in the whole league and choose one player on each turn instead of conference vs conference.

    • Moboto says:

      I like this idea. It would reward the head coaches from each conference and it would be extremely fun to see them picking their 12. It could be a fun event, where 2 times per week for 6 weeks prior to the ASG, each coach via video would select one player. You can make this a segment on TNT Thursday night and one on Sunday and give the guys something to talk about as well. So as the weeks draw closer to All Star weekend, the rosters would start taking shape and would promote a fun dialogue for a number of weeks prior to the event.

  15. Reithor says:

    Option 1: 15 players per roster, 60 minutes with 5 periods game.
    Option 2: 4 teams (two west and two east) of 8 players each. 24 minutes game, the west winner meets the east winner, and get another 24 minutes.
    Option 3: 6 teams, 1 from each division. Shuffle the match-ups, and the three winners plus the one that lost by less point difference merge into semifinals and final.

  16. Jeroen says:

    Make 3 or 4 teams. Give each team an eight or ten players roster.

  17. Toby says:

    Expanding doesn’t stop the fact that there will always be snubs. But I do support expanding the list to 15 players. After all, you do not need your starting 5 to play 35+ minutes.

  18. BLTTAN says:

    Hey, if you are gonna increase the roster, why not increase the minutes of game time? Say… 15 mins. per quarter? That would solve the problem of players playing little minutes…

  19. Ryan says:

    All the so-called “reasons” are because of the players (and teams) in the West are MUCH MUCH better than those in the East. I believe coaches feel hard to choose 7 deserving reserves from the East already (no offense but i dont think irving shoud be a all star, but he is now in the starting line up……), I can’t imagine who will the 14th/15th man from the East will be…….

    I think NBA should consider something besides East VS West for all star game, so the 24 players chosen are really Stars, avoiding “above average” players getting in just because he is from the East. E.g. I think it is interesting to have Durant and Lebron leading other 11 players to have a “Durant’s friends” vs “James’ friends”

  20. Stu says:

    I can’t agree, the more players means the less time we get to see the superstars playing the game. Let the big names play some decent minutes and put on a great game

  21. dustydreamnz says:

    Yeah I think it should be 15. That way it’s the same as NBA level and you can go 3 deep at each position.

  22. TROYBOY says:

    The argument right now is about who got left out. If the roster goes to 15 then the argument will be about who’s not an all star that got in.

    The All Star game is for all stars not for border line players. I think they should try to put a number of games played before a cut off date to be eligible to be on the ballot. Twelve from each conference is enough considering the minutes available for the coaches to manage. I don’t want my favorite player to play 5 minutes. Either you’re good enough or you’re not. This debate will always be here no matter how many players on the roster or how they are voted in. Let’s say we leave out Kobe, Rondo, Rose, and CP3 because they weren’t eligible due to injuries. That will give two more deserving all stars from each conference to get in.

    We want to watch all stars play the all star game. Adding more spots will make the game less exciting.

    • artifex says:

      Your argument seems a bit contradicting.
      “will give two more deserving all stars from each conference to get in”
      So, there ARE deserving all stars, but if those 4 hadn’t been injured (along with Westbrook and Holfort it’s already 3 per conference). I think no one argues if those 6 deserve it. But that would certainly leave out 3 players that will be nominated this year – where still there’s discussion, who deserves it MORE rather NOT.
      About the minutes, I see the point. Still, there are 240 player minutes, which leaves 20 min/player now. At 15 players it would be 16 min on average. As said there are some vets and some young players who are OK to remain at 10-12, which leave enough time for the stars of stars. It’s not that LeBron would be diminished to 10 minutes… Would be interesting to see a poll among players about minutes. For several I feel it’s rather about enjoying than getting minutes. Less minutes also reduces the exaust level compared to those who have a (all star) break.
      Maybe 14 could be a consensus – to open one more Backcourt and one more Frontcourt slot…

  23. KingKaash94 says:

    Absolutely great idea! And I don’t think it lowers the honor of being an All-Star just because there are more chosen because they’re are always All-Star quality players having All-Star quality seasons that get snubbed every year. Please increase the All-Star roster to 15!

    On a side note, the FIBA and Olympic competitions should also increase their roster sizes to 15. I know other countries might not have enough to fill up 15 roster spots with their countries absolute best talent, but I know USA sure does! Expand these rosters too!