You may have missed it but after 37 years the NBA introduced a new ball this season.

Wilson has taken over as the official ball maker in the world’s best basketball league. To the naked eye not much has changed. I mean, the ball is still the same color, it’s still the same shape and size, but apparently, there are some differences — that’s, of course, according to those who have to use it.

We’re just a couple of weeks into the season and shooting percentages are down across the board. 

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Clippers star Paul George thinks the new ball may have something to do with that. 

“Not to make an excuse or anything, it’s just a different basketball,” George told reporters following a 99-94 Clippers victory over the Thunder. “It doesn’t have the same touch or softness as the Spalding ball had. 

“You’ll see this year, there’s going to be a lot of bad misses.”

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CJ McCollum, the president of the NBPA, has reportedly said the association will be discussing the new ball this week in an effort to get feedback. 

McCollum also took to Twitter to ensure he wasn’t putting any blame on the new ball for the poor shooting. 

So how bad how the shooting been this season? Let’s take a look.

Heading into Tuesday night’s games, the field goal percentage league average sits at 44.6 — the lowest mark in the last four years. The league average 3-point percentage is also the lowest in the last four years, sitting at 34.2 percent. 

League-Average Shooting Percentage in last 15 seasons (through first 102 games)
Season FG% 3P% FT% Off. Rating
2021-22 0.446 0.342 0.765 106.8
2020-21 0.459 0.363 0.762 112.3
2019-20 0.45 0.347 0.759 110.6
2018-19 0.457 0.355 0.765 110.4
2017-18 0.45 0.356 0.769 108.6
2016-17 0.446 0.341 0.765 108.8
2015-16 0.439 0.335 0.755 106.4
2014-15 0.447 0.345 0.76 105.6
2013-14 0.448 0.359 0.745 106.6
2012-13 0.440 0.345 0.753 105.8
2011-12 0.441 0.339 0.744 104.6
2010-11 0.453 0.354 0.764 107.3
2009-10 0.457 0.362 0.749 107.6
2008-09 0.444 0.348 0.76 108.3
2007-08 0.446 0.356 0.748 107.5

On any given night you can see wayward shots like this:

And this:

With that being said, there are a few other things worth mentioning that could contribute to lower shooting percentages. As you’re probably aware, NBA referees have taken an increased focus on eliminating non-basketball moves that led to free throws in years past – particularly on the 3-point line. When a player drew a foul on a 3-point attempt and missed, it did not count as a shot attempt because they were fouled. Now, those fouls have been eliminated almost entirely, meaning if a player leans in for a call, doesn’t get it and misses, it goes against their 3-point percentage.

But it’s also not just the shooting, as turnovers are also high with a league average of 15.1 per game. It is worth noting that through the first 102 games of the season last year, the league average for turnovers per game was 15.4, and that number did end up levelling out to 13.8 turnovers per game by the 2020-21 season’s end. But if this year’s current average stands, it will be the highest since the 2006-07 season (which is interesting because that’s the year the league tried to experiment with a new microfiber composite ball instead of the traditional leather ball that Spalding had been producing for eons).

“It’s changed a lot of what we are and who we are,” Hall of Famer Ray Allen said of the ball in 2006 according to Complex. “At the beginning of the year, I kept an open mind to it.

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“Overall, you see the league, shots aren’t like they used to be. Every player I’ve talked to, to a man is in disagreement with the ball.”

The league eventually did away with the microfiber Spalding ball in December of 2006. The experiment ended up lasting only a couple of months and the player got their old leather rock back.

This is different though, the Wilson ball isn’t going anywhere any time soon. The league announced a multi-year partnership with Wilson in June ahead of its 75th anniversary season. Wilson was the official ball manufacturer for the first 37 years of the NBA.

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The league and the team’s worked jointly with Wilson to develop the new game ball according to the NBA’s press release

Maybe there’s still work to be done and improvements can be made, or the players and fans are just going to have to get used to seeing a couple more airballs this season. 


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