Shooting is down in all areas. Coming into play on Thursday, the league is shooting a collective score of 0.343% out of 3. That would rank as the lowest rating of this century, and the league’s overall shooting percentage of 44.8 would be the lowest rating. since 2004, by Basketball-Reference.
Individually, there are a few notable shots. Anthony Davis shoots 15 percent on 3. Damian Lillard shoots 23 percent. Bradley Beal is at 24%. Luka Doncic (who, to be fair, has always been more of a volume shooter than a high percentage shooter) is 25%, Jayson Tatum 26%, Devin Booker (also not a great 3-point shooter historically) 27 % and Trae Young 28 percent.
It is clearly early, and over the years there are observed trends the league’s collective shooting percentages initially low and slowly improving over the season. There is no way to draw a direct line between the new bullets and the decline in fire so far.
But that’s part of the equation. The league worked closely with Wilson to get the new ball as close as possible to an exact replica of the old one, but that can’t be exactly the same. And the players are noticing it. Here are the thoughts of Paul George:
“Not to make an excuse or anything about the ball, but I said it was just a different basketball,” George said recently. “It doesn’t have the same feel and softness as the Spalding ball. You will see this year. There are going to be a lot of bad hiccups. You will see a lot of bad duds. I think you’ve seen a lot of air balloons so far this season. Again, not to put any excuse or blame on basketball. But it is different. There is no secret. It’s a different basketball. ”
CJ McCollum, who is president of the National Basketball Players Association, also highlighted the adjustment of play with the new ball.
What’s interesting is that McCollum and George both had hot filming debuts. McCollum came in on Thursday shooting 43% of 3, while George, the league’s top scorer, shoots 42% of 3 and 50% from the field. So they don’t express these observations because they are having trouble.
Joël Embiid is different. He was shooting just 41% from the field entering the Sixers’ game against Detroit on Thursday with the lowest points per shooting attempt of his career, per CTG. Last season, Embiid shot 47% from midrange, including 48% from midrange long, which was a better conversion rate than Stephen Curry. This season, Embiid has fallen to 35% of the long midrange and 39% of the overall midrange. He doesn’t blame the ball outright. But, yes, it bothers him.
You can be sure these guys aren’t alone. When the ball was sent to players ahead of the season, Nikola Jokic noted that it would slip away from him at random times.
Even with the old Spalding bullets, it was a known thing that the newer the bullet, the smoother it was. Each player will tell you that they prefer broken balls and will always try to use them for games. But all of these Wilson balls are brand new. It could be part of it. But until they’re broken up in the league, there’s no doubt that it’s an adjustment that some players are making easier than others.