Joel Embiid cites adjustment period for new Wilson basketballs, which could explain poor shooting start

For the first time since 1982, the NBA is not playing with the Spalding basketballs that have naturally spanned the entire career of every player in the league to date. Everyone should immediately adapt to the new Wilson balls. And maybe things aren’t going so well.

There is shooting all over the line. The league kicks off on Thursday and shoots a collective 0.343 percent of 3. That would be the lowest figure this century, and the league’s overall shooting rate of 44.8 would be the lowest figure since 2004, according to the basketball reference.

Individually, there are a few notable shooting dives. Anthony Davis shoots 15 percent of 3. Damian Lillard shoots 23 percent. Bradley Beal is at 24 percent. Luka Doncic (who, to be fair, has always been more of a volume shooter than a high percentage shooter) sits at 25 percent, Jayson Tatum 26 percent, Devin Booker (also not a great 3-point shooter historically) 27 percent and Trae Young 28 percent.

It is clearly early, and over the years there have been noted trends of the league’s collective shooting rates start low and slowly improve as the season progresses. There is no way to draw a direct line between the new balls and the shooting decay thus far.

But it’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 it can’t. precisely the same. And players notice. These are Paul George’s thoughts:

“I don’t want to excuse the ball, but I said it’s just another basketball,” George said recently. “It doesn’t have the same touch and softness that the Spalding ball had. You will see this year. It will be a lot of bad misses. You will see a lot of bad misses. I think you’ve seen a lot of airballs this season so far. Again “Not to blame or blame the basketball. But it’s different. There’s no secret. It’s a different basketball.”

CJ McCollum, who is president of the National Basketball Players Association, also pointed to the adjustment of playing with the new ball.

What’s interesting is that both McCollum and George both started hot shootings. McCollum came in on Thursday and shot 43 percent from 3, while George, the league’s top scorer, shot 42 percent from 3 and 50 percent from the field. So they don’t express these observations because they are having a hard time.

Joel Embiid is different. He shot just 41 percent of the field that entered Thursday’s Sixers game against Detroit with the lowest points per shot attempt of his career, according to CTG. Last season, Embiid shot 47 percent from the mid-range, including 48 percent from the long-midrange, which was a better conversion rate than Stephen Curry. This season, Embiid has fallen to 35 percent of the tall middle class and 39 percent of the middle class overall. He doesn’t directly blame the ball. But yes, it bothers him.

You can bet these guys are not alone. When the ball was sent to players ahead of the season, Nikola Jokic noted that it would just slip out of his hands at random times.

Even with the old Spalding balls it was known that the newer the ball, the slicker it felt. Any player will tell you that they prefer broken-in balls and always try to use them for the games. But all these Wilson balls are new. That might be part of it. But until they break into the entire league, there’s no question that it’s an adjustment some players make easier than others.

Give a Comment