Lately, we have heard and had some talk about the change from Spalding to Wilson basketballs this season for NBA players.
Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker does not want to make excuses, but did acknowledge that the new Wilson balls feel ‘different’ in the hand, even from Wilson ball to Wilson ball, game to game, and will need some time to get used to it. He also acknowledged that the players are all struggling to adjust, and even held at least one players-union meeting on the topic in recent days.
Yesterday, our own Rod Argent showed you how the Suns shooting is down this year and speculated that the ball might be part of the problem.
I expect the players would agree with Rod’s assessment, as many of them have come out with frustration over the change in how the ball feels.
However, if you only look at the first two weeks of games for each of the past 15 seasons, the story is not quite as clear.
You can see that the league always starts slow on shooting. The league-wide field goal percentage of 44.7% through Tuesday’s games is higher than a handful of the past 15 years’ starts.
Three-point percentage is down too, but the league’s officials are trying not to call those wild throw-your-body-at-the-defender fouls anymore, so it stands to reason the conversion rate is slightly down.
Even breaking is down to just the Suns — who are off to what we think is a really slow shooting start! — shows that slow shooting starts are not uncommon in Sunsland and that this year they’re actually doing well by comparison.
The 2019-20 start, headed by Ricky Rubio and out-of-body Aron Baynes, stands as the real outlier on scoring (115.2 points per game).
Where the Suns are really struggling this year, as you know, is at the three-point line. Their 3P shooting so far is lower than all but 3 of the past 15 seasons, but we are only six games into the season so you can expect that’s an outlier soon to correct itself.
Yes, the new ball is weird for the players. It’s like making a Starbucks fan go to Dunkin Donuts for their coffee all of a sudden. The new coffee is coffee, not worse or better. Just different. The players will get used to it over time.
What’s really really really different this year is how the officials are NOT calling fouls they used to always call. I’m not only talking about three pointers, but also drives into the defender on the way to the rim. Suns backup center Frank Kaminsky set a career high with four steals on Tuesday night — mostly on plays where Jonas Valanciunas got the ball outside the paint, barreled into Kaminsky’s body, kept pushing until he heard a whistle that never came, lost control of the ball, and watched it end up in Frank’s hands for a live-ball turnover.
The ball is different, yes. But the refs letting guys play, not calling BS fouls on wild shot attempts, is the bigger change this season.