In its 75th season, the NBA went back to its roots. Wilson replaced Spalding as the official manufacturer of NBA basketballs 37 years after Spalding replaced them. While an adjustment period is to be expected, some players have already formed negative opinions. However, Trae Young feels the opposite, as the Atlanta Hawks‘ star guard is in favor of the new balls.
NBA players are having a tough time adjusting to the Wilson ball
The 2021-22 season is still in its infancy, but early shooting numbers give major cause for concern.
Last season, the average NBA team scored 112.1 points per game on 41.2% shooting. This season, it’s down to 107.8 points on 40.1% shooting. 3-point percentages have also seen a significant drop, falling from 36.7% to 34.2%. However, the game hasn’t slowed down. In fact, the average number of possessions per 48 minutes has increased from 99.2 to 100.0.
Los Angeles Clippers forward Paul George recently came out against the new ball, citing its different feel.
“It doesn’t have the same touch and softness that the Spalding ball had,” George said after LA’s game on Monday. “You’ll see this year. A lot of bad misses. You’ve seen a lot of airballs. … Again, not to put any excuse or blame on the basketball. But it is different. There’s no secret. It’s a different basketball.”
CJ McCollum, Portland Trail Blazers guard and president of the Players’ Association, is planning on asking fellow players for more feedback on the ball. According to Sports Illustrated, McCollum suggested players are “still adjusting.”
Trae Young loves the new Wilson basketball
The 23-year-old Young was recently profiled by GQ Sports on the 10 items he can’t live without. One of them was a basketball, much to the delight of an Atlanta Hawks team paying him $172.5 million over five years starting in 2022.
“When I’m at the house, traveling, you gotta take [a basketball] everywhere you go,” Young said in the video. But with the Wilson model in hand, a GQ employee asked Trae for his thoughts on the new ball.
“I mean it’s just as good, if not better, than the Spalding. I think it’s a great move and a lot of the players are really going to like it. And it’s just new. Everybody doesn’t like something that’s new. [But] once you become accustomed to it, you’ll eventually like it.”Trae Young
Young currently endorses Adidas and BodyArmor. However, his glowing review of Wilson’s ball may earn him another sponsorship very soon.
Young’s shooting numbers are also down
Trae may be a fan of the Wilson ball. But so far, his numbers would indicate similar struggles to many others across the league.
In 2020-21, Young averaged 25.3 points per game on 43.8% shooting. He also hit 34.3% of his threes and shot 88.6% from the free-throw line. This season, with a new ball and fresh off of a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals, the Atlanta Hawks point guard is averaging 22.9 points on 43.0% shooting. His biggest drop comes via the deep ball, as Trae is attempting 5.3 threes per game but only hitting 27.0%.
One possible reason for his shooting decline besides a new ball is the NBA’s mission to crack down on foul calls on non-basketball moves. Players like Young and James Harden used those moves to earn trips to the line, but also to keep defenders from getting too close to them along the 3-point arc. With the new rule in place, Trae’s free-throw attempts have gone from 8.7 to 5.3 per game, while his outside shooting has fallen off.
Players like Young will eventually adjust to the new ball, just as they are adjusting to the new officiating. But it will be slower than many of them would like.