Players had complained about cuts on their hands, the stickiness of the ball, the way it absorbed moisture and the inconsistency in the way the ball bounced.
The change officially took place on the court January 1, 2007.
**After the synthetic ball was replaced, passing and ball handling improved. The league average assist/turnover ratio saw an 8.6% improvement after the switch that season. The league average turnover ratio decreased by a rate of 4.1%.
**Despite the expected negative effects on shooting and rebounding, numbers with the synthetic balls showed they made very little difference.
True shooting and effective field goal percentages increased incrementally with the leather ball. This is not unexpected, as in the seasons before and after, shooting percentages also incrementally increased.
Synthetic Ball Leather Ball
True Shooting Pct 53.9% 54.3%
eFG pct 49.2% 49.9%
Rebounding percentages increased at marginal rates from the time period with the synthetic ball to the leather ball. These marginal increases were also seen in the seasons before and after.
Statistically, the synthetic basketball had a bigger perceived effect than actual effect on overall play. Statistics showed minimal differences in a multitude of categories. Thus, no substantial differences were seen with the change in the basketball.
Peter Newmann is an analyst and writer who spent 10 years at ESPN, 8 as the NBA senior researcher working 24/7 on the league. He wrote game notes for crews, articles for ESPN.com, analysis for studio shows, and regularly assisted reporters and writers. Follow him on Twitter, and check out his Web site, www.peternewmann.com.