The players may not like them, but it appears the NBA's controversial sleeved jerseys are not harming shooting percentages in any meaningful way.
According to Houston Rockets statistician Ed Kupfer, shooting efficiency has actually gone up a bit:
As a whole, NBA players wearing sleeves this season are shooting 52.2%, and 49.8% without sleeves.— Ed Kupfer (@EdKupfer) March 8, 2014
Just to be clear, those numbers are measured in effective field-goal percentage (eFG%), a metric that weighs all field-goal attempts based on the fact that three-point attempts are worth 50 percent more than two-point attempts.
It should come as no surprise, then, that three-point shooting has risen in games with the sleeved jerseys:
@KevinOConnorNBA threes: 37.7% sleeve, 35.9% no sleeve— Ed Kupfer (@EdKupfer) March 8, 2014
Now, this is not a comprehensive study, and there are several flaws in the method. First, the sample size is not terribly large, as only a few teams have played in sleeves this season, and only for a limited number of games. But it is something to consider.
One player who will probably disagree with Kupfer's findings is Miami Heat forward LeBron James. The reigning two-time MVP struggled while wearing sleeves in Thursday night's blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
He finished with just 19 points on 6-of-18 shooting from the floor, missing all three of his attempts from beyond the arc.
After the game, James admitted to reporters that he had trouble shooting in the jersey: "I’m not making excuses, but I’m not a big fan of the jerseys. Not a big fan of them. I've gotta figure something out the next time I have to wear the short-sleeved jerseys."
He will indeed have to figure something out, because it looks like these jerseys are here to stay. Sure, LeBron is the league's star of stars, and his opinion likely holds more weight than the average player, but the league demonstrated their power when they asked him to swap out his black mask for a clear one.
Why is the league so adamant about adding the sleeved jerseys? Cork Gaines of Business Insider believes the sleeved jerseys might have been designed with advertising space in mind:
In addition to the increase in surface area on the front compared to a traditional jersey, the design includes fewer contrasting colors and less area being covered by graphics, lettering, and numbers. It would seem that this is exactly what you would want to change if you were going to eventually add an advertisement patch to the front of the uniforms.
If that is the case, then the league is going to put profits ahead of players' opinions every time.
The sleeved jerseys are likely here to stay, and the league now has some data to back up the idea that the negative effects may all just be in the mind of the shooter.
* All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference.