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Finding Meaning in Preseason Stats

OK, so perhaps I overstated myself in that e-mail to BV where I said “DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO PRESEASON STATS.” Now, I’m not going to go back on that statement because I still feel that it’s almost entirely true. Those looking for the answers to the fantasy season in a handful of preseason games are wasting their time. The classic assumption about the NBA is that no one actually starts to try until the last five minutes of the game. This obviously isn’t true, but do you think that anyone who isn’t fighting for a roster spot is playing at anything more than ¾ speed? Do you think that studs would be sitting out with such minor injuries, which is letting lesser players put up impressive numbers? Basically, when you have many seasons worth of regular season stats to fall back on, don’t let eight games in October do anything to change your outlook.

That said, box scores are box scores and there are some interesting numbers to look at from this preseason. We are less interested in actual performance than in playing time trends, so keep that in mind.

37.2 – That’s how many minutes per game Josh Childress is averaging. He has played 223 minutes in six games. The player with the second most minutes played is Raja Bell with 188. The next highest minutes per game average is 32.5 from LeBron. This is something to pay attention to. It holds with the theory that you should be paying attention to playing time more than actual performance, although the two are obviously related. Childress’s numbers haven’t been all that mind-blowing – 14.0/5.0/2.8 with 1.5 steals – but there is every indication that the Hawks are going to keep him out there plenty this year, which is only going to make for even better numbers. Childress is already a favorite sleeper here at FBB and we would bump him up a few more spots from #79 where we put him on the overall rankings.

15.8 – That’s how many points per game John Salmons is averaging this preseason. That includes games of 25 and 30 points. So does that mean that John Salmons is ready to bust out into one of the league’s leading scorers? No, of course not. Those two huge games came when Allen Iverson was out of the lineup, something that is bound to happen at least 8-10 times each season and perhaps much more than that. No team has a higher percentage of its scoring to replace than the 76ers when AI is out of the lineup. In the seven games that AI missed last year, Willie Green – an ordinary player by all measures – stepped into the starting lineup. In those seven games Green averaged 36.1 mpg as his replacement and was able to put up a line of 18/5.3/5.1. With Green suffering one of the more unfortunate injuries over the summer (at least for those folks related to Willie Green), Salmons seems set to step into the role of AI’s understudy. That doesn’t make him worth drafting, but in league’s with daily transactions where you can plug Salmons in if you know that AI’s going to be out, Salmons should be a Top 50 player on those nights.

4.7 – That’s how many personal fouls Rashad McCants is averaging per game, in just 24 minutes. That is a whole lot of fouls, especially for a swingman. A lot of people have high hopes for McCants this season and the opportunity does seem to be there for him. He’s a very gifted offensive player but has a reputation for being a lazy defender. Picking up nearly five fouls per game in 24 minutes seems to support this theory. It will be hard for him to accrue much value if he has to come out of the game constantly due to foul trouble. Another player plagued by foul troubles is Al Jefferson. As a rookie he averaged 2.8 fouls per game in just 14.8 mpg. So far this preseason he’s averaging 4 fouls per game in just 18 minutes per contest, a rate even higher than McCants. The Celtics seem hesitant to hand him the starters job, and if they would have to yank him after six minutes due to him picking up two fouls, the team might be better off letting him come off the bench anyway.

One Response to “Finding Meaning in Preseason Stats”

  1. MKD Says:

    See? Childress is the sheez, and they want him to get serious burn. Top 60 is almost inevitable, don’t you think?

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