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October 25, 2012
Preseason Leaders
Advanced Stats

by Kevin Pelton

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The first step to making sense of preseason statistics, as discussed earlier this week, is to use the right preseason numbers. Points, rebounds and assists aren't good enough. In that spirit, let's take a look at some of Basketball Prospectus' advanced numbers from the exhibition season through Tuesday. Player statistics will be available to everyone, while team advanced metrics are for subscribers.

WARP LEADERS

Player             Tm      Win%    WARP
---------------------------------------
Enes Kanter        UTA     .817     1.5
Kobe Bryant        LAL     .803     1.3
Dorell Wright      PHI     .780     1.3
Marcus Thornton    SAC     .703     1.2
Martell Webster    WAS     .774     1.1
Marvin Williams    UTA     .674     1.1
Glen Davis         ORL     .741     1.1
Danilo Gallinari   DEN     .705     1.1
Chris Bosh         MIA     .799     1.1
Klay Thompson      GSW     .626     1.1

I got a chance to see Enes Kanter in person on Monday in Portland, and he and the Utah Jazz frontcourt will be the subject of tomorrow's column, but suffice it to say for now that transforming his body over the summer has made Kanter an entirely different--and much more dangerous--player. At the other extreme of the preseason performance spectrum is Kobe Bryant, who has responded quite well to the new additions in L.A., thank you very much. Bryant has made 52 percent of his twos and 45 percent of his threes to put together an efficient offensive line. Bryant and to a much lesser extent Chris Bosh are the two most likely player to appear on a list like this during the regular season.

There's a group of solid players who have played above that level during the preseason. Dorell Wright has led an effective Philadelphia bench (Nick Young has 0.9 WARP and Thaddeus Young 0.8) with 48 percent shooting beyond the arc. Marvin Williams too has been on fire from downtown (56 percent), as has Danilo Gallinari (37 percent, but in seven attempts per game). Marcus Thornton is just getting buckets, averaging 22.2 points per game.

Klay Thompson is the odd man out on this list because of his low winning percentage. Only teammate David Lee has played more minutes, which explains why Thompson does well in a value metric. Then we have two guys who have never previously rated well statistically. Glen Davis is using 28 percent of the Magic's plays and making 54 percent of his twos. One of those two numbers is likely to continue into the regular season, and I'll let you guess which one. Martell Webster, an afterthought in free agency this summer, has put together one of the most fascinating statistical lines of October. In 122 minutes, Webster has 26 free throws (8.5 per 40 minutes), 26 rebounds (ditto), five blocks (1.6 per 40 minutes) and just one turnover. I'm not sure what that tells us, but it is certainly interesting.

POSSESSIONS PER GAME (PACE)

Team            Pace        Team            Pace
--------------------        --------------------
Houston         97.5        Chicago         92.3
San Antonio     97.4        Minnesota       92.1
Dallas          96.3        Brooklyn        92.0
Orlando         96.1        L.A. Lakers     91.4
Denver          95.4        New Orleans     90.7

Lo and behold, the Southwest Division is running and gunning! Houston, an above-average team in terms of pace of play in Kevin McHale's first helm, figures to play much faster with a young roster this season. Rick Carlisle also has a new group that might respond well to an up-tempo style, though as Bryan Gutierrez discussed on The Two Man Game, turnovers have been an issue. Not sure what to make of San Antonio. Jacque Vaughn is the rare first-time head coach who seems to be making good on a promise to play at a high pace.

Do note that this is NOT adjusted for minutes played, and I'm not sure if some stray overtimes have struck in here to inflate figures.

OFFENSIVE RATING

Team             ORtg        Team            ORtg
---------------------        --------------------
Oklahoma City   111.5        Chicago         97.1
Philadelphia    109.5        Indiana         96.9
Houston         107.5        Charlotte       96.1
Toronto         106.8        Detroit         95.0
Portland        106.2        L.A. Lakers     94.8

Even after sitting out Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook Tuesday in Chicago, the Thunder still boasts the league's best preseason offense. The other leaders are surprising, to say the least. Philadelphia, as we've seen, has gotten strong performances from the bench. The others feel particularly unsustainable. Don't get used to seeing the Lakers at the bottom of the league in Offensive Rating. The Bulls' bottom-five spot could be more permanent depending on how well the new bench coalesces.

DEFENSIVE RATING

Team            DRtg        Team             DRtg
--------------------        ---------------------
Minnesota       89.3        Houston         106.6
Chicago         93.5        Washington      107.8
Miami           94.7        New York        109.9
New Orleans     96.8        Oklahoma City   110.4
Philadelphia    97.3        Brooklyn        111.3

Whether it's preseason, a scrimmage or a shell drill, the Bulls, Heat and Sixers will excel defensively, so it's no surprise to see them up here. It is surprising to see the Timberwolves atop the league. As NBA.com's John Schuhmann has pointed out, their schedule hasn't been exceptionally difficult. Minnesota has faced several short-handed teams, as well as European club Maccabi Tel Aviv (those international matchups are included here). However, the Timberwolves have upgraded on the wing with the addition of Andrei Kirilenko, and holding any group of opponents to 41.3 percent two-point shooting--a figure that will be even lower after Detroit managed just 33.3 percent on Wednesday--is impressive. We'll see whether Rick Adelman can maintain this into the regular season.

On the other end, Avery Johnson's concerns about his team's defense are certainly well-founded. It's possible that a poor defensive frontcourt may be too much for the Nets to overcome. The Thunder and Knicks should also be considered about poor exhibition defense.

COMPLETE PRESEASON TEAM STATS AND RANKINGS

Team            Pace   Rk    ORtg   Rk    DRtg   Rk
---------------------------------------------------
Atlanta         95.2    6   103.5   16    98.1   10
Boston          92.6   24   104.0   12    99.9   13
Brooklyn        92.0   27   104.9    9   111.3   29
Charlotte       93.5   18    96.1   27   103.0   18
Chicago         92.3   25    97.1   25    93.5    2
Cleveland       93.7   16    98.6   24   104.9   21
Dallas          96.3    3    99.4   21    98.4   11
Denver          95.4    5   101.7   20   104.9   22
Detroit         94.2   11    95.0   28   100.0   14
Golden State    92.7   23   105.3    8    98.1    9

Team            Pace   Rk    ORtg   Rk    DRtg   Rk
---------------------------------------------------
Houston         97.5    1   107.5    3   106.6   25
Indiana         92.9   21    96.9   26    99.4   12
L.A. Clippers   94.2   10    98.8   22    97.7    7
L.A. Lakers     91.4   28    94.8   29   111.6   30
Memphis         94.8    7   102.3   18   100.8   16
Miami           93.9   14   102.6   17    94.7    3
Milwaukee       93.9   15   103.5   15   101.7   17
Minnesota       92.1   26    98.8   23    89.3    1
New Orleans     90.7   29    90.1   30    96.8    4
New York        92.9   20   103.7   13   109.9   27

Team            Pace   Rk    ORtg   Rk    DRtg   Rk
---------------------------------------------------
Oklahoma City   90.4   30   111.5    1   110.4   28
Orlando         96.1    4   102.0   19   105.5   23
Philadelphia    94.1   12   109.5    2    97.3    5
Phoenix         94.7    8   104.2   11   103.9   20
Portland        93.3   19   106.2    5   106.5   24
San Antonio     97.4    2   105.6    7   100.3   15
Sacramento      94.7    9   104.5   10   103.9   19
Toronto         94.0   13   106.8    4    97.6    6
Utah            93.6   17   105.9    6    97.7    8
Washington      92.9   22   103.6   14   107.8   26

Check out our Pro Basketball Prospectus 2012-13 homepage for more details and to order our annual guide to the NBA, available now in both PDF and paperback format.

Kevin Pelton is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Kevin by clicking here or click here to see Kevin's other articles.

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