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October 20, 2009, 12:17 PM ET
The Meaning of Preseason Stats

by Kevin Pelton

Since I’ve seen it pop up a couple of places, I figured I’d offer a link to the brief study I did last year looking at what preseason stats can tell us about how players will perform during the regular season. (Also included are links to some of the studies done on preseason team performance.) The conclusion: They mean more than you might think, but are limited by the small sample size, making shooting percentages potentially misleading.

The more interesting question might be this: Does preseason performance offer us any additional information? After all, if what we’re seeing is simply that better players play better no matter the circumstance, we already can identify these players based on their previous regular-season performance. To look at the matter this way, I created a regression seeking to predict 2007-08 regular-season performance from 2006-07 performance and 2007 preseason performance. Combining the two improves correlation slightly over 2006-07 performance alone, up to an r of .814. Looking at the coefficients on the two variables indicates that preseason Win% is about a fourth as useful as a predictor as Win% the previous season.

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