There's no doubt that this was a very successful preseason for our Kings. 5-2 is the best record we've had since the last time the team made the playoffs. But it seems like there is a mantra developing among players, coaches, and fans alike that preseason doesn't results matter.
While perusing the internet I found this cool article on 82games.com that took a look at all of the league's preseason records numbers for five years (01/02 through 05/06) and compiled a database out of it.
5 years isn't a huge sample size, but its fairly decent (5 years * 30 NBA teams = 150 full NBA seasons). Basically, the results of the study can be summarized here:
Still it is suggestive of that theory, and more importantly perhaps it seems that for a poor prior year team, the preseason results really do have some bearing on whether improvement can be expected.
Teams with winning preseason records off a <30 win season
Year Team Preseason Regular Season Prior Yr 2004-05 Phoenix 7-1 0.875 62-20 0.756 29-53 2003-04 Memphis 6-1 0.857 50-32 0.610 28-54 2003-04 Miami 5-2 0.714 42-40 0.512 25-57 2003-04 Toronto 4-2 0.667 33-49 0.402 24-58 2003-04 Denver 5-3 0.625 43-39 0.524 17-65 2002-03 Houston 4-3 0.571 43-39 0.524 28-54 2004-05 Orlando 4-3 0.571 36-46 0.439 21-61 2003-04 Cleveland 4-3 0.571 35-47 0.427 17-65
To put it in perspective, the rare poor prior year team that strings together some wins in the preseason has seen an average gain of 19 wins in the next year!
Looking at the data, we see a list of teams that were awful the year prior, but made a huge leap. However, a lot of these can be explained by a major acquisition in the offseason. Cleveland in 03/04 drafted Lebron, Orlando in 04/05 drafted Dwight, Houston in 02/03 drafted Yao, Denver in 03/04 drafted Melo, Toronto in 03/04 drafted Bosh, Miami in 03/04 drafted Wade, and Phoenix in 04/05 signed Steve Nash. Unless TRob becomes the next coming of Malone (unlikely), the Kings haven't really made a huge offseason acquisition, with no disrespect to JJ and Brooks, who are solid but unspectacular.
That leaves us with Memphis' 03/04 team. I did a bit of research on the difference between the 02/03 version of the team and the 03/04 version, and here's what I found:
In 02, the Grizzlies started out 0-8 under coach Sidney Lowe. He was fired and the team handed the reigns to Hubie Brown who went 28-46 the rest of the way. Hubie worked with the erratic Jason Williams and subsequently he churned out his most efficient seasons of his career. They made a midseason trade for a Mike Miller, and then in the offseason solidified the wings by signing defensive SF James Posey. The next season, with cornerstone Pau Gasol entering his third season, the Grizzlies were the surprise team of the NBA, and posted a 50-32 record, a net gain of +32 games.
Sound familiar? Lots of questions abound of course. Is Cousins as good as Pau? Is Keith Smart as good of a coach as Hubie Brown? Can James Johnson become our James Posey? Can Thornton be as effective as Mike Miller was off the bench? Will Smart squeeze as much potential out of Tyreke as Brown squeezed out of Jwill? We are about to find out, but the similarities are eerie.
Either way, both the numbers and the eyeball test point to the preseason being nothing but a success for our Kings. We can confidently say that preseason DOES mean something; this team WILL improve from its 11/12 showing. The question is, how much? Are we the next 03/04 Grizzlies, a surprise team to make the playoffs? Its fun to speculate, and an exciting time to be a Kings fan for sure.