Seven games is an unsatisfactorily small sample size, but the nature of the preseason is to never yield anything but that. With that said, here are a few interesting trends. Let’s divvy them up between the ones that are likely to continue and the short-term anomalies.
Safe bets on trends that may continue
With 106 points, Jabari Parker finished the preseason in a tie with James Harden and Chris Paul as the 13th-highest scorers of the preseason. Parker led all rookies (Shabazz Napier was 2nd among rookies with 88 points), and Parker’s 15.1 points per game was good enough to finish 23rd.
Parker also finished 3rd in minutes per game with an average of 31.0 minutes played. It’s a good sign that Kidd is willing to baptize Parker by fire, and Parker rewarded Kidd with a productive preseason full of steady play and reel-worthy highlights. (Even though their no longer on reels, right?) Nothing about the 2014-15 preseason was as important as seeing what Parker could do on an NBA court and it turns out that he can do a lot. Unlike his play in Summer League, where he forced shots and played a frantic style that fizzed into fatigue too quickly, Parker fell into the patient rhythms of an NBA game and showcased a diverse arsenal of scoring weapons.
With 6.3 rebounds per game, Parker also finished 3rd among rookies behind Jusuf Nurkic (8.6 reb/g) and Nerlens Noel (8.5 reb/g)
In another positive trend, Giannis Antetokounmpo made 25 of 28 free throws (89.3%) in the preseason. After making just 68.3% of his free throws last season (he seemed to struggle particularly badly with the first shots of each pair), Giannis has settled into a comfortable form. That’s a particularly positive development for a player whose strength is driving to the basket and creating contact.
Ersan Ilyasova (29.7% FG) and Brandon Knight (28.0% FG) both struggled with injuries in the preseason and as a result, both shot poorly in the handful of games each played in the preseason.
Perhaps no stat fluctuates more crazily over a small sample than three-point shooting. The Bucks were all over the map from long distance in the preseason. Jared Dudley (68.4%, 2nd), O.J. Mayo (54.2%, 6th), and Khris Middleton (45%, 28th) all finished the preseason in the top 30 for three-point percentage. Dudley, in particular, looks and talks as if he has truly recovered from the injuries that bugged him last season. If these three all top the 40% mark in the regular season, the Bucks will be a much deeper shooting team than they were last season when Middleton was the team’s sole reliable threat.
On the other hand, the Anointed Bucks of the Future, Jabari and Giannis, combined to make just 1-of-25 three pointers in the preseason. They are still, of course, anointed, but the development of their outside shooting is a trend worth a watch.
Small sample or trend worth watching?
Giannis went 2-for-28 (7.1%) in the preseason on shots longer than 7 feet. That stat is a bit more worrisome than the three-point shooting, which can come and go over the short term. Maybe now is a good time to note that Jason Kidd is perhaps the best example of a player who went from having no jump shot to a player with an excellent jump shot. Can he coax the same out of Giannis, who shot 34.7% from three last season?
The regular season starts Wednesday for the Bucks, and then we’ll get a more substantial test of whether or not these trends are going to stick around for the long term. Let the games that count begin.