Monday, October 29, 2012

Do Preseason Wins & Losses Actually Matter for Orlando?

How crucial is it that Jacque Vaughn wasn't pushing for those exhibition wins? You would hope not much, since the Magic began the preseason losing four straight. Vaughn easily had the chance to throw in a lineup that wasn't Gustavo Ayon-Andrew Nicholson-DeQuan Jones-Armon Johnson-E'Twaun Moore when it came to finishing out both of the first 2 preseason outings. Orlando finished with a 2-6 exhibition win-loss record. As usual, I'm borrowing some statistics from in my journey to sift through 23 seasons of Orlando Magic franchise history. Now below you'll see the preseason records of the past 23 campaigns. This is an attempt to examine if there's any correlation between how a team does in these 'meaningless' games, and how that carries over when it actually matters in the regular season and even postseason. Everything is circumstantial. From the amount of preseason games that are played, to the Magic on a few occasions not playing 82 regular season contests. Coaching philosophies, whether or not players gave a damn, team chemistry, whether or not it was a non-NBA friendly, and injuries. The variables go on and on. 

Preseason Records:
2012-2013: 2-6 (.250)
2011-2012: 1-1 (.500)
2010-2011: 7-0 (1.000)
2009-2010: 8-0 (1.000)
2008-2009: 6-1 (.857)
2007-2008: 6-1 (.857)
2006-2007: 6-2 (.750)
2005-2006: 5-3 (.625)
2004-2005: 4-3 (.571)
2003-2004: 1-7 (.125)
2002-2003: 3-5 (.375)
2001-2002: 4-4 (.500)
2000-2001: 7-1 (.875)
1999-2000: 6-2 (.750)
1998-1999: 1-1 (.500)
1997-1998: 4-4 (.500)
1996-1997: 5-3 (.625)
1995-1996: 5-3 (.625)
1994-1995: 6-2 (.750)
1993-1994: 5-3 (.625)
1992-1993: 5-3 (.625)
1991-1992: 4-4 (.500)
1990-1991: 5-3 (.625)
1989-1990: 2-6 (.250)

I dug out my 20th anniversary ('09 Finals year) Magic almanac to get the old school preseason results you see above. Enlarge the images and you'll see home games are completely capitalized, away games are not. That '03-'04 season kind of immediately jumps out to me where the 1-7 preseason record was indeed a sign of things to come that season. The dreaded 21-win season. What's obvious to note, the '98-'99 and 2011-2012 campaigns saw very short exhibition schedules. Oddly enough, in each Lockout preseason, Orlando played one game at home against the Heat, and one away in Miami. And since the Orlando community likes to mention them a lot of late, the Heart & Hustle crew were a solid 6-2 in preseason play. Don't forget the 2010-2011 7-0 exhibition period that saw a preseason game against Miami in Tampa get cancelled. Below you'll see our franchise's regular season and postseason successes and failures. Click to enlarge it.

I've whipped together a bar and line graph to see what (if any) types of trends all of this information may yield when we compare exhibition and regular season. Visually it appears there is a bit of a correlation.

So what does all of this hot garbage nonsense mean in the end? Well the sample size isn't exactly massive when it comes to under .500 preseason campaigns. Orlando has only been under .500, counting '12-'13, just four exhibition years. Only one of those season ('02-'03) resulted in a playoff bid. It proved to be the heart-ripping 8th seeded Doc Rivers side that blew a 3-1 1st round lead over the Pistons. The only other 2-6 occurrence happened with the original '89-'90 squad that went a putrid 18-64. I'd like to think Jacque Vaughn's roster is immensely better than the expansion era years. In twenty-three season the Magic have made the playoffs 14 times. In thirteen of the fourteen of those preseasons, the Magic finished with a .500 or better record. Orlando went 6-2 ('94-'95) and 6-1 ('08-'09) in those respectable exhibition campaigns the two times they've partaken in the NBA Finals. I don't know about you folks, but I'm starting to wish Vaughn would've cared more about those first 2 preseason games so that we'd at worst have finished 4-4. Then again, a fair chunk of Magic fans want the team to tank so we can rebuild through the draft and are happy with the under .500 preseason results. Overall for anyone who is optimistic about sneaking into the playoffs, this isn't an encouraging analysis. 

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