The Whiteboard: 3 keys stats from the opening of NBA preseason

Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images
Photo by Takashi Aoyama/Getty Images /

NBA preseason stats are notoriously unreliable especially if there is only a game or two to draw from. But there are still important things to watch for.

Just a handful of teams began their preseason schedules over the weekend and only the Golden State Warriors and Washington Wizards have actually played multiple games. But even from this tiny sample size there are a few data points to take note of and see if they expand into a pattern over the next few games.

Here are a few NBA preseason stats that caught my eye

James Wiseman — 7.7 fouls per 36 minutes

Wiseman got the NBA preseason off to a rousing start, putting up 20 points and 9 rebounds on 8-of-11 from the field in the 96-87 win over the Washington Wizards in Japan. He followed that up with a quieter 8 points and 3 rebounds in the second game but that worked out to an impressive 28 points and 12 rebounds on 10-of-18 shooting in just over 42 minutes of preseason action.

However, he also racked up a whopping 9 fouls in those 42 minutes — 7.7 per 36 minutes. It’s not surprising for fouls to be a problem for a young big man — remember he’s just 21 years old and has played only 836 NBA and 69 NCAA minutes over the past three years. Wiseman fouled a lot in his abbreviated rookie season (5.2 per 36 minutes) but that was just the 43rd-highest from a rookie over the past two decades and plenty of eventually solid players fouled more often (Roy Hibbert, Jusuf Nurkic, Al Jefferson, Steven Adams, Paul Millsap, Mitchell Robinson, Draymond Green, Serge Ibaka and Jaren Jackson Jr.).

However, fouls are worth watching as a key indicator of Wiseman’s development. He desperately needs meaningful reps if he’s ever going to approach the ceiling of his talent and excessive fouling could limit his minutes and keep him from developing a rhythm during extended on-court stretches. For now, managing his fouls is ultimately just as important as anything else he does in the box score.

Malcolm Brogdon — 9 assists

The Celtics’ offense absolutely dominated against the Charlotte Hornets, putting up 134 points in their preseason opener. They spread the scoring around and it was heartening to see fringe rotation players like Sam Hauser (4-of-5 from 3), Noah Vonleh (9 rebounds) and Mfiondu Kabengele (perfect 5-of-5 from the field) combine for 31 points.

But the most inspiring stat for Celtics’ fans has to be seeing Malcolm Brogdon dish out 9 assists. Boston finished 16th in the league in potential assists per game last season and only had 17 games during the regular season where a player recorded 9 or more assists — seven for Marcus Smart, four for Jayson Tatum, three for Jaylen Brown, two for Dennis Schroder and one each for Robert Williams and Al Horford.

Eight of Brogdon’s nine assists went for 3-pointers and layups. There was nothing overly flashy in the execution, just pushing the ball in transition, simple drive-and-kicks and reading where open space would be as teammates came off screens. But having another scoring threat who can keep the ball moving and create for others off the dribble is going to make things so much easier for everyone else on this team.

Jeremy Sochan — 4 stocks in 17 minutes

In the grand scheme of things, this one may not be all that meaningful. Sochan is one of three rookies likely to be a part of the Spurs rotation this season as they race to the bottom of the standings and a chance at the No. 1 pick.

Sochan, the No. 9 pick in last year’s draft, missed all of Summer League after testing positive for Covid-19 and this was our first real look at him against NBA competition. He finished with 4 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 1 steal in 17 minutes, even knocking down a 3-pointer. Sochan is an electric wing with huge defensive and playmaking upside, although his scoring and shooting are a work in progress. Seeing him come right out of the gate and create chaos all over the floor is just big-time fun.

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