After reading Michael Grange's (tm) article, it got me thinking whether pre-season means anything as well, so I thought I'd take a dive into the stats just a little bit. Looking at last years Pre-Season Stats it sure looked like a good forecast for the season.
So I did two things, 1) see if preseason division winners means that you'd win the regular season division and 2) determine if you finish above .500 in preseason would that mean you'd finish the regular season above .500.
This is what I got:
Between 2003-04 Season to 2008-09
Division Winner Preseason = Regular Season Division Winner: 2008/09 (4 out of 6), 2007/08 (0/6), 06/07 (1/6 *Toronto), 05/06 (2/6), 04/05 (2/6), 03/04 (0/4 * Toronto lead Central)
Total: 9 out of 34 (26%)
>.500 Pre = >.500 Post [Season / How Many], [08/09 (10 out of 14)], [07/08 (8-16)], [06/07 (6-12)], [05/06 (8-11)], [04/05 (7-12)], [03/04 (3-10)]
Total: 42/75 (56%)
Only one in 4 Division winners from preseason would go onto winning the division during the regular season, which I think is a decent indicator of success, however there have been many preseason leaders who go on to not making the playoffs (notably Minnesota a couple of times and Toronto once). I forget who well Toronto has done during the preseason the last few years, however they did lose to Anthony Parker's Macabe team once. If memory serves me right, they were the first NBA team to lose to an international team, though I may stand corrected there.
The second part is really more meaty and a bit surprising that only 56% for teams who finish with above .500 preseason records end up with above .500 during the regular season. I would have guessed higher, but it's almost a coin flip.
I know this isn't an in depth analysis, but I think this high level look would point towards that there is some meaning with pre-season, but I wouldn't go all in on any bet.
However from NBA.com's John Schuchman
Between 2004-2009, 56 of the 86 teams (65.1 percent) who finished with a .500 record or better in the preseason made the playoffs. And just 24 of the 64 teams (37.5 percent) who finished with a record under .500 in the preseason made it to the postseason.
So it's still better to be good.