December 18, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Wizards forward Kevin Seraphin (13) passes the ball over Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

What's Wrong with Kevin Seraphin?

December 18, 2012; Washington, D.C., USA; Washington Wizards forward Kevin Seraphin (13) passes the ball over Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague (0) at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Seraphin emerged during the second half of last season as one of the more promising players on a young Wizards team.  This year, after two great games against the Boston Celtics, Seraphin’s production seems to have fallen off a bit. Seraphin has had a number of problems, ranging from getting to the charity stripe to rebounding, but here I take a closer look at his shooting woes.

According to Basketball-Reference, Seraphin’s field goal percentage declined from 53% from last year to 47% this year. A 6% decline in FG% is a large one, especially when it’s from a young player that you expect to be getting better as time goes on, not worse. Call it “Sherlock Holmes and Case of the Sharp Decline”- where exactly has Seraphin become less efficient?

To find the answer, I looked at Hoopdata.com’s breakdown of Seraphin’s FG% based on location. The link is here.

Seraphin’s conversion rate has dipped ever so slightly when finishing at the rim, dropping from 67.4 last year to 66.7 this year. This dip hardly accounts for Seraphin’s decreased efficiency, so we have to keep looking. Even more interesting, it looks like Seraphin’s jump hook and jump shot have actually improved. He’s pulled off the trick of increasing both attempts and FG% from 3-15 feet from the basket. This is especially striking from 10-15 feet, where Seraphin has taken 1.5 more shots from this area a game and increased his 10-15 feet FG% by 12.6. This is actually a huge improvement from last year and great news for Wizards fans that there’s another tool in Seraphin’s arsenal moving forward.

So what’s the problem? Once again, it looks like the culprit is the notoriously-inefficient long jumper. Seraphin has attempted WAAAY more long jumpers then he did last year, increasing his attempts from 16-23 feet from 0.7 to 3.1 a game while decreasing his FG% in that same area by 14 percentage points. This is the clear answer why Seraphin’s field goal percentage has dipped this year. I calculated what Seraphin’s total FG% this year would be if he took the same number of shots at the same percentage as last year at 16-23 feet. The results were staggering, with Seraphin shooting a FG% of 56.3. This FG% would exceed the projections that Thomas Pruitt of Bullets Forever made at the beginning of the year here. It’s safe to say that the biggest problem with Seraphin right now is not his rebounding or ability to get to the line, both of which have generally been low, but his propensity to take long jumpers.

Much of the fault for this poor shot selection clearly lies with Seraphin, but part of me thinks that this is more of a scheme problem then a personal one. 85% of the long jumpers that Seraphin has attempted this year have been assisted. I haven’t necessarily read the literature about what is the normal assist rate for jumpers that far back, but it seems clear to me that an assist rate that high points means that many of those jumpers might be the result of a set play by the Wizards.

What does this mean? Well, as an optimist, I’ll start by focusing on the positive. Seraphin’s much improved jump shot from 10-15 feet is going to be an excellent weapon going forward. And the internal numbers other than his long jumper say that he hasn’t been as much of a disappointment as he has seemed so far this year. But the bad news is that until he fixes that long jumper, by either improving his percentage or taking fewer shots from that area, he is not going to be nearly as effective as Wizards fans have hoped.

 

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