January 7, 2013; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Wizards power forward Kevin Seraphin (13) shoots the ball over Oklahoma City Thunder power forward Nick Collison (4) in the first quarter at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kevin Seraphin's Development and Low Hanging Fruit

 I wrote earlier this season on the struggles of Kevin Seraphin. Basically, for those who don’t want to read it, I said the Seraphin hasn’t really regressed from last year, except he is converting 16-23 feet jumpers at a lower percentage while taking more of them. Since then, I found slightly more evidence that this is the case. According to 82games.com, Seraphin this year has the same eFG% from inside the paint as Seraphin last year. The difference, however, the number of shots inside the paint has fallen from 54% of all his shots to 37% of all his shots, or about 17 percentage points. This again reinforces my point that Searphin hasn’t lost his touch around the rim, but that he is just not getting the same number of touches down in the post that he did last year. Seraphin has clearly regressed on defense; his on/off numbers are horrendous. But in this section, I’m planning on just focusing on his offensive inefficiency. And in that respect, I don’t think Kevin Seraphin has regressed as much as it looks like. I think the primary problem that he has run into is that he has been used differently.

The question, therefore, is not why has Seraphin gotten worse; its why has he been used differently? One reason that comes to mind is the Wizards scheme. The Wizards take the most shots per game from 16-23 feet in the league (25.5) but their field goal percentage from that area is a league low (32.9%). I think this definitely contributes to the problem. Without Wall’s speed, Wittman might think that the pick and roll is too easy to defend and might be opting to primarily use the pick and pop instead, where the Wizards big men take a long jumper. The Wizards that have been logging the most time playing either Power Forward or Center have seen the average number of shots per game from 16-23 feet rise an average of 1.5.

But I don’t think this explains the whole story. The increase in the number of jump shots that Seraphin took was 2.5, which was higher than average. I think that the nature of being a good starting Power Forward in the NBA means that you HAVE to take those shots when they are given to you. Take a look at the top 10 Power Forwards in the league in PER who have played as many minutes a game as Seraphin. Seraphin is taking 3.2 16-23 foot jumpers a game and making them at a 36% clip. Most of the Power forwards are taking more of those long jumpers then Seraphin along with taking more of them.

This leads me to the conclusion that Seraphin’s breakout was related to being able to grab metaphorical low hanging fruit. In limited minutes, he sparked offense with his hook shot and midrange game. But when given more minutes, he was unable to translate that to more shots around the rim. While a midrange game and a hook shot are great tools to have, they are not undefendable. As Seraphin gets more minutes, defenses will adjust, and he will have a harder time, getting in a position to take these shots as defenses force him out of his comfort area. The stats back this up. Seraphin has only taken 1.4 more shots from the rim out to 16 feet per game even with his added playing time. Other than his hook shot and midrange jumper, he really has no ways of scoring even when covered by defenders. This lack of diversity , along with the need for spacing when more traditional centers like Okafor and Nene are in the game, led to such a large rise in 16-23 foot jumpers for Seraphin.

So while Seraphin hasn’t regressed, he hasn’t added anything to his game either. This has led to his lack of offensive moves getting exposed with more playing time. But if this is true, it’s actually relatively good news. That’s because Seraphin hasn’t gotten worse, it just means he wasn’t as good as we thought he was coming off the bench last year. He is having trouble adjusting to starters’ minutes.  So while Seraphin’s sudden improvement last year was fun, what we should be on the lookout for now is incremental improvements.  And as the season has gone on, he has improved on a month to month basis. And for now, that’s all I ask.


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