Third-Year Wizards and Their Progress, Part II: Kevin Seraphin

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Third-year Wizards, from left to right: Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, John Wall

Going into this season, the Washington Wizards had four rotation players in their third year: John Wall, Jordan Crawford, Kevin Seraphin, and Trevor Booker. Two of them (Crawford and Seraphin) have generally been healthy in the 2012-13 season’s first half while the other two (Wall and Booker) have largely been hurt. As we hit the season’s midpoint, we will evaluate the development of Crawford and Seraphin so far; at season’s end we will evaluate what progress Wall and Booker showed us after regaining their health. We looked at Crawford a couple weeks ago, who has since been traded to the Celtics. Today we continue with Kevin Seraphin.

When the Wizards traded for Nene and Emeka Okafor, many wondered what would happen to up-and-coming big man Kevin Seraphin. In a 2011-12 season that saw lots of losing and stagnation for the Wiz, one of the bright spots was Seraphin and his jump hook, who improved in nearly every aspect of the game from his rookie year in 2010-11.

This year? Seraphin has been nothing short of awful. He’s regressed in nearly every way, which we’ll show by looking at three things: 1) Seraphin’s basic numbers through the years, 2) Seraphin’s shot charts and tables, and 3) How Seraphin’s play has affected the team’s play so far this season.

Part 1: Seraphin’s Basic Numbers

For starters let’s look at Seraphin’s per-36 minute over the course of his three seasons.

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Looking at these numbers, here’s what jumps out: He’s shooting more often than last year while shooting a lower percentage, he’s rebounding less, blocking fewer shots, and turning the ball over more.

What do more advanced box-score metrics say about Seraphin?

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Here we see the same story. His TS% and eFG% are both career lows. He has a career-worst 11.3% TRB%, which is awful for a PF/C. His AST% is actually up, but that’s the lone bright spot; he’s also regressed with regards to STL%, BLK%, and TOV%.

Put it all together and you have a sizable drop-off in Player Efficiency Rating (PER), one that has brought him from about average to well-below average. In terms of Win Shares/48 min, he has shifted from an average player to a player that is producing negative wins for team.

How bad is this in the context of the league? Among the 156 players who have played a minimum of 40 games and a minimum of 23 minutes per game, the worst player has been been Austin Rivers, who ranks dead-last in PER, WS, and WS/48. But the other 155? Among them, Seraphin ranks last in both WS and WS/48 and he’s the only one with negative wins. Among those 155, he’s also fourth-worst in terms of PER, and the people below him (Battier, Biyombo, Perkins) are defensive specialists who use far fewer possessions (i.e., the type of player that PER underrates). (For the record, Perkins is not a defensive specialist, but he has the role of such a player nonetheless). If we expand this to the 253 players to play at least 40 games with any number of minutes, Seraphin still ranks fourth-worst in WS, ahead of Rivers, Michael Beasley (22.2 min/g) and Will Barton (10.7 min/g).

So, you might be asking yourself about now: What happened to our promising  big man Seraphin? Personally, I think Seraphin’s bigger role on offense (see: increased minutes per game and USG%) has zapped his energy on D and on the glass. More importantly, though, that bigger role on offense has come with some serious hiccups. Let’s examine those hiccups in some shot charts from NBA.com’s new stats tool.

Part 2: Seraphin’s Shooting Charts/Breakdown

Here are Seraphin’s shooting charts from last year (left side) and this year (right side), by FG%. (Click on a chart for a larger version in a new window.)

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And below is a visualization of his shot distribution, again with last year on the left and this year on the right. (Click on a chart for a larger version in a new window.)

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What is most notable here? As far FG% is concerned, Seraphin is actually shooting better on deep 2’s, but he’s shooting much worse from areas inside (and just outside) the paint.

The other important story is Seraphin’s distribution–his shots are coming from his least efficient areas on the court. Last year, 69% of his shots were close-range in the paint; this year only 46% of his shots come from there.

Where are those shots going instead? One place is Seraphin’s weakest area, midrange from the right side. Seraphin shoots nearly 16% of his shots from this region, up from 10% last year (an area from which he shot 29 FG% last year and 26 FG% this year). That 16% marks Seraphin’s second-most frequented shot-location after close-range shots in the paint. It baffles the mind, because not only is it his worst area, but one of his best areas is the same area on the opposite side of the floor; both this year and last Seraphin has shot 50% from the equivalent midrange area on the left side.

Let’s look at Seraphin’s shooting from one final perspective of his shooting, courtesy of basketball-reference.com. Below are tables of Seraphin’s shooting splits from different areas of the floor and for different types of shots (again with 2011-12 on the left side and 2012-13 on the right).

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These tables tell us a number of things, much of which is just a confirmation of above analysis. Seraphin has improved from 16-23 feet, but he’s still shooting from there too often. From all other distances, his FG% has dramatically decreased.

As far as shot-type, Seraphin is best with his hook shot–which is something I think we all knew–but it bears repeating that he is really good with his hook shots. But his jumpers? He shot 34.6 FG% on them last year, and this year he’s down to 30.3 FG%. Even worse, he’s taking them far more frequently. Last year Seraphin shot as many jump shots as he did layups and hook shots combinedThis year, he’s shooting twice as many jump shots as he is layups and hook shots combined. Not a great trend unless your name is Dirk Nowitzki.

Of course, one might argue, perhaps Seraphin is getting back on defense and spreading the floor better by moving away from the hoop. He must be doing something right, or else the coaching staff would change the way they use him…or sit him…right?

Part 3: Seraphin and Team Performance

Below we will show the on/off numbers for Seraphin both last year this year.

First let’s take a look at the Wizards’ rebounding numbers from last year for when Seraphin plays and when he sits.

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This is a complicated chart, so let’s break it down. Last season, the Wiz rebounded better on both the offensive and defensive glass when Seraphin was on the floor than when he was off the floor. Furthermore, when Seraphin was on the floor, the Wiz rebounded better than opponents on the offensive and defensive boards; when he was off the floor the Wiz were out-rebounded by opponents on both ends. Put it all together and you see that Seraphin’s presence was a big-time positive for his team’s rebounding last season.

What about this year?

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This year it’s much uglier. The Wizards rebound better on offense and defense when Seraphin sits. And while the Wizards are virtually always out-rebounded this year by their opponents, this difference is exacerbated with Seraphin playing.

What about the Wizards’ overall performance with Seraphin on/off the court over the last two years? Observe the the data from 2011-12.

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Last year, even though the Wizards assisted less and turned the ball over more with Seraphin on the floor, they shot and scored more efficiently (albeit marginally) with him playing. Defensively speaking they were much better with Seraphin on the court, even though they forced fewer turnovers. Add it all up and the Wiz were 7.2 points better per 100 possessions with Seraphin playing than not playing.

This year so far?

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As it is with rebounding, the Wizards’ overall performance this year is worse with Seraphin playing than when he sits. Offensively they shoot worse, pass less, turn it over more, and have an overall worse ORtg. Defensively it’s also ugly; opponents pass better, turn it over less, and have an overall better ORtg when Seraphin plays than when he sits. Add it all up and you see a Wizards team that has performed 8.6 points per 100 possessions worse when Seraphin plays than when sits.

Conclusion

Kevin Seraphin was a good player for the Wizards as a raw second-year player, but in his third season he has regressed. There is no reason to think he’s incapable of improving upon his second-year output; after all, his long jumpers and hook shots boast impressive percentages. But with that said, his overall production is down in nearly every other conceivable category, especially with regards to rebounding, finishing, and shot-selection. Seraphin isn’t entirely to blame–to an extent he is the product of his role in Randy Wittman’s system. But whatever the reason, it’s fair to say that Seraphin has been among the worst NBA players so far this season, a fact that shows up in his individual numbers and in his on/off stats with his team.

With a player of Seraphin’s talent and competitive spirit, I still have faith in his ability to become a solid NBA player. At the very least, I hope he’ll be able to celebrate his own birthday next season.

What do you see in Seraphin’s game? What does the future hold for him with the Wizards or beyond? Comment on the article or e-mail us at AGRbasketball (at) gmail (dot) com. Don’t forget to follow @AGRbasketball on Twitter and to like us on Facebook.

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