20 Days, 20 Questions: Kevin Seraphin

With the first day of Wizards training camp coming, Bullets Forever is asking 20 questions about key issues with the team in 2010/11.

The Wizards acquired the physical and athletic Kevin Seraphin - the 17th overall pick in the 2010 draft - in a draft-day deal with the Chicago Bulls.  The trade also brought the Wizards G Kirk Hinrich and $3 million in cash considerations.

The 20 year old native of Cayenne, French Guiana, a French territory on the northern coast of South America, is a raw but high potential talent, having played only five years of organized basketball.  Most recently, Seraphin played professionally for the French A League champions, Cholet Basket.  Regarded as the most athletic European player in the 2010 NBA draft, Kevin Seraphin's other strengths include his long wingspan, strength, physical nature and rebounding.  His weaknesses include his lack of experience and relatively weak offensive repertoire may limit his ability to be effective this season.

Which brings us to question 19.

What can we expect from Kevin Seraphin?

Kevin Seraphin grew up playing soccer, and much like Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, began playing basketball at age15.  And while it is true that he has been playing basketball for only five years, for the last several years it has been his career.  For a little more than two seasons, Seraphin has had to practice and prepare as a member of professional team.  Unlike some others, with a similar lack of playing experience (i.e. Hamady N'Diaye), being a part of a professional basketball organization should have afforded him the opportunity to focus completely on basketball and presumably progress a bit more quickly.

Kevin Seraphin's first two seasons with Cholet he played in one game in 2007/8 and 19 in 2008/9.  It is important to point out that in 2007/8, Seraphin played 30 games with the Cholet Junior team in the LNB Espoirs League.  In 2009/10 he played in 32 games in the Pro A league and he and his team played six games in the Eurocup.

It is important to note that in the French A League teams play a 36 game regular season (18 teams x 2 games each).  This is much shorter than the NBA's 82 game season and much closer to the typical NCAA Men's basketball season of 30 games.

Each season Kevin Seraphin's game improved as indicated by an increase in both his playing time and statistics.  For example in the 2009/10 regular season Seraphin averaged:

  • MPG - 15.6
  • TS% - 0.54
  • eFG% - 0.53
  • PER - 17.5
  • EFF/40 - 20.2
  • %ORB - 15.0
  • %DRB - 9.8
  • %BS - 23.9

While we would not want to read too much into the stats above, they are encouraging giving the amount of playing time he received in a shorter game (40 min vs. 48 min) and a shorter season (36 games vs. 82) - against competition that from top to bottom isn't as tough as the NBA.  The numbers that he generated are encouraging.  His true shooting percent (TS%), effective field goal percent (eFG%) and player efficiency rating (PER) compare favorably with both Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee's figures from last season.  His efficiency rating averaged over 40 minutes (EFF/40) is also very respectable compared with NBA rookies from last season.  What was most impressive was his increase in his team's share of offensive rebounds (%ORB), defensive rebounds (%DRB) and block shots (%BS).

Continuing the trend of improvement, during Cholet Basket's play in the Eurocup, Seraphin's statistics improved in almost every statistical category.  Seraphin saw his statistics increase in minutes played (20:35), points (6.5), rebounds (6.5), blocks (1.2), EFF (10.3), etc. during this tournament.

While Kevin has been playing professionally the last few seasons, it is true that he has not been playing regularly against NBA-caliber talent.  And although he has been blessed with incredible athleticism and unique "measurables" (wingspan - 7-3 and standing reach - 9-1) on a 6-9, 264 lbs frame, he will now have to face the world's best basketball talent.   On a nightly basis, he will face players and teams who will attempt to exploit his relative lack of experience.  However, it is hard not to get a little excited about a young player who describes his strengths by saying, "rebound, block shots, toughness" and by finishing the thought by smashing his fists together to symbolize his physical play.

The Wizards have dealt with youth and inexperience prior to Kevin Seraphin.  In the franchise's history it has not received a tremendous amount of production from its youngest rookies (20 years old or younger) - at least not in their first season.  Truth About It had an interesting story in which they touch upon similar themes (primarily as it relates to John Wall).  The Wizards have had four rookies who were 20 years old or younger - John "Hot Plate" Williams, Kwame Brown, Andray Blatche and Peter John Ramos.  Out of these four, John Williams, who played in 78 games his rookie season, was the most successful averaging 9.2 PPG, 4.7 RPG and a PER of 15.5.

Aside from his lack of experience, which will only be remedied through playing time, Seraphin's biggest weakness is on the offensive end.  At this stage in his development, he lacks the offensive moves and footwork to be consistently successful in the post.  He appears to understand that this is an area of improvement and has spent time this summer working on these skills.  However, given the makeup of this team, Seraphin does not need to be an offensive force.  While he should continue to develop his offensive skills, his focus for this season should be to generate the majority of his points off of the offensive glass and in transition.

Many of Seraphin's strengths can be best utilized on the defensive end of the court.  His physical strength, length and athletic ability can help to make an immediate impact in the paint.  Not only does he like to "bang" on the offensive end, but he plays physically on defense making it difficult for his man to post him up.  According to DraftXpress, "he displays nice timing when rotating from the weak side and is especially effective at hedging pick-and-rolls, while still having the mobility to recover back onto his man thanks to his nimble feet and nice lateral quickness."  And as can be seen in the highlight film created by Cholet Basket, Kevin Seraphin displays good timing on weak side help enabling him to change or block shots.

Kevin Seraphin will be successful with the Wizards this season if he sticks to a defined role - as he learns and adapts to the NBA game.  The Wizards do not need him to be a scorer on offense, which would highlight his current weakness.  What the team needs from him actually plays to his strengths.  At this stage in their development, one would have to put Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee into the category of finesse players relying more on athletic ability or skill more so than physical play.  The Wizards have admitted that they need to develop a physical presence in the paint.  Kevin Seraphin can earn playing time this season by being a physical defender, grabbing rebounds particularly on the defensive end and blocking shots.  If he does this consistently, he will earn consistent minutes.  He then can use his athletic ability to score in transition and on put-backs off the offensive glass.  These things, while not glamorous, will help this team win.

I expect Kevin Seraphin to average more rebounds than points and to do many of the small things that do not make it onto the stat sheet.  A successful rookie campaign for Seraphin would be for him to be the 2010 edition of James Singleton - only younger, bigger, more athletic and with a much greater upside.

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