What a difference a year can make. On February 5, 2012, Kevin Seraphin was averaging 3.5 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 44.6% in only 13.2 minutes per game. Many thought Seraphin was a bust and that his best case scenario was as a backup center. Then, on March 7, this happened:
Eight days later, Javale McGee was traded for Nene, and Seraphin got a chance to start. He responded by averaging 13.6 points and 6.8 rebounds while shooting 54.4% in 30.2 minutes for the rest of the season, highlighted by a 24 point, 13 rebound, 4 block performance against Orlando and a 21 point, 13 rebound 5 block outing in Chicago. Suddenly, the conversation shifted to whether Seraphin could start for a contender in the future, and a few people even threw the words "future all-star" into the mix.
Since a nice performance against Boston to open the year, Seraphin has struggled. He's averaging 10.4 points and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 44.3% in 24.2 minutes off the bench. His blocks have gone from 1.7 per game post trade to only 0.8. Once again, some have left him for dead, saying that he is a "black hole" and can never be a contributor for a good team.
I think it's to soon to give up on Kevin Seraphin. He already has two elite skills, as well as several more promising ones. He has only been playing basketball since he was 15, and by all accounts is a coachable player who wants to get better.
His first elite skill is his hook shot. Currently, Seraphin leads the league in hook shots made, with 77. The runner up, Roy Hibbert, has made 67, and he's needed 23 more attempts than Seraphin to get there. After that, the leader board falls off a cliff, David Lee is in third place with 50.
Not only is Serapin leading the league in hook shots made, he's doing it at one of the best percentages. Out of the 49 players who have attempted at least 25 hook shots, Seraphin ranks second in field goal percentage behind teammate Emeka Okafor, who only has 43 attempts to Seraphin's 107. He makes hook shots at such a high percentage that his 72% would rank 12th on a list of highest layup percentages.
His high percentage on hook shots isn't a fluke either. He shot 66% on hook shots last year, and no one in the league has shot over 60% both years. Even in his rookie season, he went 21 for 30 on his hook shots, or 70%.
His second elite skill is post defense. According to MySynergySports.com, Seraphin allows only 0.67 points per possession (PPP) in post up situations. By comparison, the best team in the NBA at defending the post, the Chicago Bulls, allow 0.74 PPP. Listed at 275 pounds, Serphin is one of the heaviest players in the league, making him immovable in the post and he uses his long 7'3" wingspan to contest shots above his subpar 6'9" height.
What makes Seraphin such a good post defender isn't his shooting percentage, his 41.4% allowed is higher than the 38.4% allowed by the Bulls, but his ability to force turnovers on an insane 21.7% of post ups he faces, 9% better than the 12.7% the Bulls force. He also doesn't foul much, only fouling on 7.2% of the time, compared to the Bull's 8.1%.
While the NBA has been shifting away from the post and out towards the perimeter, some of the best centers in the league, such as Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum still often work from the post, as well as many younger centers, like DeMarcus Cousins, Greg Monroe and Brook Lopez. Having an elite post defender to limit those guys could be invaluable in a playoff series.
One tendency that has people pulling their hair is Seraphin's new found love of long jump shots. While at first glance, his 30.5% on jumpers may seem to validate that opinion, his percentages have a very interesting quirk when broken down further. He's shooting jumpers 15 feet or closer at only 23.3%, while jumpers 16 feet and out are going in at a 46.3% clip. If this trend continues, and he, ironically, cuts down on his closer jump shots, he could be a very nice floor spacer and pick and pop partner at the center position, something that would benefit John Wall greatly.
The three area's that Seraphin has to improve are his rebounding, passing and team defense. He likely will never be a good passer, but as he sees more double teams, there's a good chance he can at least learn how to pass out of them. While he likely won't create many easy looks for teammates, very few centers do, and if he can at least learn how not to hurt his team there, that's all that's really necessary.
When it comes to rebounding, Seraphin has all the tools he needs. With a big, broad body to box people out, he can contribute to a teams rebounding efforts. While he probably won't ever pull down 10 boards a game, he would be an excellent compliment to a long, athletic front court partner who takes advantage of Seraphin's box outs to pull down plenty of boards, in a similar fashion to the way Emeka Okafor is grabbing a career high in defensive rebound percentage in part because of Nene's box out ability.
The final area Seraphin will need to improve is his team defense. In today's NBA, centers are relied upon more than ever to defend the rim and anchor a defense. Part of that is blocking shots to make perimeter players think twice before driving to the rim. While Seraphin hasn't been blocking many shots this year, last year he finished 10th in blocks per 36 minutes. If Seraphin can recapture even some of that shot blocking prowess, and learn good positioning from two of the best in Nene and Emeka Okafor, he could anchor a very good defense.
Kevin Seraphin is already an elite post defender and has the best hook shot in the NBA. He has the potential to be a good all around defender and help on the boards. He's been playing basketball for less time than most American high schoolers, and is still only 23. If he can bounce back from his funk and keep improving, he could be a good starter for a contender.