This is a huge year for Kevin Seraphin. His rookie year was a waste because he wasn't in shape and was barely functional when he hit the court. His second year showed plenty of promise, especially late in the season, but we weren't sure whether it would carry over. His third year was a step back, as he struggled to deal with the increased attention he brought himself with his strong second season.
So, now what? This is Seraphin's fourth season, the one where the Wizards must decide whether to keep him around long term. He's never been injured, unlike Trevor Booker, but his on-court play has been erratic. We don't know what kind of player Seraphin can be because he's had stretches where he's been very good and other stretches where he's been very bad. This year will make or break things.
That's probably why he elected to stay in D.C. instead of playing for Eurobasket champion France this summer. As he recently told Michael Lee of the Washington Post:
"It was not I didn't want to. Of course, I wanted to be with them on the national team. Sometime you have to make sacrifice. And I had to make sacrifice this summer to get better, to step up my game and that's what I did."
Will the fruits of that labor pay off? We'll see. On the one hand, Seraphin's weaknesses -- rebounding, reading the defense, shot selection, avoiding turnovers, defensive awareness -- are difficult to improve with individual drills. Seraphin has told reporters in the past that the best way to shore up those weaknesses is simply to play in game situations, which he deprived himself of this summer. On the other hand, experience and wisdom that is only gained with time has a way of slowing the game down for young bigs. The struggles Seraphin experienced last season may end up benefiting him in the long run.
I found it interesting that Seraphin told Lee later in the interview that he felt like he was a rookie last season.
"Last year, I wasn't really ready, because that was really my first season," said Seraphin, who received little playing time before JaVale McGee was traded to Denver in March 2012. "I didn't know what to expect. Before I was just playing and right now, I know what it is. I know how everything works. I have a season to see that. I'm more prepared and more mature about it."
The Wizards have to be hoping that Seraphin's words will carry over into the season. The upside to Seraphin is that, unlike the Wizards' other young bigs, he has an elite individual skill. Very few prospects in the league have his touch around the basket. You aren't going to find low-post scorers that can turn off either shoulder and drop hook shots from 10-12 feet out. What is Jan Vesely's elite skill? What is Booker's? What is Chris Singleton's? If only Seraphin's game can be cultivated, how good could he be?
That's the thought, of course. Whether it happens remains to be seen. But Seraphin certainly has his best chance with Emeka Okafor sidelined for a while. He's not an ideal fit with Nene because both get tons of low-post touches, but his talent, if coupled with improved discipline, may be overwhelming enough that fit doesn't matter.