Once Ernie Grunfeld chose to let go of Trevor Booker and his nearly $4.7 million qualifying offer this past summer and re-sign Kevin Seraphin for his $3.8 million offer, everyone, including the Frenchman, knew the 82 games that followed could set his career up for more multi-million dollar contracts or the struggle to even sign another one in the NBA.
Thanks to a few factors that have gone Seraphin's way, it looks like the former will happen in the not-too-distant future. However, that's if whatever team is interested in him for the 2015-16 season doesn't look too much at the analytics of his game.
Like most Wizards fans, I was shaking my head in confusion when Grunfeld went ahead and kept Seraphin's services for this current season. Along with the re-signing of Drew Gooden, the team had just signed Kris Humphries and DeJuan Blair to beef up their frontcourt a few days earlier. Why did they need Seraphin, too?
With Humphries becoming the primary backup to Nene at the power forward spot, Blair typically not even on game day rosters, and Marcin Gortat struggling to live up to his $60-million contract this season, Randy Wittman has gone with Seraphin late in games recently. We all love seeing his impressive accuracy hitting that old-school hook shot with both hands, but it may not be such a smart strategy to make him any team's primary backup center, despite Gortat's overall struggles as the starter.
The Polish Hammer has really looked off at times and his 4.4 minutes in the fourth quarter is an obvious sign that Wittman is having none of his mess when crunch time comes -- which has been huge for Seraphin to get added minutes.
Analytics show us that for Seraphin to be successful, he should be playing alongside his mentor, Nene. Of all the five-man combinations featuring Seraphin this season, the only ones bringing positive point differentials for Washington involve the two playing with each other, yet Seraphin still has a negative overall point differential per 100 possessions (minus-5.6), via Basketball-Reference.
Here's how the team looks with Seraphin on the court since he came into the league (also via Basketball Reference):
Only one time has he had a positive overall presence on the court for the Wizards.
Now, Seraphin dropped 20 pounds this offseason and has looked really lively at times. He's also improved his overall passing, including passes out of the double team -- which he had a huge problem seeing out of last season -- and decreased his social media presence, which is probably a benefit to us all.
To Seraphin's credit, he's also found his area of strength, going to it often and with purpose. Via NBA stats, Seraphin is hitting hook shots 60 percent of the time. And that's with both hands. Even better, he's hitting turnaround hook shots at nearly an 81 percent clip.
I still get frustrated watching him play, knowing that he's going to be taking the ball directly into an spot to get off a jump shot or hook shot. For me, watching him game-in and game-out becomes very obvious as to what his go-to moves are, though he's still rather efficient. The problems typically come from getting blindsided by double teams and thinking too much when preparing to go at his man. Too many pump fakes usually results in turnovers of some sort.
Rim protection has been another area where Seraphin has shown growth this season. He's learned that referees are calling fouls any time a defender brings their arms downward. Anytime a player drives at Seraphin near the rim, he's been very good at keeping his arms straight up in the air, forcing them into a tough shot and rarely getting called for fouls. Though small for a center, this has been a nice adjustment of reading the way the game is called and helping him stay out of foul trouble.
Seraphin has brought new things to his repertoire this season, but overall the Wizards should look at other options moving forward. Seraphin should definitely be a positive addition somewhere next season, but preferably not in Washington. His new slim look and confidence with his go-to moves should attract teams.
Even with all the big men on the roster, the Wizards are still showing that they need more from their frontcourt and Seraphin isn't the player that will take them to the top. He should make for a good third string backup but anything more than that would be pushing his expectations and, therefore, his limits.