Washington Wizards fans don’t have a lot to smile about these days.
The team is 15-46 and is headed to its fourth straight appearance in the NBA draft lottery. Twice this season, they have failed to score more than 66 points—a feat that can only be described as pathetic. John Wall, the franchise’s purported savior, is not as talented as true franchise point guards like Derrick Rose and Deron Williams, or even Rajon Rondo. And, in what has to feel like salt in the wounds of all D.C. basketball fans, Ted Leonsis has not given any indication that he will fire general manager Ernie Grunfeld, the man most responsible for this sorry excuse of a professional basketball team.
But if there’s one silver lining in this rain-cloud-filled season, it is the play of second-year forward Kevin Seraphin.
Seraphin has quietly been on something of a tear. He has scored in double figures for 10 consecutive games, making him the first Wizards center since Gheorge Muresan to do so. On Monday, he outplayed the Chicago Bulls' All-Star frontcourt of Joakim Noah and Carlos Boozer, scoring 21 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in what was a rare Wizards win at the United Center.
He is strong and gets off the ground quickly, and he has demonstrated the ability to shoot baby hook shots with both hands and a willingness to rebound with tenacity. While he still gets lost in certain offensive sets, he has appeared more comfortable on the court since taking over the starting position from Trevor Booker.
If he continues to improve, the 22-year-old from French Guiana could give the Wizards something they have lacked since Chris Webber was traded to the Sacramento Kings: a consistent and reliable low-post scorer.
Wizards fans should be smiling to themselves because Seraphin has the potential to be the type of NBA player who can influence a game without needing to touch the ball 30 times on offense. He shoots 53 percent from the field—a number that could actually go up if he continues to improve—and gets a lot of his shots off putbacks or from dishes from teammates.
In other words, the Wizards coaching staff does not have to call a lot of plays for him just to make sure he stays involved in the offensive flow. He is an efficient offensive player who can notch eight points before anyone on the other team starts to take notice. This differentiates him from the other players on the Wizards roster, all of whom are constantly clamoring for the ball even though they are rarely in a position to make an impact once they receive it.
Take Wall, for example.
The single most frustrating things about Wall’s game is its inefficiency. He shoots a measly 42 percent from the field and turns the ball over nearly four times a game. He touches the ball on every Wizards possession, yet often fails to exert a positive effect on the team’s offense. When opposing teams prevent him from getting into the open court, forcing him to play in the half-court instead, he often drifts from sideline to sideline, essentially functioning as a well-compensated spectator.
Seraphin, on the other hand, has the potential to command defensive respect even when he doesn’t have the ball. If he can continue to develop his low-post game and his offensive rebounding skills, opposing defenses will have to keep track of him at all times. This will take defensive pressure off Washington’s perimeter players, making it easier for them to find open lanes to the basket.
Of course, all of this is contingent upon Seraphin’s ability to continue to improve. At this point, Seraphin’s play qualifies as nothing more than a flash in the pan, and any NBA fan can tell you that there are a dozen players every season who look poised for a major breakthrough only to fail to live up to that potential the following year.
Still, I have high hopes for Seraphin.
Tony Parker is another athletically-gifted Frenchman who developed into a well-rounded player. When the San Antonio Spurs were winning championships in the 2000s, Parker was one of the best point guards in the game. Seraphin probably won’t be as good as Parker, but he absolutely has the talent to be the best Wizards center in a generation. And that would give Washington a distinct competitive advantage in a league that lacks an abundance of skilled big men.