[Ed. Note: Ryan Gracia is currently a junior at George Mason University studying journalism and sports communication and has followed the Washington Wizards for years. On Wednesday against Milwaukee, he tracked the progress of Wizards rookie Kevin Seraphin and reports below. -Kyle W.]
Seraphin Makes Good With Little Time
by Ryan Gracia
With JaVale McGee picking up two fouls less than six minutes into the game against the Milwaukee Bucks Wednesday night, Flip Saunders turned to his second first-round pick in the 2010 draft to answer the call. It’s been quite a journey for 17th pick Kevin Seraphin in his first season in the NBA, but he’s made the most of his opportunities on the court – for the most part – despite erratic playing time.
As of late, one-time backup center Hilton Armstrong has been given a seat deeper down in the depth chart in favor of the younger Wizard, as shown by the difference in minutes played between the first eight games and the last eight games for each player:
Seraphin – First 8 games
>> Eight straight DNP-CD’s
Armstrong – First 8 games
>> Averaged 13.26 minutes per game
Seraphin – Last 8 games
>> Played in 6 of 8 games, averaging 6.22 minutes per game
Armstrong – Last 8 games
>> DNP-CD’s in 5 of 8 games, averaging 4.49 minutes per game
Part of this has been due to fluctuating roster availability caused by injury, but a noticeable change in scenery for each player nonetheless. And thus, when McGee picked up that second foul early on, who went in? You guessed it. The one from the French Guiana (yes, Seraphin). Overall, according to Basketball-Reference.com, Seraphin owns the better stats per 36 minutes at 10.4 points, 9.7 boards and 2.2 blocks. Armstrong’s stats per 36 minutes are just 6.4 points, 9.8 boards and 1.5 blocks per.
Clearly, Flip knew about these stats, too…Duh!
So the man who speaks very limited English (preferring to slam his fist into his other hand to describe his style of play) came in for the brainless blocking machine and played quite well against one of better rebounders in the league in Andrew Bogut. The Aussie big man for Milwaukee has so far this season matched Superman himself, Dwight Howard, both players skying high for 3.6 offensive rebounds per game, tied for fifth among all players … and this is with Bogut getting a slow to the year while recovering from last season’s devastating arm injury along with experiencing back issues along the way.
I was a bit shocked to see Seraphin thrust into the game so early, so let’s try to forget that he turned the ball over on his first offensive possession because that wouldn’t do the rest of his court time justice. I mean, come on, at 6’9’’ and 275 lbs, it’s hard to slip your way around defenders! To make up for this, he ran back on defense, stuck to Ersan Ilyasova like glue and forced him to miss a layup as the ball broke free for John Wall to streak down court.
Then, at the six minute mark, Seraphin set a strong screen to free up Nick Young for an open jumper, which he missed, but Nick recovered his own rebound with the space created from Seraphin’s screen and made a nifty reverse layup past Bogut.
Kevin then set another screen for Wall, this time off the ball, ultimately where Young found him rolling to the free throw line and dumped it down low to the big Frenchy, who muscled his fifteen extra pounds against Bogut for a short hook shot with 5:12 remaining — a display of unexpected touch from the bruiser.
Soon after, as the ball was swung around the perimeter by the Bucks, Corey Maggette drove past Rashard Lewis for what seemed to be an easy lay in, until Seraphin’s weak-side help off Bogut – something rarely seen by a Wizard – came to rescue the play and block the shot, which started a 4-on-2 fast break that was capped by a Lewis layup, assist from Wall, with 4:43 left in the period.
Kevin was not only a bully against the Bucks, but also a brat, actively knocking balls away like he did against Bogut a couple plays later, before Wall picked up the loose ball and raced down court to play a game of hot potato with Young in front of the Bucks defender before easily laying the ball in.
Scott Skiles must have seen the same things I did, an Andrew Bogut who just wasn’t himself, struggling against a rookie, so he took him out with 4:01 to play in the quarter in exchange for Drew Gooden. Gooden faced up Kevin in the left corner just 10 seconds into his debut against the team he refused to play for (Gooden wanted a buyout after being traded to Washington from Dallas, but then got an alternate preferred wish of being traded to the LA Clippers as part of the Antawn Jamsion deal, citing the weather in D.C. as a factor, only to sign with Milwaukee in the off-season). Gooden took a shot with Kevin’s hand in his face that clanked off the front rim and back to the big Wizard’s hands for the easy board.
His time on the court was brief, but he made the most of it, posting the only positive plus-minus on the Wizards at plus-6, while McGee had the worst of any player at minus-20.
Seraphin often set the necessary, good screens to free up Wall and friends for open shots and easy layups (whether they scored or not). And with the help of the rarely-used big man, Washington was able to hold Milwaukee to 28-percent shooting in the first quarter. He also held Bogut to zero points and just one rebound during his stint. Unfortunately, throughout the next three quarter, the Bucks made shots in bunches, when it mattered most, and ended making 47.9-percent of their field goals on the evening.
Seraphin didn’t see time after that six-plus minute stretch in the first quarter. He’s still has a lot to learn about defensive spacing and help, and he’s not going to be counted on for much more than a role player’s minutes right now. But he’s starting to prove to be more deserving of an uptick in run along the way … because at some point, the defense and toughness of his team could depend on it.