Kevin Seraphin's Inability to Get to the Free Throw Line is Maddening
…said Kevin Seraphin on draft night 2010, right before he pounded his right fist into his open left hand. Seraphin had just been selected by the Chicago Bulls 17th overall, but the Kirk Hinrich trade was widely known by then, just not official. The 20-year old from the French Guiana was chosen specifically for the Washington Wizards.
He spoke through a French translator during his press conference after being drafted. At one point, in the middle of describing his game, Seraphin busted out his English:
“Rebound, block shot, toughness … like ahh … I can…,” and that’s when he started hitting his fist.
Seraphin has a big, 275-pound body, immediately impressing Hinrich with his ability to set devastating screens in practice as a rookie. And he came into the NBA not much of a weight lifter. Now in his third season, Seraphin’s arms are more defined, his shoulders visibly more chiseled. Big Kev is also in better shape. Playing for France in the Olympics last summer helped. The kid from Cayenne has come a long way since he was drafted.
This season Seraphin has continued to display the soft scoring touch that got him noticed last season, increasing his points per 36 minutes from 13.9 to 16.8. His defensive awareness has also shown incremental improvement. But it’s still unknown how solid of a pilar he will be in Washington’s rebuild. His field goal percentage has dropped from .531 last season to .461 this season, and the scouting report says he’ll likely turn the ball over if double-teamed. Seraphin’s rebounding leaves a lot to be desired, too, as his Total Rebound Percentage has dropped from 13.4 in his sophomore season to 12.7 now.
The most maddening part of Seraphin’s development has been the inability to live up to his draft night claim: to bang. At least to the extent that it gets him to the free throw line. Nene has a career average of 5.6 free throws attempted per 36 minutes (this season he’s at 9.6 FTAs/36 over four games). Karl Malone averaged 8.6 FTAs per 36 over his career. Kevin Seraphin is now averaging just 1.4 free throws attempted per 36 minutes (last season he averaged 2.1). He’s 7-for-12 (58.3%) from the line on this young season, last year he shot 47-for-70 (67.1%).
This season, 43 NBA forwards or centers, including Seraphin, are 6-foot-9 or taller and averaging at least 18 minutes per game and at least 12 field goals attempted per 36 minutes. Out of these 43 players, Seraphin is dead last in free-throws attempted per 36. Kevin Love leads with 10.6 FTAs/36, rookie Anthony Davis is fifth with 6.6, former Wizard Andray Blatche is 10th with 5.2 FTAs/36, and Denver’s JaVale McGee is ranked 22nd with 3.9. For further context: both Seraphin and teammate Jan Vesely average 0.9 free throw attempts per game, despite the fact that Seraphin averages twice the minutes while Vesely’s overall offensive woes are well-documented.
Several NBA big men who prowl around the perimeter even get to the charity stripe at higher rates per 36 minutes than Seraphin’s 1.4—LaMarcus Aldridge (4.8), Andrea Bargnani (3.7), Byron Mullens (2.6), and Ersan Ilyasova (2.1). To note, amongst the pool of 43 players, the percentage of defensive rebounds Seraphin grabs while he is on the court ranks 33rd (DRB%, 15.7).
On offense, Seraphin continues to push himself away from the the basket. Last season, 43 percent of his attempts came within five feet of the rim, where he shot 62 percent. This season, only 23 percent of Seraphin’s attempts come within five feet, where he’s shooting 52.8 percent. Now Kevin attempts 40 percent of his shots between 8-and-16 feet (45.9 FG%); last season just 27 percent of his attempts came from that range (44.7 FG%). Seraphin’s range beyond 16-feet has also increased—he’s 9-for-20 (45 FG%) from 16-to-24 feet in 13 games this season; he went 5-for-15 (33 FG%) from that distance in 57 games last season.
Seraphin is hitting the jumpers, but pump fakes in the paint or finishes with contact are a rarity. Sometimes, when inches away from the basket, he’ll spin 240 degrees in the opposite direction to get a shot more in his comfort zone. San Antonio’s DeJuan Blair and Portland’s J.J. Hickson are just the latest NBA opponents to take advantage of Seraphin with the ability to throw around their girth. If only one could combine Seraphin’s soft shooting touch with their willingness.
Seraphin’s young game is rising, and he’ll only be 23-years old on December 7. But to get to the next level in the NBA, Seraphin is going to have to dramatically turn his game around. And that starts with him being able to bang to his way to the free throw line.