Kevin Seraphin is one of the NBA's more unorthodox players. European big men with soft hands aren't supposed to love banging in the post on defense and setting brutal screens. Raw prospects who are new to basketball aren't supposed to be able to bottle up pick and rolls like a ten year veteran. And young Wizards aren't supposed to - gasp! - get noticeably better with each game.
Somehow Seraphin has managed to pull all of this off. He largely struggled as a rookie, and the first half of the 2011- 2012 season seemed like more of the same. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, something seemed to click. He cut his foul rate, became a reliable low post scorer, and even flashed some passing ability. His breakthrough game was the Wizards' come-from-behind win against the Lakers in D.C., a night that saw Seraphin give All-Stars Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum trouble on both ends of the floor. Young players have huge games out of nowhere from time to time, but they're usually flukes. Seraphin just kept going and going after the Lakers game, though, and averaged a very solid 18 points and 9.1 rebounds per 36 minutes for the rest of the season.
So where does he go from here? Seraphin still has holes in his game - he still fouls too much and needs to get more rebounds - and is going to have to fight for minutes now that Emeka Okafor is in town. Nonetheless, his future is very promising, and the upcoming season could see him establish himself as one of the franchise's key players if he can manage to build on last season's success.
Offense: Seraphin is a true throwback big man who loves to play with his back to the basket and drop in hook shots with either hand. Undersized for a center at 6'9, Seraphin makes up for his short (by NBA standards) stature with a very strong base and long arms, allowing him to easily gain position in the paint and shoot over taller defenders. While his post game still isn't complete - most notably, he needs to get to the line far more - he was nonetheless very effective, shooting 47% on post ups (71st in the league in points per possession, largely due to his low free throw rate) as per MySynergySports.
Posting up isn't all Seraphin can do, too. He flashed a decent foul line jump shot last season, was a surprisingly good pick and roll finisher (26th in the league in points per possession), sets excellent screens, and excels at hitting the offensive glass. This season should see him continue to build on his success in all of these areas, with the only cause for concern his tendency to get tunnel vision with the ball - last year's 1.1 assists per 36 minutes won't cut it for a player who hopes to play a major offensive role.
Defense: As promising as Seraphin's offensive game is, his real value is on defense. He has good lateral quickness for such a bulky player, good shot-blocking instincts, and a solid motor. Despite his inexperience, Seraphin excelled on defense last year, with MySynergySports rating him the league's 48th best defensive player overall and its 4th best pick and roll defender. He should be, at worst, a solid defender this year, and possibly a very good one as he gains more experience and learns to cut down on the fouls.
The one area where Seraphin really does need to step it up is on the defensive glass. He pulled down only 6 defensive rebounds per 36 minutes last year, a low number for a center, possibly as a result of chasing blocks. The team's overall rebounding wasn't that much worse with him on the floor, though, and he was actually a net-positive on the glass according to 82games.
Outlook: Seraphin is moving in the right direction and there's a lot of cause for optimism as far as his development is concerned. He's a solid player who still has a lot of room for growth as a rebounder and passer. You have to wonder, though, if he improved too much last year, and if some of his accuracy in the paint is the result of a simple hot streak.
Seraphin's list of closest comparables through his first two seasons reads like a "who's who" of players with enormous physical tools who never became quality players. Stromile Swift, Darko Milicic, and Chris Wilcox, particularly jump out as big men with All-NBA talent who never managed to convert their potential to production, primarily due to a lack of work ethic and mental toughness. By all accounts, though, Seraphin is a very coachable player with a solid work ethic. It's not a guarantee, and some regression to the mean as a post scorer is likely, but Seraphin's future, both long-term and immediate, looks very bright.
Best Case Scenario: Improves his work on the defensive glass, continues to score in the post, and begins to draw praise as one of the NBA's most promising young big men.
Worst Case Scenario: Falls in love with scoring and begins to neglect his defensive duties. The hook shots stop falling, too, as he becomes essentially a poor man's Al Jefferson minus the rebounding.
Statistics (Per 36 Minutes)
Most Similar At Age 22: Stromile Swift