The Seraphin Problem

Fifth year center Kevin Seraphin has consistently gotten playing time as Washington’s backup center. I’ve written many times about why this is a bad idea, but it hasn’t cost the team much. Yet. There still seems to be a sentiment that Seraphin has improved, but…well…let’s look at the numbers.

Here’s Seraphin’s PPA for each game this season:

Date   Opp MP PPA
10/29/2014 @ MIA 7.7 -182
10/30/2014 @ ORL 1.9 -903
11/4/2014 @ NYK 22.1 166
11/5/2014 IND 13.9 -75
11/7/2014 @ TOR 18.1 58
11/8/2014 @ IND 19.5 126
11/12/2014 DET 16.7 -62
11/15/2014 ORL 16.1 -32
11/19/2014 DAL 10.6 -33
11/21/2014 CLE 23.4 75
11/22/2014 @ MIL 13.1 -26
11/25/2014 ATL 14.8 -11
11/26/2014 @ CLE 22.7 -15
11/29/2014 NOP 6.7 -26
12/1/2014 MIA 19.6 19
12/3/2014 LAL 14.1 13
12/5/2014 DEN 22.5 156
12/7/2014 @ BOS 10.2 171
12/8/2014 BOS 16.4 257
12/10/2014 @ ORL 12.1 74
12/12/2014 LAC 15.4 -56
12/14/2014 UTA 16.0 -54
12/16/2014 MIN 17.1 52

For three straight games in December, it looked like maybe Seraphin had suddenly deciphered the league, but he followed it up with four not-so-good performances. Okay, that was generous. Two of those games were horrific, and one was downright awful.

Here’s a breakdown of his season so far:

QUAL               COUNT                     %
Average or better 5 22%
Replacement level or worse 14 61%
Negative 12 52%

For those keeping score at home, Seraphin has played 23 games this season. He’s been an average or better producer in five of those contests — 22%. He’s been replacement level or worse in 14 of 23 — 61%. He’s been a net negative (bad plays have outweighed the good) 12 of 23 — 52%.

He has been better in December with two very good games and one great one. But, in the nine games so far this month, there are still four that rate below replacement level (two of which were net negatives), and a fifth that was just barely above replacement level (the most recent). Net for the month, a PPA of 70 in which 94% of his production came in just three games.

When I look at his total credits, 84% of his season production has been in December — 79% in that single three-game stretch.

So far this season, 56 players identified as centers by Basketball-Reference have played at least 150 minutes. Of those players, Seraphin ranks is tied for 51st in total production credits. In PPA (the per possession stat I usually publish), he’s third from the bottom. Only Kendrick Perkins and Jason Smith have been less productive per minute.

Here’s where Seraphin ranks among centers in various statistical categories:

STAT KS RANK
mpg 45
ortg 48
usg 11
pts 12
efg 26
ft% 38
oreb 43
dreb 36
reb 40
ast 12
tov 52
stl 56
blk 37
pf 54
def 54

The non-efficiency stats are in production per 100 possessions. What I see here is a guy who uses a lot of possessions, but not efficiently. His shooting is okay and he has become a willing passer, but his turnovers are a big problem. Also, he’s a sub-par rebounder and a very poor defender. (See that last entry — Seraphin ranks as the league’s third worst defensive center, according to the defense part of my metric. Only Jason Smith and Alex Ajinca rate worse so far this season.)

As I mentioned earlier, the Wizards schedule has been easy enough, and the starters have been good enough, that they haven’t been hurt much by giving Seraphin a steady diet of minutes. But, when competition gets tougher, the Seraphin problem will arise.

For now, it’s probably okay to continue playing him in the hopes that whatever fell into place December 5-8 will fall again and that Seraphin will become a solid reserve. Barring that unlikely event, the time is coming when the experiment will need to end. To that end, the Wizards might be wise to find minutes for DeJuan Blair, and to plan for the time when their PF/C rotation will be Marcin Gortat, Nenê, Kris Humphries and Paul Pierce.

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