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Wizards player review: Seraphin

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Wizards player review: Seraphin

Kevin Seraphin was one of the real bright spots in an otherwisedisappointingseason for the 20-46 Wizards. The second-year centerforward was far and away the most improved player in the NBA after the All-Star break, averaging 14 points and 7 rebounds in 21 starts. It was an amazing turnaround from a player who was so far down the Wizards' bench at one time that he didn't evenplay in eight games in the first two months of the season.

But when Flip Saunders got fired, interim coach Randy Wittman gave the burly 6'-9" French Guyana native a chance to show what he had and Seraphin responded. In one of the team's biggest upsets of the season against the Lakers in early March, Seraphin was sensational, scoring 14 huge points and grabbing 9 rebounds in the surprising win. That performance certainly gave Seraphin confidence for the rest of the season.

In that month of March, Seraphin averaged 9 points and 5 rebounds but he would be even better in April. Withrecentlyacquired center and starter Nene missing time with a foot injury, Seraphin stepped in and more than filled his shoes, showing dynamic footwork and low-post moves that made him a tough stop defensively.

Seraphin averaged 15 points and 9 rebounds in the final month of the season, including a career-high 24 points and 13 boards in a win over Orlando. Seraphin followed that up with 21 points, 13 rebounds and 5 blocks in a win at Chicago in mid-April.Seraphin closed out the season with 16 straight games in which he scored in double figures.

Seraphin is a strong player who can bang with the best down low but he seems to be carrying a few extra pounds and he would be even more effective in all areas of his game if he is able to shed some weight this off-season.

Seraphin's emergence as a solid front-court player makes the Wizards even more likely to take a shooting guard this summer in the draft rather than a power forward, which was a need until Seraphin showed he could play.

If Nene can stay healthy, the Wizards starting five next year would likely have Seraphin penciled in at the power forward spot.

In just a short span, Seraphin shed the project label and he now has the look of a player who will be a contributor to the Wizards for many seasons to come. It was quite a season for Seraphin, especially the second-half.

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John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

John Wall says Wizards will do less talking this year, but could be best team he's played on

The Wizards in recent years have made a habit of trying to speak things into existence and then not having them actually come into existence. They have talked the talk and then sometimes haven't walked the walk.

A few instances come to mind, including Bradley Beal saying of the LeBron James-led Cleveland Cavaliers that "they didn't want to see us" in the playoffs. Beal also said in November that the Washington was the best team in the East, just hours before James scored 57 points in the Wizards' building.

John Wall has made similar proclamations in the past, usually about himself, including how he is the best point guard in the Eastern Conference. Now, these statements were all relatively normal for professional athletes who pride themselves in always feeling like they are the best player on the floor or the field. It's part of the mindset that makes them who they are.

But when those statements are made and then not backed up, they can be tough to defend, and especially for a Wizards team which last season seemed to overlook the lesser teams and suffered a down year because of it.

Wall insists all that is about to change. In his 1-on-1 interview with Chris Miller on our Wizards Tipoff podcast, Wall said the message this year will be much different, much more muted than it has been in the past.

"We want to go out with a different mindset and a different focus. We're not trying to go in and think we're a team that has already established something and got respect from people. We have to earn that respect and that means going out and competing every night against the good teams or the bad teams," he said.

That doesn't mean Wall isn't confident. His belief in himself hasn't wavered and, in fact, he may believe in his team more now than ever. That's because he is happy with the offseason the front office has produced.

They signed Dwight Howard and Jeff Green in free agency, traded for Austin Rivers and drafted Troy Brown, Jr. in the first round. All should help the Wizards improve between Howard representing an upgrade at starting center and the others providing much-needed depth.

When Wall was asked by Chris if this is the most complete team he has played with in Washington, Wall left no doubts.

"Yeah, for sure. I definitely think so," he said. "I think it gives us the opportunity where we don't have to play as many minutes. That's the key. At the end of the year, you kind of fall short because you're fatigued. Nobody uses that as an excuse. You play and try to get into the best shape possible. But if you're playing 24 minutes, the whole half, and then 24 minutes and the whole half, you kind of get tired at some point. I think those guys can take a little of the burden and pressure off of us at times."

Listen to Wall's full 1-on-1 interview on the Wizards Tipoff podcast:

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Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

Austin Rivers believes he can help the Wizards on defense as much as anything

When asked at his introductory press conference for how he will fit on the Wizards' roster from a basketball perspective, guard Austin Rivers didn't first cite his three-point shooting, his ability to affect games scoring off the bench or his speed to run the floor with John Wall and Bradley Beal. The first thing he point to was his defense.

That may have surprised some people out there as Rivers has long been known for his scoring ability and not so much his skills on the other end. It's not that he can't play defense, it's just that most of the highlights he's produced over the years have been due to his high-flying finishes at the rim and wicked pull-up jumper from three-point range.

Defense, though, is something Rivers takes pride in and he hopes to continue developing as a defender in Washington.

"With how much Brad and John have to do every night, for them to not have to always guard the best guard on the other team, that's something I can come in here and do. Try to bring that competitive spirit and be one of the defenders on the team," Rivers said.

Rivers' defensive ability has produced some controversy among Wizards fans and media members on social media. Some insist he does not bring value on that end of the floor, while some numbers suggest he does have some defensive potential.

Last season, Rivers averaged a career-high 1.2 steals per game. He was tied for fifth on the Clippers in defensive win shares.

However, his 113 defensive rating was his worst since 2013-14. It was an outlier on the Clippers and not in the good way. He also ranked nowhere near the top of the league in deflections or contested three-point shots, two hustle stats that guys like Wall and Beal fair well in.

Rivers points to two attributes that he believes make him a strong perimeter defender. One is his versatility and the other you could call scrappiness.

"On defense [the Wizards] can switch one through three or one through four. I think that gives us a lot of dangerous options," he said.

As for his scrappiness, Rivers says it comes from the early days of his career.

"I had to figure out ways to be effective without [a jumpshot] and that's how I became a defender. I guess everything happens for a reason, right? I'm happy I did have those early career struggles because it made me find a side of me that I didn't do [early on]. Because I promise you I didn't play any defense at Duke," he said.

The last line drew laughter from those gathered at his introductory press conference. Rivers insists that he now takes that end of the floor very seriously. The Wizards certainly hope he can back up his words.

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