New Orleans Pelicans MLE Tournament: Marvin Williams vs. Kevin Seraphin

Published: June 12, 2014

This round of the MLE Tournament pits Marvin Williams against Kevin Seraphin. For past matchups, click here. 

Marvin Williams (2 Years and $9.5 million)

by Mason Ginsberg

When most avid New Orleans basketball fans hear Marvin Williams’ name, they understandably think back the 2005 NBA draft. The Hawks used the second overall pick to select him, deciding to pass on two point guards by the names of Deron Williams and Chris Paul. What you may not know is while Williams is certainly no D-Will or CP3, he has become a solid NBA wing in multiple areas with excellent measurements for his position.

First, it is important to note that not everything Marvin Williams does shows up in a routine box score. For example, of the ten Utah Jazz players who logged at least 500 minutes this season, no one posted a higher net rating than Williams. The Jazz were outscored by 8.4 points per 100 possessions in the 2013-14 season, but were 2.8 points per 100 possessions better than that while Williams was on the court. Compare that with Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors – arguably their two most talented players – whose net ratings were -8.4 and -8.7 respectively. This means that the Jazz’s net rating was exactly the same whether Hayward was on or off the court, and they were actually slightly better with Favors on the bench. Obviously, there is a ton of noise that goes along with this data, but the point must be remembered is that the Utah Jazz were considerably better with Williams in the game.

Before diving into details about his skill set, let’s start off with his pre-draft measurements; in particular, I want to compare him to another player with whom you will all be very familiar (data courtesy of Draft Express):

AFA vs. Williams

One of these players is Marvin Williams. Before asking the question “who is the other?”, I would actually argue that the more important point is the strong similarity between the two players. Williams is Player B. Player A? Al-Farouq Aminu. Ever since he came into the league, AFA has been heavily touted for his measurements and his athleticism. It could be argued that Marvin Williams deserves this praise more than Aminu does, as Williams’ vertical is even higher while being equal in virtually every height and wingspan evaluation. The difference is that, unlike Aminu, Williams has to be defended outside of the paint.

Speaking of having to defend Williams outside of the paint, Williams has made 35.7% of his three point attempts on 549 attempts over his past three seasons. Eric Gordon, on the other hand, has made 35.5% on 471 attempts over that same time period. While hardly a deadly perimeter threat, he is capable of knocking down open threes, and has improved his ability from this distance as his career has progressed. Add to that the fact that he is taking smarter shots than he used to – he reduced his percentage of total shot attempts between 16 feet out and the 3-point line from 24% to 18% from last season to this one while increasing his percentage of total shot attempts from beyond the arc from about 35% to 44%.

Marvin is also a very good rebounder for his size; his total rebound rate of 11.5% this past season was the same as another relatively well-known small forward – LeBron James. This skill cannot be discounted, especially under the assumption that the Anderson/Davis front court is the long-term solution for the Pelicans. While offensive rebounding isn’t necessarily a weakness for that combo, defensive rebounding is a reasonable concern, so help from other positions would be quite beneficial. Williams’ 17.9% defensive rebound rate isn’t quite at Aminu’s elite rebounding level (21.2% last season), but it’s still above average, and given how much more Williams brings on offense, there is no question about the upgrade he would bring for this team.

But this debate isn’t Williams vs. Aminu; fortunately, it’s much easier than that, as I only have to dispel Kevin Seraphin. You know, someone who averaged fewer minutes per game for the Wizards than Jan Vesely and Al Harrington, two players who poster PERs below 12 with Washington this past season. Seraphin couldn’t get minutes behind a couple of front court guys (Harrington and Drew Gooden) making the league minimum, and $10 million over 3 years is his expected contract? The guy is a little above average for his position on the offensive glass and (according to a relatively small sample size) can hold his own while defending in the post, but that’s pretty much where the good news ends. He can’t really score apart from put-backs, he turned the ball over on a higher percentage of plays than Ryan Anderson and Anthony Davis did combined last year, and he averaged more fouls per 36 minutes (6.4) than Greg Stiemsma did for the Pelicans (!). This proposed contract is a prime example of paying a premium – in this case, maybe even as high as 300% above his actual talent level – just because a guy is still young and “has potential.” Seraphin is a player I’d be okay with signing for one year to see what Monty and the rest of the coaching staff can get out of him. Three, though? And for over $3 million per season? Absolutely not.

A lot of the players in this MLE tournament are largely unknowns in terms of their potential contributions to the team. Some have higher potential that they may or may not reach, others are coming off of injuries that have depressed their value. With Marvin Williams, you know what you’re getting – a high IQ, team-first player who already has nine years of NBA experience at age 27, and someone who brings a sense of two-way consistency to the small forward position that the Pelicans have lacked for a very long time. Williams may not win this tournament, but when pitted against an unknown like Seraphin, there isn’t much to think about.

Kevin Seraphin (3 years and $10 million)

by: Michael McNamara

A bottle of sweat or a warm Diet Coke – which one do you wanna drink?

Weird question to start this I know, but I am getting to a point I promise. The Augustin monk Thomas a Kempi said it best over 600 years ago when he said, “Of two evils, the less is always to be chosen.” Hopefully, you all chose the warm Diet Coke, and likewise, you will all choose Kevin Seraphin. Seraphin is a young big man who can defend at a high level while also showing some potential on the offensive end. Marvin Williams, meanwhile, is the definition of average as he enters his 10th year in the NBA.

I am not going to lie here or exaggerate in any way, because I am not a huge fan of Seraphin. He can defend the low post, but as I have written in the past, that should not be our biggest concern. What does excite me, though, is his ability to defend in the pick and roll. In addition to his 6’9” 265 pound frame, he has a 7’3” wingspan and a 9’1” standing reach and that allows him to cause problems when he hedges or close space quickly when his teammate goes under and he has to contest the jumper. Watch this play for an example of what Seraphin can bring to our pick and roll defense. 

His post up defense is good too, especially when you look at him against the two best post players in this division going forward. It is a small sample size, I know, but in 14 post opportunities, Dwight Howard and Marc Gasol combined to go 1-8 with 4 turnovers and 2 fouls drawn. Two of the four free throws were made, meaning four points on 14 low post possessions for those two guys that the Pelicans will see 8 times per year. If Monty and Dell want a guy who they can play 15-20 minutes per game to battle guys like that, Seraphin might be there man.

Monty Williams, in fact, said that is exactly what he is looking for but he also acknowledged that the guy has to at least be a threat on offense after the Stiemsma fiasco. Seraphin is no stud on that end, but he is a threat. He is a solid post up player who is smart enough to recognize when to cut effectively and he can also kill teams on the offensive glass when he gets it and puts it back. According to Synergy, he ranked 36th in the entire NBA off cuts and 12th when it came to scoring off offensive rebounds.

Check out this smart little move Seraphin made (against us ironically) to get some space and finish emphatically. Just a tad bit more explosive than Stiemsma. And can’t you just imagine teams focusing on AD and our guards, forgetting about Seraphin, which allows him to do this? Long story short, Seraphin is the guy Dell thought he was getting when he traded for Robin Lopez two years ago – a 15 to 20 minute big who can defend the big bodies and give you occasional offense. Lopez exceeded those expectations, and its possible Seraphin can too. When the Wizards traded for Marcin Gortat right before the season started, they essentially killed any chance for Seraphin to develop after showing some solid potential early in his career. Again, sounds like Lopez.

Meanwhile, if you choose Marvin Williams, you are voting for mediocrity – and that’s on a good day. Williams shoots an average field goal percentage, average three-point percentage, has an average free throw percentage, a slightly above average rebound rate, a below average PER, assist rate, steal rate, and block rate. He is just…meh. You wanna give that guy nearly five million per year? I sure as heck don’t, not when the small forward free agent class will be loaded next summer. I would rather have his teammate Richard Jefferson for one year because he will play just as well but he will be off your books next summer.

Yes, average is an upgrade over Aminu but you don’t dump the neurotic, selfish, jobless, gold-digging girlfriend just to settle for a bitter and mean one. You gotta think big picture here, and if you have to choose one, choose the guy who can have a clear role on this team at the very least and could break out like Jason Smith and Robin Lopez did after spending some time in Monty’s system. Take the guy on the cheaper contract that can give the best big men in our division problems when they try to bully us.

Take the warm Diet Coke. At least for this round.



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