The Microscope: On Starting Ramon Sessions (and More)
The Microscope is your recurring look at the NBA's small-scale developments—the rotational curiosities, skill showcases, coaching decisions, notable performances and changes in approach that make the league go 'round.
Ramon Sessions, simultaneously serving as both "starter" and reserve. There's absolutely no question that Ramon Sessions is a better player than Steve Blake; the former is a dynamic half-court playmaker, and the latter is middling even by "game manager" standards. But that alone doesn't necessarily mean that Sessions is the better fit for the starting lineup than his oft-struggling counterpart.
In fact, considering that L.A. is locked in to doling out some playing time to Blake every game (if for no other reason than the lack of sensible alternatives), it makes a fair bit of sense to get him as much floor time with Kobe Bryant as possible.
Basketball leagues, players, and media make an awfully big deal out of being in the starting lineup, but the far greater concerns are playing time and lineup manipulation. Mike Brown is tasked not with putting his top players on the floor to start the game, but to manage his rotation in a way that maximizes the production and effectiveness of his entire rotation.
That may include "hiding" Blake in the starting lineup, where Bryant's versatile skill set allows him to play off the ball, and the dual effectiveness of Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum give Blake easy targets for post entry passes. Meanwhile, Sessions would still log significant playing time (he's played 29 minutes in each of his last two games off the bench for the Lakers, a number which could still increase) while acting as something of a bridge between the first and second units.
Sessions isn't just needed as a catalyst to make Bryant, Gasol, and Bynum better; he's just as valuable—if not more so—for his ability to elevate the play of L.A.'s very marginal role players while Bryant, Gasol, and Bynum sit.
The Suns' platoon-style subs live on. The players have changed, but the idea behind Alvin Gentry's substitutional patterns remains the same; like clockwork, the Suns starters all sub out of the game at the end of the first quarter, paving the way for the lineup of Michael Redd, Sebastian Telfair, Robin Lopez, Markieff Morris, and Shannon Brown to take the floor.
That configuration (and derivations thereof; there has been plenty of toggling between bench players) hasn't exactly been all that productive for Phoenix this season, but we can still admire Gentry's approach—for all its simplicity, is still oddly uncommon. I'd be very curious to see how it might work with a deeper roster, say in Philly or Denver.
Klay Thompson in a volume shooter's paradise. Now that the Warriors are in full-on tank mode, rookie shooter Klay Thompson has stumbled into a startling amount of playing time—and an even more startling number of shots.
With David Lee, Nate Robinson, Dorell Wright, and Richard Jefferson logging big minutes for the Dubs, one wouldn't necessarily peg Thompson for an immediate, high-volume shot taker. Yet there he was on Wednesday night, firing up a team-high 24 attempts both by design and his own willing trigger.
The results have actually been relatively successful, if predictably inefficient; although Thompson has scored in double-digits in each of the last 10 games (including a 27-point, five-rebound, five-assist effort against New Orleans on Wednesday), he converted less than 40 percent of his field goal attempts in six of those ten games*.
That said, Thompson's total floor game has been fairly impressive, and though he may not a be a realistic long-term candidate for the 18+ nightly attempts he's been snagging of late, there's an awful lot to like in Thompson's offensive game.
*To be completely fair, Thompson has been making plenty of three-pointers over that same sample. His true shooting percentage over that stretch is a more palatable, but still underwhelming, 53.8 percent.
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