"I think the last time the Lakers had a point guard this quick was Norm Nixon," said James Worthy of the former All-Star and two-time world champion Lakers PG who was drafted by and played for the purple and gold from 1977-83, averaging 17 points and eight assists.
Worthy was speaking about newly acquired Ramon Sessions, the speedy 6"3" PG who has played in all six games following his trade to Los Angeles on March 15. While he has a ways to go before he could call himself an All-Star and NBA champion, Sessions certainly brings so much more to the Lakers than sheer quickness.
The ex-Cleveland Cavalier who was originally drafted in the second round out of Nevada by the Milwaukee Bucks is more than just speedy. He's a difference maker, the type of point guard the Lakers have desperately been looking for to help navigate a half-court offense that was getting musty and old by the minute.
The Dallas Mavericks exposed and embarrassed the Lakers in the Western Conference semifinals last year, clearly pointing out that the team had no answer at the point.
There are a number of reasons to like this trade a lot—perhaps even more than the original Chris Paul deal that NBA Commissioner and de facto owner of the New Orleans Hornets David Stern killed at the 11th-hour last December. That nixed deal would have dealt both Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol out of Los Angeles, which I still think would have been a horrible move—you just don't trade two All-Star seven-footers for a short point guard, no matter how good he is.
Ramon Sessions certainly makes the Lakers a better all-around team, one that could give Oklahoma City a battle for supremacy in the Western Conference. And the Lakers still have their big three of Pau Gasol, Andrew Bynum and Kobe Bryant intact.
Going back to last summer, Sessions was one of a handful of NBA point guards that I wrote about who were at the top of my list to acquire. He seemed to be one of those maturing PGs that just needed the right home in order to truly blossom. He's found that home in L.A.
Sessions is with his fourth team in five years, but don't let that scare you. He was drafted near the end of the draft in 2007 and dealt to Minnesota where he played just one season before being sent to the Cavs in 2010. Sessions averaged 13.3 points per game on 47 percent shooting and 5.2 assists that year, but instead of drafting power forward Derrick Williams in the draft last summer, the Cavs took super point guard Kyrie Irving with the first pick.
Sessions was expendable and the Lakers came calling—along with a lot of other teams.
Derek Fisher was the ideal floor leader for Phil Jackson and the triangle offense, but lacked the speed at age 37 to help the Lakers transition to being a younger, quicker group that could defend against the elite point guards from contenders like Oklahoma City, Miami and Chicago.
Sessions, on the other hand, at age 25 is lightening quick, able to shift from first to fifth or from warp speed to second gear in an instant, usually make good decisions in the process.
Sessions is averaging 14.3 points and just under seven assists in six games with the Lakers. He had 20 and 11 in his first start Friday against Portland, a win. Sessions added 18 points and five assists Sunday in a six-point loss to Memphis. He would have had twice that many assists if some of his teammates—most notably Pau Gasol—made their shots.
As Lakers coach Mike Brown told Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times on Sunday, "There's a lot of other things [opposing coaches] have got to address. As much as they talk about Andrew's post-ups, you've got to talk about Ramon Sessions' middle pick-and-roll. You've got to talk about Sessions' side pick-and-roll. You've got to talk about Sessions in transition. You've got to talk about Sessions and Kobe 1-2 pick-and-roll. He does make us more dynamic."
I realize he's only played six games for the Lakers, but Ramon Sessions has already made a believer out of me and thousands of L.A. fans. He's learning the Lakers' system and its players quickly and taking the extra practice time to get it right knowing the season is short and the playoffs are just around the corner.
I'd like to see Sessions improve on his turnover ratio—he's had three each of the last three games and occasionally makes a pass he'd like to have back.
The Lakers traded Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a draft pick for Ramon Sessions. Although it may not have the immediate, championship hopeful look the team had when it snatched Gasol from Memphis four years ago, this trade still seems like a steal to me.
Jim Buss, Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak get high marks for this move. Sessions makes the Lakers quicker, more energetic and able to penetrate more effectively to the basket. Forward Matt Barnes, a natural "activity" player who loves to move without the ball, is experiencing a resurgence and often is the recipient of a bullet assist from the new PG.
For this trade, the Lakers score an A.
If the team gets deep into the playoffs and possibly to the NBA Finals—that grade is sure to go up.