Tuesday, Sessions opted out of his player’s option for $4.55 million next season to become an unrestricted free agent. The Lakers can still re-sign him but will have to compete with offers from around the league. They also retained his “bird rights,” meaning they will have the first chance to offer him a deal come July 1.
Sessions could be testing the market for a higher offer, or simply is trying to encourage the Lakers to pony up contract with longer term. He has publicly stated that he likes LA. "I want to be here. I don't know what that means or how that's going to happen,” adding, “for a long time.”
Ramon Sessions provided a much needed boost for the Lakers down the stretch, as they fought for a playoff berth. They acquired him from Cleveland at the trade deadline where he averaged 12.7 points and 6.2 assists in 23 regular-season games but dropped off dramatically in the playoffs.
Los Angeles Times writer Mike Breshahan allays any panic by writing “it's only a breakup right now, and not officially a divorce.”
LA could prove to be Session’s best option. But is Sessions best option for the Lakers?
He proved this postseason that he wasn’t the panacea to the Lakers’ title hunt. However, he could be the best affordable option.
The Lakers, with at least five more players to sign to meet minimum roster requirements and already toeing $7 million above the luxury tax threshold, will be absolutely handcuffed financially while shopping for replacements. They can, at best, afford a deal for $3 million dollars, $2.3 million under the league average. At that rate, they couldn’t even afford to sign good old Luke Walton.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak told the LA Times that “both sides have to absorb some risk. I'm not quite sure if he's completely aware of what the future holds for him. We have to plan for the contingency that he won't be available as a free agent."
As of now, Steve Blake is the only point guard under contract, at $4 million over the next two seasons. The Lakers have to decide if they want to bring back Darrius Morris who, as a rookie, signed a peculiar 1 year deal. With Blake, a backup point guard at best, and an untested, rarely used, and unsigned rookie as their current options, the Lakers are very vulnerable at the point guard position.
What stings the most about Sessions opt-out and potential signing elsewhere is the loss of the two draft picks they used to acquire him. They will have nothing to show for it, and even worse, they can't use them to fill their gaping hole.
Possible replacement plans may include a 39 year old Jason Kidd, Kirk Hinrich, Aaron Brooks, or Raymond Felton (if he takes a slight pay cut). ESPN’s Dave McMenamin suggests a trade with the Rockets for either Goran Dragic or Kyle Lowry with Luis Scola is another viable option.
However, if the Lakers want to remain relevant in the West, with the Thunder, Spurs, and Grizzlies – or even relevant in Los Angeles for that matter – they better make big moves. In the twilight of Kobe’s career, Kupchak will need to do more than settle for contingencies.
Deron Williams is of course the honey pot in their current point guard beehive but unless they trade big they can’t afford him. Consider it unlikely.
If Laker fans don’t already, they should scorn the meddling David Stern for striking down the Chris Paul deal which would not only have brought them a quality point guard, but would have opened much needed salary cap room. Yet, there is no solace in IF.
Their offseason needs, much like last season, include more depth in the front court to support Bynum and Gasol (if they keep them), more speed (which Sessions helped address) and better perimeter shooting.
To give a simple answer to the overarching question, the solution to the Lakers’ improvement runs much deeper than Ramon Sessions.
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