NBA Free Agency 2012: Why L.A. Lakers Must Move on from Ramon Sessions
Free agent point guard Ramon Sessions has had his Hollywood moment. The votes have been cast and the results are in: It's time for the Lakers to move on and find another actor to play the role.
Like a typical television series that starts out strong, then quickly fades under the pressure of bad scripts, Sessions went from being the next Norm Nixon to forgetting his lines under the glare of the playoff spotlight.
What was obvious about Sessions from the start of his run in L.A. was that he possessed the speed and passing skills the team was sorely lacking. His first handful of games with the Lakers felt like a basketball breath of fresh air—fans had not seen a penetrating, lightning-quick PG in purple and gold since the days of Nixon and Byron Scott back in the 1980s.
In just over a month, Sessions had to learn the Lakers playbook and get acquainted with new teammates. Going from the no-name Cleveland Cavaliers to the Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol Lakers was a lesson in superstar culture shock.
Sessions seemed to relish his new role. In 23 games he averaged 13 points on 48 percent shooting from the floor, including almost 50 percent from beyond the arc. The latter was a pleasant surprise.
Sessions at first came off the bench and provided a much needed spark for the otherwise listless bench. It all looked quite promising until the playoffs came around, at which time he became the incredible shrinking point guard.
In 12 games—and I might add these were the first 12 postseason games of his career—Sessions shot just 38 percent from the field and only 16 percent from three-point range. His assist numbers went from 6.2 to 3.6 and his scoring average dipped to 9.7.
Clearly, this was a severe case of playoff panic.
Should the Lakers Try and Resign Ramon Sessions?
Adding to Sessions' woefully inept offensive game was an exposure and inability to defend against two of the league's top point guards in Denver's Ty Lawson and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.
In seven games, the 5'11" Lawson ran around, through, under and over the taller Sessions—lighting him for 19 points per game on 51 percent shooting. He also handed out six dimes per contest as the Lakers were lucky to survive a series that should not have gone the distance.
Very few guards can stop Westbrook, but Sessions offered virtually no defense as the Thunder used one pick and roll after another to free up their star PG. Westbrook averaged almost 26 points a game in the five-game rout of the Lakers, including a 37-point "blow by" performance at Staples Center in Game 4.
In his defense, Sessions was never going to be "the one." That was supposed to be Chris Paul, but the Lakers caught the short end of a stick when Commissioner and de facto owner of the Hornets David Stern nixed a deal that would have brought the All-Star guard to L.A.
But, then again, L.A. is a town of high expectations, especially for its Lakers. Sessions arrived and the fans expected an immediate upgrade at the position. Many thought he'd be the catalyst to take the team deep into the playoffs.
The fact is, Sessions is an above-average point guard with above-average basketball IQ. With the right personnel alongside him, he may excel and help you win a title.
Had Sessions exercised his player option with the Lakers, he would be worth keeping around for another year in order to give him a training camp and a full, 82-game schedule.
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But now he understandably wants to see if another team will offer him the security of a long-term deal. He's smart to kick some tires. The Lakers are OK with it all if he leaves.
Still, there are pundits who feel Sessions belongs in L.A. despite his poor performance in the playoffs.
As Kevin Ding of the Orange County Register wrote in a column yesterday: "No doubt that Sessions wilted under the playoff microscope and needs Mike Brown to perform the defensive upgrade that the coach did on so many defense-challenged players in Cleveland, but it's more about incorporating his skills better than Sessions not being able to play – especially now that Sessions has some experience with a winning team and taking part in the postseason."
The Lakers were smart to trade for Sessions, but not so smart to trade away their first-round draft pick to get him. As of today, they have neither.
It's time for Lakers management to focus on bringing in a veteran point guard, such as Kyle Lowry or Aaron Brooks, who will seamlessly fit into the Lakers system; and give more minutes to that young, athletic kid at the end of the bench—Darius Morris.
In order to make any of this happen, the team will need to move a piece or two from their current roster. I continue to feel that piece should be Andrew Bynum—he'll bring the most value and give the Lakers what they really need; a superior point guard and a reliable small forward.
Ramon Sessions is not the answer.
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