As the trade deadline ticked over last week, we saw a couple of somewhat marquee players in Gerald Wallace and Nene being shipped to new locations. However, the deal most likely to have the greatest impact on the final stretch of the NBA season was the trade which saw the Los Angeles Lakers acquire Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga, in exchange for Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a (lottery protected) first round pick.
Most casual basketball fans (particularly those in Australia) may struggle to understand that out of all the deadline trades that took place, this is the one worth talking about. Sessions, the 56th overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, has spent the last two seasons as the back-up point guard of the struggling Cavaliers, so it’s plausible that his talents may have slipped through the cracks. Jeremy Lin is evidence that it can happen.
As a rookie with the Bucks, Sessions spent most of the season on the inactive list. Mo Williams had been tagged as the Bucks point guard of the future, and if it weren’t for Williams missing 16 games during that season, chances are Sessions would never have had the opportunity to play meaningful minutes in an NBA game, much less set a Milwaukee franchise record with 24 assists in a single game.
In 2009 Sessions signed an offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves, which was unmatched by the Bucks. There he would join a backcourt that included highly touted rookie prospect, Jonny Flynn, but essentially, both were warming the seat for eventual starter and saviour, Ricky Rubio.
The point of this history lesson is that throughout the first five years of Sessions’ NBA career, he’s never had a clearly defined role, but with the Lakers he finally has one. In his somewhat limited time in starting roles, Sessions has shown that he’s more than capable of rising to the occasion, and that he’s worthy of being labelled a starter in this league.
As demonstrated in the Lakers dismantling of the reigning champs on ESPN, a pure point guard like Sessions makes life easier for the Lakers front court, particularly Pau Gasol. Over the last three games with Sessions playing significant minutes for the Lakers, Gasol has averaged over 21 points per game, that’s five points above his season average.
Obviously three games is a small sample size and nothing to take too seriously, but what can be taken seriously is the Lakers newly found ability to space the floor. With Kobe slashing along the baseline, Bynum working the low block, and Gasol spotting up from mid range, the Lakers have become a far more difficult cover than they were prior to the addition of Sessions, and for the first time in a while they look like a dangerous matchup for anyone headed in to the playoffs.
Sessions is a good pick and roll point guard, a great ball handler and above everything else, he can distribute the ball effectively. His main criticism entering the league was his inability to create his own shot, but in Los Angeles he’ll be running the Mike Brown offense (Kobe Bryant) so that potential flaw shouldn’t be an issue. While Sessions might not impose too much of a threat on the defensive end, what he will do is put the ball right where his teammates want it, relieve Kobe from playing too many minutes, and he’ll knock down jump shots when his number’s called.