How Ramon Sessions is making an impact

March, 23, 2012
3/23/12
8:57
AM PT
I was working on something like this, but it turns out Zach Lowe of SI.com not only beat me to the punch, he picked cooler numbers to look at. The eyeball test shows how much better the Lakers have been offensively since the arrival of Ramon Sessions, so it's not all that surprising to see the math tells the same story.

The sample size is small (four games, 100 minutes) and certain numbers are unsustainable (Sessions isn't going to shoot 57 percent, as he's done in purple and gold, for the rest of the year), but early returns are very solid. Writes Lowe:
In the 100 minutes Sessions has played, the Lakers have scored 114 points per 100 possessions, a mark that would lead the league by a mile, according to NBA.com’s stats tool. The Lakers have been more efficient in just about every way possible during those 100 minutes, but two micro-trends stick out:

" They have shot many more three-pointers per minute with Sessions on the floor and made them at a very high rate. This is a great thing for a team that has been one of the two or three worst three-point-shooting teams all season, a damaging flaw that prevents the Lakers from spacing the floor and playing the kind of inside-outside game a team with such great post players should be able to play. The Lakers have attempted the equivalent of 20 threes per 48 minutes with Sessions manning the point, hitting 48 percent. In the 92 minutes Sessions has sat during those four games, the Lakers are still the Lakers, clanking away to the tune of 25 percent from deep on just 14.6 tries.

Some of this has to do with personnel. Sessions has spent half his minutes with Troy Murphy and only 12 minutes total with the Pau Gasol/Andrew Bynum duo. This helps explain not just the three-point tries, but also why the Lakers have gotten to the free-throw line much less often with Sessions playing. Sessions has also shared 91 of his 100 minutes with Matt Barnes, with whom he has immediately developed a nice chemistry, especially in transition. But part of this has to do with the simple fact that Sessions can, you know, run a pick-and-roll (usually with Gasol), get into the lane, draw defenders and make good passes....Bryant has shot more often and more accurately with Sessions on the court, per NBA.com. He has attempted 28 field goals per 48 minutes, a giant number that is nonetheless about equivalent to how often Bryant shot before the Sessions deal. But he has shot 46 percent with Sessions, compared to just 33 percent without him over four games and 43 percent for the season, and he has been deadly from three-point range with Sessions running things. Kobe has hit 6-of-10 from deep since the trade, and at least a few of those looks have been more open spot-up chances than he usually gets."

The impact of Sessions on the offense can be measured in other ways, too.

The Derek Fisher/Steve Blake combination had averaged almost exactly one shot at the rim in the 43 games before the deadline. According to Hoopdata.com, in four games since, Sessions already has 12. Over those 100 minutes, Sessions has been to the line 14 times, only two fewer than Blake in 831 minutes, and 39 less than Fisher in 1101. The figure is inflated slightly by Sessions' 10 FT performance against Utah, but isn't a fluke. For his career, Sessions averages five FTA/36 minutes. Fisher averages 2.8, but hadn't been higher than 2.0 since the '07-'08 season. Blake has averaged under one FT/36 in each of the last five seasons.

The Lakers now have a second guard whose shot must be respected at the rack. Sessions brings layup opportunities and extra free throws, easy points in short supply before his arrival.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see Sessions will help them in transition, either. The Lakers have a reputation as an ineffective team on the run, but they shouldn't. Via Synergy, the Lakers average 1.154 points per transition play, ninth in the league. They just don't get into transition very often -- only 449 possessions on the season, or 9.1 percent of the time, the NBA's lowest mark. Rather than making a bad transition team good, with the Lakers Sessions can, and is, helping provide more opportunities to what is actually a pretty efficient group, odd as it sounds.

And of course, there are the residual effects. The whole "making other guys better" thing. Lowe mentions Kobe's numbers above and touches on Barnes, who with Sessions in uniform has averaged 12 points and two 3-pointers a game while shooting 48.5 percent from the field, all above or well above season standards. He has grabbed 6.25 rebounds a night, too, just for good measure. Talk to him for six seconds by his locker after a game, and it's clear Barnes hearts Sessions, whose style works well with Barnes' skill set.

Lowe rightly notes three of the four teams Sessions has seen as a Laker are in the bottom half of the league defensively, and that teams will adjust to his presence. He also rightly notes how Sessions and the Lakers are operating at the most rudimentary levels right now, and still finding success.

Sessions has long been regarded as a guy who produces when given playing time, but for one reason or another was never given a full fledged opportunity to shine. Certainly he never has been surrounded by the sort of high end talent the Lakers trot out. Some of the numbers will level out going forward, but big picture there's no reason to believe the impact Sessions has had on the team's offense is fluky.

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TEAM LEADERS

POINTS
Nick Young
PTS AST STL MIN
17.9 1.5 0.7 28.3
OTHER LEADERS
ReboundsJ. Hill 7.4
AssistsK. Bryant 6.3
StealsK. Bryant 1.2
BlocksW. Johnson 1.0