The Bobcats' backcourt depth is by far their best strength as a team. It drives their tempo, which in turn plays to their athletic gifts and youth. They're varied in skills, with Kemba breaking down defenses, Ben Gordon scoring better from behind the three point line than he is from inside it, Gerald Henderson as their lockdown defender -- and then there's Ramon Sessions.
Sessions has been an underground guy for years now, contributing well in a post-LeBron and mostly pre-Kyrie world for Cleveland and then in Los Angeles for the Lakers for a little bit last season. He's especially shown good ability to slash to the rim and finish well there. But his signing with Charlotte was unexpected. After all, how many solid players move from a franchise like the Lakers to a team that previously was the worst team in NBA history?
Sessions seemingly has played well this season, scoring 15 points per game and helping the Bobcats' bench become one of the highest scoring second groups in the league. There's just one problem.
Ramon Sessions is having his least efficient scoring season ever.
Yes, it's true. His effective field goal percentage, which takes into account that three-pointers are worth more than twos, is at a poor 39.8%, his worst since either of his first two years in the league with 44.9% eFG.
His FG% at the rim is a decent 50.5%, which is also his worst ever - by far. Last season he converted 59.5% of his shots at the rim, and his previous lowest was 53.3% his rookie season (via basketball-reference.com). To make matters worse, he's upped his confidence in his three point shot, taking 2.7 per game (most of his career) while making a dreadful 19.4% of those. Most times they're open threes and would be fine shots for other guards, but teams are willing to leave him open for these to back off and prevent him from penetrating to the interior where he's more effective. And it's showing he just can't make these shots. His regression to the mean after last season's surprising range has been sharp.
What's interesting is that his efficiency is suffering so much and yet he's getting to the free throw line at a good clip. The Bobcats need him to score, and the good news is he is doing just that. And despite all these issues, his on-off court stats seem to indicate the team's eFG% actually is a fair bit better when he's on the court. This seems to contradict everything those stats above should indicate, right? If he's shooting so poorly and so often, shouldn't this drag down the team's eFG% when he's on the court?
What changes is that when he's on the court, the team's pace ramps up, per NBA.com's advanced stats site. The Bobcats get about five percent more possessions per 48 minutes when he's on the court, which lessens the negative impact of poor shooting percentages from one person (Sessions). They're having more fastbreak opportunities, just getting shots quicker. Usually Mike Dunlap also runs Sessions alongside Kemba Walker, which helps ball movement and gives the Bobcats a duo that can create plays for others with dribble-drive penetration. It could also be a little skewed because of Ben Gordon shooting flaming basketballs from behind the arc.
Maybe it's because Sessions is used a lot more paired with Kemba and they split point guard duties. This puts Sessions in a different role, with more focus on attacking. This could be hurting his effectiveness as a passer and diminishing his effectiveness as a scorer.
To be honest, I'm not even sure how this happens. It's a very complicated piece of the puzzle. There are so many moving parts that trying to analyze something as varied as scoring can be very difficult to tease things apart.
It's just food for thought at this point. I just wonder how much Sessions' regression in scoring hurts the team.