Ramon Sessions, a journeyman point guard with nine years of NBA experience spread across seven teams, is no stranger to Charlotte.
It was another time, another time, but Sessions spent 116 games in town as a member of the Bobcats. Yes, I had to use the ‘B’ word, I apologize for any flashbacks or emotional trauma that might cause for the diehards reading this.
During his first go-round in North Carolina, Sessions played about 25 minutes per game averaging more than 12 points and about 3.7 assists during that span. He also started just seven of those 116 games.
Fast-forward to 2016-17, Sessions returns to Charlotte, now a member of the Charlotte Hornets. The expectations were about the same. If Sessions could return and offer about 10 points and three assists, soaking up about 18-20 minutes a game to give All-Star guard Kemba Walker rest without the second unit falling apart, things were going to be golden.
It was going to be hard for the Hornets to repeat their regular season success of the 2015-16 season. They had all the starting pieces in place, it was always coming down to the bench. But those starting pieces came with a price tag. Both Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum came off career years, also known as contract seasons, and the re-up cost Charlotte a pretty penny. That left them just enough room to fill the roster, but not enough to avoid a drop off between the starters and the second team.
Like a lot of things, this didn’t go according to plan for the Hornets.
Sessions gave them backup level statistics, but was far from overwhelming. He played 16.2 minutes and squeaked out 6.2 points, 2.6 assists and 1.5 rebounds. Those aren’t good numbers, but it helped Charlotte find some small amount of rest for Walker. You’ll be shocked, I’m sure, but Sessions left the Hornets missing Jeremy Lin and that’s a fact.
What hurt both Sessions and Charlotte, who was already thing at guard, was a lateral meniscus tear. H suffered the injury to his left knee on February 1, and wouldn’t take the court again the rest of the season. They got 50 games of replacement-level production from Sessions and then he was gone. With Ramon in the lineup, the team went 23-27. After losing him, the team finished 13-19. Worse, but not much worse.
I hesitate to place too much value on what Sessions brought as the backup point guard. Based on record, they were marginally worse without him. Also, his four best games of the year, based on Basketball Reference’s game score, were in wins for the team. That seems reasonable, but it doesn’t draw any strong inferences.
With 32 games with inactive next to his name, there was a lot left unsaid about what Sessions could have done to help this team as they struggled down the stretch. Of course, we probably haven’t seen the last of Sessions. While nothing is certain, the Hornets do have an option on him for 2017-18. It would cost the team $6.2 million.
I’m sure you’re thinking something similar to what I was thinking -– let the man go. He doesn’t need to be more than a backup for Kemba, but even in that role he didn’t emerge as an asset for this team this year. There is a problem with that line of thought. The contracts for Marvin and Nic, combined with the rest of this roster have put Charlotte over the cap. They’re far enough over that even if they decline their option on Sessions, they won’t escape the cap. That means they will not have any room to go out and grab a player better than what they have in Sessions.
The level of play and the eventual season-ending injury really hurt both Sessions and the Hornets in 2016-17, but they’re not going to find a better option on the market for the money they’ll have available. They might still opt to not exercise their option, but it might be a good idea to get used to Ramon and hope that he can rebound from one of the worst seasons of his career and help our Hornets get back to playoffs in 2017-18.