Lakers Off-Season Expectations for Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake
The NBA Draft is finally here, and questions surrounding what next season’s Lakers roster will look like are still at a high. This is the third and final post of the three-part series regarding off-seasons plans and expectations for selected players. We have covered Kobe Bryant, Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol and Metta World Peace so far. Now, we will finish with analyzing the Lakers point guard position players, Ramon Sessions and Steve Blake.
During the 2010-11 season, the need for an upgrade at the point guard position became more and more apparent as the season rolled on. For about a decade, the point guard wasn’t a crucial position in Phil Jackson and Tex Winter’s triangle offense. Therefore, Derek Fisher was a perfect fit as the Lakers primary point guard. Don’t get me wrong, Fisher is a talent, but his intangibles like leadership and basketball IQ are more valued than his numbers that show up on a stat sheet.
Therefore, as the need to improve at the point position grew as we got deeper into last season and as we became more familiar with Mike Brown’s system, Lakers management made the tough but necessary decision to make a trade. A trade was made to bring Ramon Sessions to LA from Cleveland, while Derek Fisher was moved to Houston, where he eventually landed in Oklahoma City after a buyout from the Rockets.
Personally, I was excited to see Sessions as a Laker as I thought he would be a good fit for the team and had previously written an article the previous summer suggesting that the Lakers acquire him. First impressions of Sessions in purple and gold were great, and my expectations, as well as the majority of Laker fans, were risen of Sessions based on his early performances as a Laker.
Sessions brought speed, athleticism and a willingness to be aggressive and drive the ball to the Lakers backcourt. Questions of how Sessions would work with Bryant in the backcourt were put on the back burner as they seemed to work pretty well with each other, considering the lack of time they had to practice and get familiar with one another. However, all of that was about to change in the playoffs.
His postseason started well (14/5 on 6-of-11 shooting in Game 1 against Denver) but was for the most part from that point forward a massive disappointment. Overall, in 12 games, Sessions averaged only 9.7 points and 3.7 assists, shot 37.7 percent from the floor, and 16 percent from beyond the arc. His perimeter game totally disappeared, and in response the Thunder/Nuggets (giggle) played about nine feet off every screen and refused to let Sessions beat them with the drive.
By the end of the playoffs, he seemed totally discombobulated, reluctant to shoot and not all that sure where to go with the ball. Sessions joined a fairly well populated group of players who failed in their first postseason runs.”
In twenty-three games with the Lakers, Sessions averaged 12.7 points, 6.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds on 47.9 percent shooting from the field and 48.6 percent from the three-point line in 30.5 minutes per game. Sessions struggled on defense in pick and roll plays and with defending away from the ball and on the weak side. He also showed too much hesitation on offense, which would lead to ill-advised passes or forced shots. However, he is young and if he works on these issues during the off-season, he could come back to the Lakers much improved.
Sessions recently opted out of his contract with the Lakers to pursue free agency. However, this decision should come as no surprise as this was Sessions’ idea months ago. He wants a long-term deal and as he referred to in his exit interview, wants to stay and build a future with the Lakers.
The chances of this happening are looking better everyday since the Lakers chance of acquiring Deron Williams are very slim. Working as an advantage for him, when management traded for Sessions, Mitch Kupchak reported that the trade was to bring in a player for the future. However, if there is an opportunity to improve in this position and it works financially with the Lakers desired cap, management would have to move on from Sessions. Therefore, come July 11th the Lakers will go after Sessions if a better option doesn’t present itself.
Steve Blake has had an unimpressive two seasons, including the playoffs, so far with the Lakers. Although he has had moments where he seemed to break through the mediocrity, overall Blake’s performances were unforgettable. Last season, he averaged a career-low from the three-point line with 33.5 percent. Blake put up zeros in way too many games throughout the year.
He struggled with his ability to spread the floor and while he was able to get open for the open shot, he was ultimately unable to consistently knock it down. This is an area that the Lakers are in desperate need of. Since Andrew Bynum is getting many more touches inside every game, it is becoming the norm for him to get double-teamed. The Lakers need to recognize the double-team and kick it out for an open shot. Additionally, it would be nice if those open shots could be counted on to convert.
Blake is very likely to return to the Lakers next season. However, during the off-season he needs to improve his confidence in his shot, which he has struggled with consistently during his time in Los Angeles. Once he does this, his percentage, especially at the three-point line, will improve. This would be a win-win scenario for Steve Blake and the Lakers as they both move forward.