Friday, February 13, 2009

Ramon Enjoying Some Great Court “Sessions”

Ramon Sessions is the real deal.

The second-year point guard, selected ahead of just four players, in the 2007 draft, is not only establishing himself, along with Detroit’s Rodney Stuckey, as one of the two best point guards (a pretty impressive feat for the tenth PG selected), but has also emerged as a top-ten player from that draft- and is threatening to crack the top-five. Sessions joined the Bucks in March, after spending much of his rookie season in the NBDL. He didn’t get consistent minutes until the last month of the season, and once he did, he began showing flashes of becoming the steal of the 2007 draft, averaging over eleven points and eleven assists, highlighted by a 20-point, 24-assist explosion against the Chicago Bulls in the season’s next-to-last game.

Sessions’ late-season performance was a fantastic surprise for the Bucks, earning him the backup point guard role behind (gulp) Luke Ridnour. After a strong start to the season, averaging 15.6 points and almost six assists in 33.7 minutes per game in November, and failing to hit double-figures just once, Sessions saw a dramatic drop in his minutes, seeing the floor for just 16 minutes a night from the start of December through January 19, most likely a reminder from coach Scott Skiles (one of the NBA’s best) to maintain his commitment to defense as well.

Since working his way back into Skiles’ rotation, Sessions has played at least 25 minutes in ten of eleven games (the Bucks are 6-4), scoring at least 15 points eight times, dishing out at least seven assists five times, including a season-high 17 assists in a February 11 win over Indiana. As injuries have ravaged the Bucks roster in recent weeks, particularly in the backcourt (a torn ACL ended Michael Redd’s season on January 24 and a broken thumb on February 5 knocked Ridnour out of action for a month), Ramon Sessions quickly became the team’s most significant player, asked to shoulder the greatest responsibility of his young pro career.

If the early returns are any indication, he’s definitely up to the challenge. In eight games since Redd went down (the last three without Ridnour as well), all starts for Sessions, the Bucks have won four (their season win% is .473), and Sessions has been their rock in the backcourt, averaging 20.8 points, 7.5 assists and almost 2 steals in 38+ minutes per game, looking like a man with no intention of returning to the bench, putting up a career-high 44 points (on just 18 field goal attempts) and handing out 12 assists in 47 minutes in his first game following Ridnour’s injury.

Sessions’ 2008-09 stats compare very favorably with Ridnour’s, despite playing nearly six fewer minutes per game, but his numbers in eleven starts this season (18.5 points, 3.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 1.9 steals in 39 minutes per game), easily outpace Ridnour’s, showing that not only is Ramon Sessions not padding his stats against second-string defenses, he’s actually thriving when placed front and center. Sessions’ performance this season has created a legitimate point guard controversy in Milwaukee- and has given the Bucks a difficult decision to make this summer. Then again, maybe not…

Much like Gilbert Arenas in 2003, Sessions stands to benefit handsomely from slipping into the second round, avoiding the shackles of a guaranteed first round contract (3 years, with a team option for a fourth), as his current deal expires at season’s end. He’s earning $722,000 this season and is in line to reap the rewards of his recent form, as well as his strong play as a starter- if not from the Bucks, then from a variety of other teams. Sessions is likely to receive two things this offseason- a long-term contract paying him at least $6 million per season, and a starting point guard spot, and considering he’s a lightning-quick young point guard who’s capable of hitting for 40 points or dishing out 15 assists, the Milwaukee Bucks have no excuse for not giving him both.

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