This is the second in a series of posts grading the Lakers on their efforts in the 2011-12 season.
Player: Ramon Sessions, Lakers guard
How he performed: 12.7 points on 47.9% shooting and 6.2 assists in 30.5 minutes in the regular season; 9.7 points on 37.7% shooting and 3.6 assists on 37.7% shooting in 31.7 minutes in the playoffs.
The good: Everything happened so fast for Ramon Sessions. The instant he walked on the Staples Center floor after being acquired in a trade from Cleveland, Sessions scored by driving to the rack. The offense suddenly picked up both in its efficiency and speed. According to Synergy Sports Technology, the Lakers generated only 10.9% of their offense through pick and rolls before Sessions' arrival. After that, Sessions ran the offense through pick and rolls on 41.8% of his possessions. Before Sessions' arrival, the Lakers' fast-break points only represented 9% of their offense. When Sessions is on the floor, 16% of his points come in transition. Although teams learned to play underneath screens, Sessions shot 48.6% from three-point range, the highest mark in his five-year career.
Meanwhile, Sessions' teammates found it easier to get better looks. Andrew Bynum didn't find the double teams as relentless. Kobe Bryant could move more off the ball. Pau Gasol established immediate chemistry with running pick-and-pop plays with him. Matt Barnes recorded his best statistical month in April because Sessions' fast-paced style set Barnes up for open shots in rhythm.
His postseason presence remained inconsistent, but he showed some growth by managing to come through in a few big games. The Lakers' Game 2 win over Denver featured Sessions scoring 10 fourth-quarter points by relentlessly attacking the basket. The Lakers then secured Game 4 at Denver on the heels of Sessions and Steve Blake hitting consecutive three-pointers. These qualities suggest Sessions will experience lots of improvement next season.
The bad: As much as the Lakers improved their efficiency on offense, their identity as a defensive team suddenly evaporated. The Lakers didn't appear to be concerned about staying disciplined on rotations, switching properly on pick-and-roll sets and making hustle plays. This reflects more of a team-wide problem, but it exposed Sessions' sub-par one-on-one defense and made their upgrade at point guard a nonfactor later in the season, as the Lakers had little answer for Denver's Ty Lawson and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.
Meanwhile, Sessions' offensive production took a huge nose dive. First, Sessions sprained his left shoulder, which inhibited him from driving left and playing aggressively. Then Sessions struggled to strike a balance between slowing down his tempo while still looking for his shot.
In the last five games of the regular season, Sessions' points per game (9.2) and shooting percentage (41.7%) were a severe drop from the 12.7 points and 47.9% he had averaged in the 23 previous games with the Lakers. He had some moments in the Denver series in the postseason but provided very little against Oklahoma City. In that series, Sessions averaged 6.8 points on 35.8% shooting and sat out significant fourth-quarter stretches in favor of Steve Blake. Sessions looked so hesitant in attacking the basket and shooting open three-pointers that he became a nonfactor.
He earned a B+ for his regular-season work, but his poor postseason warranted him a D. Mix that all together and Sessions earns a C+. Sessions has the potential and talent to significantly improve next season, but he has a lot of areas to focus on this off-season. Unfortunately for Sessions, most of his refinement hinges on how he plays off of his teammates and his actual on-court tendencies.