Posted Mar 29 2012 11:55AM
All stats are through Wednesday, March 28 and are provided by NBA.com/Stats.
There were a lot of different aspects, both on and off the court, to the Linsanity phenomenon when it hit New York in February. But one key was how desperate the Knicks were for a real point guard, someone to run their offense and allow his teammates to play the roles they were supposed to.
The Los Angeles Lakers were in the same position when they acquired Ramon Sessions at the trade deadline. Under Mike Brown, they were no longer running the triangle offense, and needed their point guards to handle the ball and make plays. Derek Fisher and Steve Blake weren't cutting the mustard.
At the time of the trade, despite having three of the league's best players at their positions, the Lakers were not a very good offensive team, scoring just 101.7 points per 100 possessions, which ranked 14th and was barely better than the league average (101.3). They were winning a lot more games with their top 10 defense.
Since the trade, the Lakers are 4-3. So Sessions hasn't exactly made the kind of impact Jeremy Lin made when he started playing significant minutes for the Knicks ... on the surface, at least.
A look at the Lakers' numbers shows that Sessions has given the offense a pretty big boost. In Sessions' 201 minutes, the Lakers have scored 113 points per 100 possessions, a rate which would easily lead the league in offensive efficiency.
In each of Sessions' seven games, the Lakers have outscored their opponent with him on the floor. And the reason they're just 4-3 in those games is that they've been pretty awful (on both ends of the floor) in his minutes on the bench.
|Lakers efficiency, before and after trade|
|Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes|
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions1>
The Lakers have outscored their opponents by 12.0 points per 100 possessions and by 56 points total with Sessions on the floor over the last seven games. With him on the bench, they've been outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions and by 38 points total. That discrepancy is about equal to the difference between the Bulls (+9.5) and the Bobcats (-14.3).
So while his team hasn't shot up the standings upon his arrival, Sessions has clearly been doing his part. And it's not his fault that Blake is 5-for-22 since the trade, Kobe Bryant is 20-for-62 with Sessions on the bench, and the Lakers can't get consistent stops anymore.
Turnovers are another big difference between the Lakers with and without Sessions over the last seven games. But the area where he has had the most impact is 3-point shooting. Before the trade, the Lakers ranked 29th in 3-point percentage. But with Sessions on the floor, they're 31-for-74 (42 percent) from beyond the arc. That includes Sessions' own seven makes in 14 attempts.
|Lakers offense, before and after trade|
|OREB% = Percent of available offensive rebounds obtained|
TO% = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA/FGA
The man who has clearly benefited most from the addition of Sessions is the man who is leading the improvement from 3-point range: Matt Barnes. The reserve small forward shot 17-for-62 (27 percent) from 3-point range before the Sessions trade, and is 13-for-28 (46 percent) since.
With Sessions on the floor, Barnes is 10-for-20 from downtown, and Sessions has assisted on six of those 10 3s. Overall, he's assisted on 13 of Barnes' 21 buckets with the two on the floor together. On the other end of the spectrum, Sessions has assisted on only five of Andrew Bynum's 32 baskets while sharing the floor with the Lakers' center (though Sessions would have got the assist if Bynum hit that 3-pointer that got him benched in Tuesday's win at Golden State).
|Lakers shooting with Sessions on floor|
Sessions hasn't assisted on a great deal of Bryant's buckets either, but he has been able to let Bryant play off the ball a little more. For the second straight season, Bryant leads the league in usage rate. Overall, he has used 36 percent of the Lakers' possessions in his time on the floor, the second-highest rate of his 16-year career. But with Sessions on the floor, his usage rate is a more reasonable 31.4 percent. That would be only the ninth-highest rate of his career and rank fourth in the league behind Russell Westbrook and Dwyane Wade.
Bryant has also been more efficient with Sessions on the floor, with a true shooting percentage of 55.3 percent. But one reason that number is high is that Bryant has missed only two of his 28 free throw attempts with Sessions on the floor.
Any optimism regarding Sessions' impact also has to be tempered with the fact that we're looking at small sample sizes here. Seven games is just seven games. And neither Barnes nor Sessions has been a particularly good 3-point shooter over the course of their career, so that 42 percent from 3-point range with Sessions on the floor isn't really sustainable.
But it's clear that the Lakers are a better offensive team with Sessions running the show. And by the end of the week, despite all the drama about Bynum and his 3-point shooting, they're likely to be the only Western Conference team in the top 10 in both offensive and defensive efficiency.
We'll learn a lot more about the Lakers in the next month, as they face Oklahoma City and San Antonio a total of five times in their final 16 games, beginning with Thursday's meeting with the Thunder at Staples Center.
If they continue to be potent offensively with Sessions on the floor and find a way to not give up their leads when he sits, L.A. may be a serious threat to return to The Finals for the fourth time in five years.
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