Jayne Kamin-Oncea-US PRESSWIRE
Ramon Sessions seemed like he had finally found a home after being traded to the Los Angeles Lakers in the offseason. But because playoffs = Kobe Time in L.A., Sessions had the ball taken out of his hands, struggled in the playoffs and the Lakers moved on via a sign-and-trade deal for Steve Nash.
Now Sessions is just the latest NBA vagabond looking for employment in a situation eerily reminiscent of one of the greatest Detroit Pistons.
That's not to say that Ramon Sessions is Billups 2.0. But remember, Billups wasn't always Billups. At first he just seemed like a smart signing by a savvy executive. Eventually, of course, he became one of the all-time free agent bargains in NBA history.
There is no telling what Sessions' future holds but based on his performance to date he would certainly qualify as a smart signing by a savvy executive. It looks like he could be headed to Dallas as the Mavs' Official Plan D its following previous flirtations with Deron Williams, Steve Nash and Jason Kidd.
Whomever signs him is going to get a bonafide steal. And if the Pistons are really ready to shake off the malaise of the past three years and show they care about improving as a team they would commit to Sessions with a full mid-level exception deal just as they did with Billups in '02.
Seriously, the similarities between the two players are downright eerie.
Billups stands 6-foot-3, approximately 200 pounds. He spent five NBA seasons playing sporadically for four teams. He could always dish out assists without turning the ball over and drive the lane effectively to get to the free-throw line. He excelled when given a chance to start but those chances were few and far between.
Sessions stands 6-foot-3, approximately 190 pounds. He has spent five NBA seasons playing sporadically for four teams. He can dish out assists without turning the ball over and drive the lane effectively to get to the free-throw line. He has excelled when given a chance to start but those chances have been few and far between.
Heading into 2002, Billups had only started half the games he played over his previous two seasons while Sessions has started slightly less than half the past two years. And when either player had started up to that point they performed.
As a starter Billups averaged around 13 points, five assists, and 15 points and six assists, respectively.
Sessions has started only one-third of his career games played but in those games has averaged 14 points and seven assists.
And while the Pistons are a worse team now than they were in 2001-02, they have similar issues in the backcourt. Chucky Atkins had just finished his second season in 2002 and looked decidedly overmatched as a starting point guard in the NBA. He was just generally not doing "point guard things."
Similarly, Brandon Knight is coming off of an extremely rocky rookie year. Knight averaged 12.8 points, 3.8 assists, shot 41 percent from the field and got to the line only twice per game. Through his first two seasons, Atkins averaged 10.8 points, 3.9 assists, shot 41 percent from the field and only got to the line 1.6 times per game.
Admittedly, Atkins was already 26 years old after two seasons while Knight is only 20. And Knight's youth is a serious consideration. He arguably has much more room to mature and improve his game. But the production (or lack thereof) is right there for all to see from his one year in college to one year in the NBA.
Which is why the time is now for Dumars to be bold. Knight played 32 minutes per game after being thrown to the NBA wolves. But coach Lawrence Frank is always talking about how players must earn their time on the floor. The only way Knight will earn anything is if he has legitimate competition. Last season he had Will Bynum and Walker D. Russell. This year the Pistons have done nothing to shore up their weakness at the point and it remains their thinnest position.
Tom Gores said he expects the Pistons to make the playoffs next season. Joe Dumars has said that an organization like Detroit expects to make the playoffs every year. With Brandon Knight learning on the job they have absolutely no chance to make the playoffs. But with a legitimate point guard like Ramon Sessions the playoffs would be possible.
A point guard like Sessions makes good players such as Greg Monroe and Rodney Stuckey even better. A pass-first point guard that can take care of the ball puts shooters like Charlie Villanueva and Austin Daye in a position to succeed. A point guard that can run a squad effectively during scoring droughts and when the opposing team is making a run would mean that Tayshaun Prince would not take the most shots on his team and the isolayshaun era might be dead.
With the trade of Ben Gordon, the Pistons have positioned themselves to have oodles of cap space after next season. But just look at how teams are spending money this year. A max contract to Roy Hibbert. As much as $50 million for Nicolas Batum and $40 million for Gerald Wallace. Cap space, as we all know, is often overrated and potentially hazardous to an organization's health.
The smart money is on undervalued assets not on being the one team that can overpay the marquee free agents. The Pistons already tried that in 2009 and it turned into a years-long disaster. If the Pistons offered him a deal for the full mid-level exception (roughly four years, $25 million) and showed a commitment to letting the best player win the starting point guard role, Sessions would have to take the offer seriously. Plus, the team would still have plenty of cap room next season to sign another impact free agent or make necessary trades.
And going forward the Pistons would also have quality, playoff-caliber contributors at the point guard, shooting guard and power forward positions (Sessions, Stuckey and Monroe, respectively). With young developmental pieces in the backcourt (Knight) and in the middle (Andre Drummond). They would have experience in the starting lineup (Prince) and youth and energy on the bench (Jonas Jerebko). And the financial means and flexibility to add additional pieces as needed.
But it all starts with recognizing an undervalued asset when you see it. It is about recognizing production. It means seeing Knight for what he is and not what you want him to turn into. It's about making a financial commitment that comes with a little bit of risk but also a big possible reward
Do it, Joe Dumars. Sign Ramon Sessions.