Most fans don't even recognize this guy, but he's racked up more points (44) and assists (24) in a game than Chris Paul's ever had. Maybe some team should try making him a starter.Tell me if it sounds like this young player is being developed correctly.
A 21-year-old point guard leaves school after his junior year and gets drafted at the end of the second round. He's sent to the D-League, which he dominates immediately. The really bad team that selected him is rebuilding and finally brings him back to the squad, but he suffers a terrible wrist injury that pushes back his introduction to the NBA to March. He comes off the bench for 10 games, with his minutes increasing from 4 to 31 before the club finally starts him for the final seven games of the year.
He records double-digit assist totals in six of his seven starts, including one game with 24, the top single-game amount in the past 16 years. He scores 20 and 25 points in his last two starts and ends the year averaging a phenomenal 7.5-2.1 A-TO rate (which includes his time as a reserve), supposedly making it clear this is a great young PG.
His second season is another rebuilding year for his team, especially since there is extensive upheaval in the lineup (only one teammate starts more than 52 games). This now 22-year-old starts 39 contests—mostly at the end of the year after the club loses their double-double center who posted the team's only good shooting percentage—averaging 15 points and another awesome 7.6-2.3 A-TO rate in his starts. In his tenth start of the year (only 17th of his career), he has a 44-point outburst and two months later records a 16-10-16 triple-double. Even without elite-level athleticism, the youngster only notches 2.3 fouls while getting to the line 5.9 times per start. His shooting, particularly from the outside, is clearly a work in progress, but he focuses on making great decisions running the offense, plus he's a decent defender. The rebuilding club doesn't re-sign him.
He gets picked up by another rebuilding team, which puts an offense in place at the start of the season that in no way fits the talents of the club, particularly those of this young PG. He's a penetrator who creates opportunities for his teammates; the offense is known for using point guards as three-point shooters, which he is terrible at. Not only that, they only start him one time, instead keeping the ball in the hands of their severely under-skilled rookie who they feel committed to because he was a lottery pick. The team is terrible and doesn't fit the third-year PG's style at all, a style that's already produced a 24-assist game, a 44-point game, and a triple-double (Chris Paul has only done one of those three). Despite being a terrible fit for the squad, his shooting and passing efficiency numbers are better than the rookie they played, and he was one of only three players on the team to average 20 minutes per game and have a positive Adjusted Plus/Minus score. The team, arguably even worse than the Nets last year, has made it clear they're sticking with the underwhelming rookie.
The young PG I'm talking about is Ramon Sessions, and he's on his way to yet another rebuilding club having just been traded to Cleveland. It's unclear if Sessions will start or if the Cavs will stick with Mo Williams. If logic prevails, a rebuilding club will use the younger player with much more upside who does a better job creating opportunities for his teammates. If Sessions' first three-year track record tell us anything, Cleveland will try to parlay Williams' worse passing skills and only-really-good-when-LeBron-is-out-there 3-point shooting into something.
By letting Sessions change franchises as often as Shaq and by barely starting him, teams all over the league are missing an opportunity to truly develop a team-oriented PG who doesn't force the action. It's really clear that when Sessions gets even a little bit of time to integrate with a team's starters, he can efficiently run an offense and put up some monster games. Unfortunately, he keeps getting stuck behind guys like Luke Ridnour in Milwaukee (who's OK, but will never jumpstart a bad team or be a key piece in a rebuilding project) and Jonny Flynn in Minnesota (who is fast, but really really raw), neither of whom makes sense as a starter on fledgling squads that should be developing their skilled youngsters.
Like I've said, Sessions is not an outside shooter (45% FG, 18% 3FG) and not a great athlete, but he has the smarts and skills to simply get it done, much like Andre Miller's been doing for over a decade. These often unquantifiable smarts have resulted in the Bucks' only truly good Adjusted Plus/Minus performer in 2008-09 among everyone who played at least 40 games. He's not a great shooter, but he still outshot Flynn from almost every distance last year. His performance at the end of his brief rookie season was comparable to or even better than their regular starter who was hurt at the time, fifth-year player Mo Williams.
Teams don't see Sessions winning foot races or hitting tons of 3's, and they think back-up. There aren't that many starting point guards in the league who can consistently average 3 assists per turnover and score when it's necessary without simply turning into a scoring point guard. Sessions has those skills. It's time someone developed them.