Just ask Kobe Bryant.
“I’ve been extremely impressed,” he said. “(Sessions) takes a lot of pressure off me. I can be a legitimate two-guard now. He can play make for others; before, I had to score and play make for others as well. I don’t have to do that, I can be on the receiving end of those plays.”
Indeed, Sessions’ ability to attack the paint both off regular sets and in transition has produced a bevy of wide open shots for Kobe and the rest of the Lakers (just ask Matt Barnes, who’s average has bumped up five points). Sessions has picked up L.A.’s early offense quickly, complementing his ability to play as he always has in the pick and roll, where he’s excellent at taking what the defense gives him.
“His savvy is really the most impressive thing,” Bryant continued. “A lot of players have speed, but he understands how to change directions and sees the floor extremely well. That’s the thing that makes his speed extremely valuable, is that he can change gears.”
The box score spoke pretty loudly for Sessions in his fourth game in Purple and Gold, a decisive 109-93 victory at Dallas in which he scored 17 points on 7-of-8 field goals (3-of-4 3′s), plus nine assists, five rebounds, one block and three turnovers in 29 minutes.
“The kid, Sessions, made the game easy for everybody,” said his new coach, Mike Brown. “You can see how his speed can help us, and his ability to play pick and roll and turn the corner and get in the teeth of the defense, and set guys up for easy what I call HORSE shots.
“That’s where they’ve got their feet set and its like when you’re in seventh grade and you’re playing HORSE with somebody and nobody shoots shots off the dribble, they just stood there and waited until they got the ball in their hands and you shoot it in a comfortable environment.”
In four games since his acquisition from Cleveland on trade deadline day, Sessions is averaging (surely-to-go-up) 25.0 minutes per game towards 12.0 points, 6.0 assists and 3.3 rebounds on 56.7 percent from the field, including 3-of-7 three-pointers.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Zach Lowe, in the 100 total minutes Sessions has been on the court, L.A. is scoring 114 points per 100 possessions, which (per to NBA.com’s stats tool) would easily lead the NBA.
Lowe points out that L.A.’s three-point shooting has improved markedly with Sessions on the floor, showing that the Lakers have attempted 20 triples per 48 minutes with Sessions in, hitting 48 percent, but connecting on only 25 percent when he sits. That passes the eye test, since his ability to penetrate and dish with a precise pass gives shooters the extra second to set up for an attempt (a HORSE shot, to Brown).
In addition to Barnes picking up his play to average 12 points off the bench since Sessions arrived, Pau Gasol has found himself with many wide open looks of late. The Spaniard drained 13-of-16 attempts at Dallas, including all seven attempts from about 15 feet and out on the top of the floor in the pick and pop area. Gasol connected on 10-of-14 field goals against Houston on the previous evening.
Sessions is quick to acknowledge that one of the reasons he’s had so much space in which to operate is how much attention Bryant, Gasol and Andrew Bynum in particular demand. Teams really have to make some tough choices when Sessions turns the corner on a pick and roll, because, well, whom should they leave?
Brown hinted that he’s going to have to consider putting Sessions into the starting line up and returning Steve Blake to the second unit, where Blake has played well of late, but said he’d first like to go over the tape from the Mavericks game.
Whether Sessions starts on Friday against Portland or continues to play increasingly more minutes off the bench, his impact on the court is thus far unquestioned.