Examining Ramon Sessions’ shooting struggles

Ramon Sessions of the Charlotte Bobcats shoots up against Jason Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

The Sacramento Kings signed Ramon Sessions to a two-year, $4 million deal in September with the expectation he’d remain a source for efficient, instant offense off the bench.  But the aggressive player seen going at the Kings defense for the Charlotte Bobcats in the photo above is all but a ghost.

The 28-year-old has started the season shooting so cold, it seems he needs to keep on his warm-ups. Through 12 games, Sessions is averaging a career-low 5.2 points per game on 34.7 percent shooting from the floor. The point guard is a large reason why the Kings’ second unit has struggled to compliment its counterparts in the starting lineup this season.

At his best, Sessions drives to the hoop without abandon, which leads to heaps of charity points. He averages 6.1 free-throw attempts per 36 minutes for his career (for reference, Derrick Rose averages 4.8 free-throw tries per 36 minutes in his career), and the King is managing the exact pace this year, making 80.6 percent.

More than 50 percent of Sessions’ field-goal attempts this season have come within 10 feet, which correlates with his past, so it doesn’t appear that the eight-year veteran has suddenly reinvented himself.

If we take a look at Sessions’ shot chart from the 2013-14 season, which he split between the Charlotte Bobcats (55 games) and Milwaukee Bucks (28):

ramon shotchart 1

And Sessions’ shot chart for this season (12 games):

ramon shotchart 2

The glaring disparity is his success within eight feet of the hoop. Sessions shot 50 percent in the zone last season, and his 462 attempts in the circle comprised 60 percent of his total attempts.  This season, he is taking 51 percent of shots from the same area, but hitting just 36 percent.

It seems the root of Sessions’ scoring struggles come down to missed floaters and lay-ins. The journeyman may be attempting and failing to draw more shooting fouls, or his funk could be a result of bad luck. Sessions is shooting 18.8 percent between three and 10 feet (which basically excludes layups) this season, while his midrange and 3-point accuracy resemble career numbers.

Sessions is limiting his unintended damage on the offensive end by hoisting the lowest number of shots per 100 possessions since his rookie year. But more shot attempts (and makes) are what it appears that Sacramento’s coaching staff wants from him.

In addition to the shooting woes, the veteran guard is not setting up his floormates like he has in the past either.  Sessions came into this season with a 30.4 career assist percentage, but that number this season has sunk to just 17.1 percent.

Compounding his low shooting and assist percentage is the fact that he is allowing opposing guards to abuse him on the defensive end. If Sessions isn’t scoring points, head coach Michael Malone has little incentive to continue handing him minutes.

Twelve games is an extremely small sample size when compared to Sessions’ eight-year career that includes nearly 500 games.  The stats say that he is nearly the player we have seen in other NBA stops, but the shots just aren’t falling right now.  The lower assist percentage could speak to a multitude of issues, and again the sample size is small.

Sessions needs to find his rhythm.  Malone has given him a long leash, because this team needs a dynamic perimeter bench scorer.  The journeyman will get a little more time to find his game, but second-year guard Ray McCallum is chomping at the bit to steal his minutes and can bring a defensive presence that Sessions simply cannot.

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About: Rui Thomas

Rui Thomas is a writer and reporter for Cowbell Kingdom. He previously covered the Sacramento Kings and the NBA for Sports Out West. He is published by Sports Illustrated’s Truth and Rumors and Yahoo Sports NFL among others.