Charlotte Hornets: The Backup Point Guard Situation

Nov 28, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Ramon Sessions (7) drives against Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) in the second quarter at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 28, 2016; Memphis, TN, USA; Charlotte Hornets guard Ramon Sessions (7) drives against Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) in the second quarter at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports /

Ramon Sessions has struggled as the backup point guard for the Charlotte Hornets. Is there a change to be made or should they let the veteran play through his struggles?

The Charlotte Hornets starting point guard role is locked down for the foreseeable future. Kemba Walker is only 26 and he’s looked like an All-Star through 22 games this season.

Thanks to Walker’s hot start the starting point guard spot is unquestionably Charlotte’s most productive position.

The same can’t be said for the backup point guard slot.

After a fantastic season backing up Walker, former Hornet Jeremy Lin signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Lin’s departure left a gaping void on Charlotte’s bench. To fill that void Charlotte signed former Bobcat Ramon Sessions. On paper it seemed like a good move.

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Sessions played 55 games in Charlotte during the 2013-14 season, averaging 10.5 points and 3.7 assists per game on 40.9 percent shooting. All-Star level it isn’t, but it’s fine from a 23.7 minutes per game role player.

Sessions left Charlotte after that season, stopping in Sacramento before heading to the Washington Wizards. Last season with the Wizards, Sessions was fairly productive. He shot 47.3 percent from the field while averaging 9.9 points and 2.9 assists per game.

With the Hornets his production has dropped considerably. In only 16.5 minutes per game, Sessions is averaging 5.7 points and 3.1 assists per game on 37.1 percent shooting and is hitting just 20 percent from three-point range.

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Sessions has never been known as a particularly steady outside shooter, but 20 percent is troubling from a career 30.9 percent three-point shooter. Defenses sag off of Sessions, clogging the lane for cutters like Jeremy Lamb.

His shortcomings have had a significant negative impact on Charlotte’s 16th-ranked offense. His saving grace has been his 56.2 percent free-throw rate and his tolerable 53.6 percent shooting percentage at three feet or less.

His 28.7 percent assist rate is also tied with Walker for the team lead.

Overall the Hornets are 9.1 points worse per 100 possessions on offense with Sessions on the floor. On defense they’re 0.1 points worse per 100 possessions with Sessions on the court. That makes for a minus 9.2 net rating in 349 minutes played.

All this is to say, Sessions hasn’t been very good. The question is; do the Hornets have any other options? As we say in the south, the pickings are slim.

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Brian Roberts is another point guard on the roster. After a professional career overseas Roberts got his big NBA break during the 2012-13 season with the New Orleans Pelicans. After two seasons in New Orleans, he signed with Charlotte prior to the 2014-15 season to be their backup point guard.

He played 72 games that season, averaging 6.7 points and 2.3 assists per game on 38.9 percent shooting and 32.1 percent from outside.

Those numbers from his one season as Charlotte’s primary backup point guard aren’t that much better than the troubling numbers Sessions has put up this season.

Last season Roberts failed to get consistent minutes with the Hornets or the Portland Trail Blazers. At this point in his career, he’s a third guard. He’ll only play in emergency situations or in garbage time.

Aaron Harrison is definitely not ready for a full-time backup point guard role. He’s averaged 4.3 minutes per game in his 25 game NBA career. This season he has bounced back and forth between Charlotte and their D-League affiliate the Greensboro Swarm.

He may be an NBA player one day, but it’s not today.

Then there’s the guy that has Hornets fans everywhere curious. That’s former Kentucky Wildcat, Phoenix Sun and New Orleans Pelican Archie Goodwin. Goodwin has been released twice this season, once by the Suns and once by the Pelicans.

Goodwin has played three full seasons in the NBA and three games this season with New Orleans. In 153 career games, he’s averaged 6.2 points and 1.2 assists per game on 41.9 percent from the field and 23 percent from deep.

After his release from New Orleans the Greensboro Swarm picked him up. Could the shooting guard make the transition to point guard? I’ve seen this question raised by Hornets fans on the deep internet (Twitter). The answer is most likely no.

Much like Aaron Harrison, he’s a wing in a point-guard sized body. Asking him to be the primary ball-handler for 18 minutes per game would not be a wise move. Not that this is a move the Hornets would actually consider.

Sometimes it’s best to dispel these thoughts before they even get going.

Charlotte’s best bet is to stick with Sessions through his early season slump. Unless of course there’s a trade to be made that I’ve failed to notice, but this isn’t an organization that has the ability to give up meaningful assets for an 18 minute per night backup. That would be foolish.

There is hope for Sessions. He’s shot 46.3 percent from the field in his last 10 games. He’s only turned the ball over more than once in two of these 10 games. The Hornets can live with that type of production.

Letting him continue to play until he figures things out is Charlotte’s best option. Brian Roberts is nothing more than a third guard at this point in his career. Aaron Harrison and Archie Goodwin haven’t proven to be any more reliable than Sessions during their short NBA careers.

It’s that simple.

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The Hornets are 13-9 on the young season. Sessions’ poor play has hurt them, but it hasn’t cost them wins. Barring serious injury this a playoff team. Still, to reach their ceiling they’ll need better play out of the backup point guard spot.