When the Hornets signed Ramon Sessions this summer, they were hoping he could produce at a level close to his play during his first stint in Charlotte. It was probably naïve to think that the 30-year-old point guard would play at the same level as he did four years ago, especially in a smaller role, but Sessions hasn’t even come close to the form he showed last time he was in the Queen City.
In just over 16 minutes per game backing up All-Star guard Kemba Walker, Sessions has averaged 6.2 points and 2.6 assists per game. He can still create his own shot, but can’t do much more than that on either end. And, despite his ability to get shots for himself, he hasn’t been able to knock them down consistently enough, shooting only 38 percent from the field.
Charlotte has also been much worse when Sessions runs the show. There’s some noise in those numbers because he’s playing in backup-heavy units that are going to perform worse anyway. Besides, the team is consistently pretty bad when Kemba Walker sits, which dooms his backup to have ugly on/off court comparisons. Still, these are not encouraging numbers:
Now, Sessions is dealing with a torn meniscus in his left knee and there’s no telling when he’s coming back. It’s unclear if he and the team will elect to surgically repair the knee, meaning there’s no hint of when he will return if he does at all.
In a vacuum, that doesn’t sound like a big loss: Sessions has been terrible this year and only plays limited minutes behind the team’s best player. There is cause for concern, though. With Sessions out of the picture, there are only two point guards on the roster behind Walker, and neither of them is very promising.
Brian Roberts has only appeared in 15 games this year as the Hornets’ third-string point guard and has only averaged 6.6 minutes in those games. Roberts is fine as a team’s third point guard, but there’s no reason to believe that he’ll be capable of much more in an expanded role.
The only other option on the roster is also the most interesting. Ray McCallum signed a 10-day contract with Charlotte on Feb. 3 and now has a chance to earn a season-long deal. McCallum was one of the best guards in the nation during his college career at Detriot but hasn’t lived up to that pedigree so far during his short NBA career. He spent his first two years in Sacramento before the Kings traded him to the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs waived him and he earned a pair of 10-day contracts with the injury-riddled Memphis Grizzlies last year, though the team decided not to sign him for the remainder of the season.
McCallum has spent most of his career bouncing between a number of NBA teams and their Developmental League affiliates. When he’s been in the league, he’s averaged similar numbers to those of Sessions this year: 18.2 minutes, 6 points on (40.8 percent shooting), 2.4 assists and 2 rebounds per game. Those numbers combined with his age (25 years old) and reputation as an all-around star in college make for an interesting option at backup point guard.
There are questions there, though. It’s strange that he hasn’t remained with a team, especially the last two he played for. Gregg Popovich can find a place for seemingly anyone on his roster and turn them into a valuable contributor, but the Spurs cut him in late February. Then he had a chance with the Grizzlies but couldn’t even stick with the most-injured team in league history. He’s put up solid NBA numbers and great D-League numbers, yet somehow hasn’t been able to translate that to a lasting spot with an NBA team.
The Hornets have a recent history with several successful reclamation projects, but Spencer Hawes and Roy Hibbert were both failures that Rich Cho and company were forced to cut ties with. It’s clear that Sessions was not doing what the team was hoping he’d be able to do. McCallum presents a low-risk, potentially high-reward option to come off the bench. If he’s better than Sessions – not at all a high bar to clear – it’s a big win for Charlotte. If not, there are no major repercussions. It's hard to say that an injury to any player is a good thing, but Session's injury opens the door for a potentially positive change.
It’s been a bad run for the Hornets. The backup point guard isn’t going to change the team’s prospects, but it could improve what has been a weak spot for a team struggling to keep its head above water.