Coach sees Sessions as potential playoff starter at point

I predicted yesterday that the Spurs would lose, this not being their year, and, of course, they won. Happens every time. I’m not the only one feeling the Spurs “same old same old” grind. Now, on to the matter at hand:

Ramon SessionsHow high are the Bucks on Ramon Sessions‘ potential? Much higher than many NBA observers seem to think, especially those writing about the upcoming 2008 draft.  The conventional wisdom around the league is that the Bucks are looking for a point guard in the draft, the current Bucks starting point guard of note being Mo Williams.

There’s little or no mention in draft talk of the Bucks other point guard, Sessions, who started in place of injured Mo in the final seven games and won the Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month honor for April.  Inside the Bucks camp, however, Sessions’ is a hot topic, maybe hot enough to change the Bucks draft outlook.

How good could Ramon Sessions be?

“I could see him becoming a starter on a playoff team — that’s how good he could become,” Bucks development coach and Sessions’ mentor Bill Peterson told the Reno (Nevada) Gazette Journal in April. Though the story is a month old, it’s worth looking at again with NBA lottery and the draft order on tap tonight.

Sessions averaged 13.1 pts., 13.1 assists, 5.6 rbs and 1.7 steals in seven starts, including a Bucks franchise record 24 assists set April 14 against Chicago at the BC. That was good enough to catch the attention of the daily newspaper in Reno, where Sessions played his college ball, and good enough for Rookie of the Month. It might even be good enough to lead to some Bob Boozer Jinx conclusions, such as:

  1. The Bucks may not necessarily be looking for a point guard in the draft, but would welcome Derrick Rose finding the Bucks via some lottery luck tonight. Assuming the Bucks are looking at guards in general, moving up to the number three spot is crucial. Rose and OJ Mayo, the cream of the guards this draft, will be long gone by the 7th pick.

2) Mo Williams may no longer be the Bucks starting point guard. Put another way: If Williams is on the roster next season, refrain from assuming he’s the starter. And certainly don’t assume Mo will be on the roster.

In the Reno Gazette story, Peterson, the lone assistant Scott Skiles retained from last season’s staff, went so far as to compare Sessions to the young Steve Nash, a Peterson development project in Dallas 1998-2000.

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”

To put a rookie who’s only played 17 games in context with the two-time MVP is high praise. Peterson worked with Nash in Nash’s third and fourth years as a pro. Nash became a full-time starter for the Mavs in his fifth season. Peterson went on to Colorado state where he was associate head coach for seven seasons until Larry Krystkowiak brought him on staff last year as player development coach.

Peterson took Sessions under his wing when Sessions was called up February and fractured his left hand in his first practice. Together they dissected Sessions game on video while Sessions sat out four weeks with the injury. Here’s more from the Reno Gazette story:

“I can’t put into words how much Coach Peterson has helped me. Whatever I need, he is there for me. We watch game film together, he helps me during practice, we work on all the little things. Coach Peterson cares about me as a player and a person.”

Skiles decision to keep Peterson is a good sign for Sessions, obviously. Assistants Kelvin Sampson and Joe Wolf also reflect the strong development bent of the new Bucks staff, and the other three coaches — Skiles, Jim Boylan and Lionel Hollins are all former point guards. Milwaukee is suddenly a good place for a young point guard to develop. The Bucks own a one-year option on Sessions for next season.

Center Andrew Bogut has already implied whom he’d like to see playing point:

“He was a true point guard. I haven’t played with a true point guard since I’ve been here, really. I think he did a great job of trying to find teammates first and shoot second. Hopefully, he’ll keep that mentality. I think he definitely deserves everything he got.”

GM John Hammonds, in the Racine Journal Times feature from ten days ago that will come to be known as “The Lazerus Interview” after a few more blogosphere resurrections, is anticipating trade interest in Sessions:

“The way he finished the season … as we continue to work the phones (in trade talks) I guarantee you his name will come up.”

Sessions’ former head coach, Larry Krystkowiak, after Sessions’ 24-assist game:

“I think he does a really nice job of finding the open guy. He has a knack for when to advance. I think he’s got what it takes to have an impact in the league. He certainly is taking advantage of his opportunities. He could be a future piece to the franchise.”

And now some brilliant analysis from ESPN’s Chad Ford, who convinced himself that most of the teams in the lottery will want point guard Derrick Rose over Beasely in the draft because Ford thinks point guards are hot:

“Now that John Hammond has taken over as GM, he’s looking for a tough leader. Mo Williams may be entrenched at the point in Milwaukee, but if Hammond gets a shot at a franchise point guard, I think he’s taking it.”

Williams is so entrenched at point that Ford’s ESPN Lottery Mock Draft has had Texas point guard D.J. Augustin locked in at the Bucks’ most likely #7 pick for weeks. New Orleans’ Chris Paul is a dazzling player, but not so dazzling that NBA teams are convinced that the small point guards in the 2008 draft are CP3 caliber.

The Bucks could always sign Damon Jones again, or Mike James or T.J. Ford. Hammond could even see what Reece Gaines is up to these days. (See yesterdays rant about Larry Harris’ point guard candy store).

For insight on point guards, let’s refer back to the Bucks coaching staff and development guru Peterson:

 “If you only knew [about Nash’s struggles]. Guys don’t just start out in this league and they’re lights out. I can remember nights when Nash was booed unmercifully. There were nights when they would boo him every time he touched the ball. I told Sess, ‘Look where he is now. All it takes is hard work and dedication.’ And Sess has that.”

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