During the preseason, Ramon Sessions looked like the perfect complement to Darren Collison with Collison facilitating the starters and Sessions serving as a reliable spark off the bench. Most thought second-year point guard, and Summer League Championship MVP, Ray McCallum was going to have to sit and watch these two veterans run the show, and that has largely been the case in head coach Michael Malone's rotation so far. But 17 games into the season, Sessions has been neither reliable or a spark as he continues to look uncomfortable and relatively ineffective in running the offense and stopping his man on defense.
Because of this, there has been a steady chorus of Kings fans pushing Malone to "Free McCallum."
Following Sunday's loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, we asked Malone what is separating Sessions and McCallum at this point and if he is thinking about giving McCallum more minutes in the future.
Here's what he had to say.
"Ramon is an attack player and he's at his best when he is putting pressure on the defense and when he gets to the foul line. Ray McCallum is probably one of our best perimeter defenders, a guy that can really bother the opposing guards. So there's not a lot separating those two right now," Malone told Sactown Royalty. "Obviously, I am continuing to give Ramon some looks and give him the opportunity to back up Darren [Collison], but we're constantly evaluating where we're at and when you lose three games in a row, albeit three very good teams mind you - Houston, San Antonio, Memphis, that's like murderers row right there - but we're always going to constantly analyze and evaluate where we're at and who is going to give us the best chance to succeed moving forward. So I believe in Ramon and I also believe in Ray, so it's a matter of trying to find that fine line to see who plays and when they play."
Let's take a look at the numbers.
Ramon Sessions, who has been dealing with a knee strain, is averaging 5.6 points (on 32 percent shooting), 2.1 assists and 1.2 rebounds in 17 minutes per game this season. His career averages are 11.5 points, 4.6 assists, 2.9 rebounds in 25.5 minutes per game. He is currently playing the least amount of minutes he has ever averaged in his eight seasons in the NBA and is shooting the fewest number of free throws (2.6) per game since his rookie season.
According to his "Shots Dashboard," 54 percent of Sessions' shots are coming from less than 10 feet from the basket and he is making only 34 percent of those. On the other side of the ball, his defensive field goal percentage (the field goal percentage of the players he is guarding) is discouraging. Players he is guarding are shooting 57 percent on two-point shots (they usually shoot 47 percent), and 39 percent from three (they usually shoot 37 percent). By comparison, Collison is holding his opponents to 47 percent on two-point shots and 30 percent from three.
McCallum is averaging 2.9 points, .5 assists and .7 rebounds in 8.5 minutes per game this season. In the 11 games he has played in so far, McCallum has logged more than 10 minutes only five times. In those five games, he averaged 4.8 points, 1 assist and 1.4 rebounds. His Per 36 is 12.3 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 2.3 turnovers. Sessions' Per 36 is 11.8 points, 4.5 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 3.3 turnovers. McCallum's defensive field goal percentage is worth looking at too - he, like Sessions, is allowing his opponent to shoot 57 percent on two-point shots.
So Malone may be right that there isn't a ton separating the two, at least stat-wise (although it is pretty difficult to get a clear picture of a guy's production based on 8.5 minutes per game). But with McCallum comes a high basketball IQ as a coach's son, an ability to run the offense and a player who isn't afraid of a big moment. His inexperience and the fact he doesn't fit the mold of being a "spark" off the bench, however, could be what is keeping Malone from giving him the green light. With Sessions, Malone is getting a veteran in the backcourt when the youngsters Ben McLemore or Nik Stauskas are on the floor with him. But so far, that experience isn't translating into production.
For now, Malone is still expressing confidence in Sessions. And in the end, whether Sessions or McCallum serves as the main backup to Collison probably won't have a huge impact in the win-loss column, but switching the current situation up is certainly worth discussing.
What do you think?