Wizards Upgrade With Ramon Sessions, Say Farewell to Professor Andre Miller | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Wizards Upgrade With Ramon Sessions, Say Farewell to Professor Andre Miller

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Updated: February 19, 2015

20140503-andre-miller-portrait

*Poof.*

Professor Andre Lloyd Miller is a Washington Wizard no more. The reasons being reported as to why, via Twitter, state the obvious. Meaning: Wizards brass also watches basketball games like most of us who care, if not a lot, lot more since their jobs depend upon such. In sending Miller to the Sacramento Kings to reunite with George Karl, the Wizards gain one Ramon Sessions.

Defense is/was first and foremost. For an elder like Paul Pierce on the wing, you can generally hide any on-ball defensive inefficiencies. For an elder, elder like Andre Miller at point guard, you cannot. The Wizards gave up 9.4 more points per 100 possessions to opponents in the 632 minutes that Miller played in Washington this season than in the 1,990 minutes that he didn’t play.

Miller played in 24 percent of Washington team minutes (mostly in relief of John Wall). The backup point guard position is supposed to help save Wall for the postseason, while not sinking the team in the regular season, and Miller couldn’t accomplish that. In that 24 percent with Miller on the court, Washington’s DefRtg skyrocketed to 107.3. Only the team defense of the Knicks, Lakers, and Timberwolves are worse. The Wizards don’t rely on any defensive stars (or stoppers), per se. The closest to such also happens to be their best two players overall: John Wall and Nene (the head and tail of the defensive snake, respectively). With no rim protectors on the second unit—one of a handful of team weaknesses—it became even more important that Washington make an upgrade.

In steps Sessions—28 years old, rather experienced (503 regular season NBA games, six teams (now 7), now in his eighth NBA season, and presumably the drastic shake-up that Randy Wittman’s second unit needed. Sessions only has 12 playoff games under his belt (all for the Lakers in 2011-12), and he performed quite poorly in them (put up a PER of 8.2, which happens to be around half of his career average and which also happens to match his PER in 36 games for the Kings this season).

Whether Sessions can be considered a true upgrade on defense remains to be seen.(1) We know this: his legs are a decade younger than Miller’s legs. His Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DPRM) in 642 minutes this season is minus-2.71, placing him between Jameer Nelson and Aaron Brooks, 74th amongst NBA point guards, and on the solid side of pretty terrible. For reference in this new-fangled stat: Andre Miller’s minus-1.46 DRPM ranks 49th amongst NBA point guards. Last season, Sessions’ DRPM of minus-2.98 ranked 58th; Miller’s 0.24 DRPM in 2013-14 ranked 17th. In this case, the eye (and age) test nonetheless favors Sessions, slightly. A 6-foot-3 and a buck-90, Sessions won’t be a stopper, but at least he’ll better be able to keep up.

Bringing us to our second factor: Speed. Probably called “pace” by Randy Wittman, or as John Wall put it when recently discussing team needs: “A guy that can create and put the ball on the floor and make plays for others.” With Miller on the court instead of Wall, Washington averaged almost seven possessions less per 48 minutes (Pace). That’s a decent chunk of lost opportunity.

Wall tried not to disparage the abilities of Miller in speaking to the Washington Post (amongst other media) last Wednesday, but did also say in reference to bench play, and play overall: “I think sometimes we just get stagnant.” Wittman tried tinkering with lineups in order to alleviate the problem of his second unit either relying on Kevin Seraphin in the post or Miller, ye olde PG—also in the post—to “create” points. Problem was, such tinkering also diluted the concentration of one of the top five-man units in the NBA (the Wizards’ starting lineup of Wall, Beal, Pierce, Nene, and Gortat).

Miller’s passing was invaluable (see: his on-point side-out lob pass to Bradley Beal that got Washington a buzzer-beating win in Orlando), but a more consistent threat to drive brings more actual, non-aesthetic value to the Wizards. This season Sessions has averaged four drives to the basket per game (17.9-minute average); Miller has averaged 2.1 driving Miss Daisies per game (12.4-minute average). In 28 games with Milwaukee last season, Sessions averaged 8.2 drives per game, a rate that ranked 11th-highest in the league.(2) Sessions might not always be able to finish at the rim (55% within 3-feet over this career, 51% this season—so, around Garrett Temple/Martell Webster levels), but getting the ball in the paint and moving the defense—layered on top of the penchant Washington already has for moving the ball—is winning a major battle.

Finally, 3-point shooting. Sessions’ rates won’t thrill anyone (30% for his career, 21% this season), but his ability beyond the arc isn’t what the Wizards will be looking toward to fill that continually glaring need. Wittman & Co. will simply be happy that Sessions is the threat that Andre Miller wasn’t. Washington still has an open roster spot—for Ray Allen or whomever—to supplement sorely needed long distance shooting options.

Which brings us to a bit of house-keeping, financially. Miller’s salary this season, the last of his current contract, is around $4.65 million. Sessions, in the first season of a two-year contract, is making $2.077 million this season and is guaranteed $2.17 million next season. Thus, per the Washington Post’s Jorge Castillo, the Wizards have increased their room under the luxury tax threshold (now about $1.1 million Update/Correction: figure was previously just over $1 million, after the trade the Wizards are around $3.5 under the tax) to fill the last, vacant roster spot, making it slightly more attractive to a free agent than a mere minimum contact.

The way the trade between Washington and Sacramento can happen, TAI has been informed, is that the Wizards will be using their traded player exception (TPE) created in the deal that sent Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets this summer, and the Kings will be using their TPE created in a deal that sent Jason Terry to the Rockets in September, in essence creating two separate deals as part of the package.

Miller had his moments in Washington, and he certainly helped saved the second unit after arriving via the Jan Vesely-Eric Maynor trade last season. But now the Wizards are in a different season with different needs, most of which developed as the first 54 games of 2014-15 progressed. Sessions is inarguably an upgrade over Miller, all things considered, but whether he’s the tweak that pushes Washington’s playoff ceiling higher remains to be seen.(3)

 


[Stats also via Basketball-Reference.com and NBA.com]

  1. The Kings gave up 5.7 more points per 100 possessions with Sessions on the floor as opposed to when he wasn’t (in comparison to the 9.4-point difference with Miller); the Kings also have the fifth-worst defensive team in all of the NBA, for what it’s worth.
  2. A “drive” is defined by NBA.com player tracking data as “any touch that starts at least 20 feet away from the hoop and is dribbled within 10 feet of the hoop, excluding fast breaks.
  3. If—a big ‘if’—Sessions returns to his form over the last 28 games for the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013-14, when he put up a PER of 18.0 and shot 35.7 percent from 3, this trade could be a steal for the Wizards.
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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.