One way or another, veteran point guard Ramon Sessions will be an ex-Charlotte Hornet by Thursday.
Thursday is the deadline under NBA rules to decide on a team option for next season. So if the Hornets don’t remove Sessions from their roster by then, his salary for next season – approximately $6.3 million – would be guaranteed.
Barring an extreme change in circumstance over the next few days, Sessions will either be traded or become a free agent. It’s sensible for the Hornets to wait until the deadline to inform the league of their intentions, in case Sessions’ contract could be included in some trade.
Sessions, who grew up in Myrtle Beach, is a consummate professional; coaches praise him all the time for his maturity and the time he puts into preparation.
But he’s coming off a season that has to be viewed as disappointing.
When a player is past 30, when his best NBA skill is diminished, and when he starts missing major time with an injury, it’s a signal to re-evaluate.
In February, he suffered the first significant injury of his career, a meniscus tear in his left knee that required surgery. Sessions wasn’t having a particularly productive season before that injury. He finished the season averaging 16.2 minutes (a career low), 6.2 points (second-fewest of his career) and 2.6 assists (another career low).
His field-goal percentage (38 percent) was second-lowest of his career. Perhaps most importantly, his knack for creating free-throw attempts – his best NBA skill – was diminished in his second stint with this franchise.
When Sessions played here in the 2012-13 season, he averaged 5.7 free-throw attempts per game. This past season, he averaged 2.4 free-throw attempts per game.
When a player is past 30 (Sessions turned 31 in April), when his best NBA skill is diminished, and when he starts missing major time with an injury, it’s a signal to re-evaluate. The Hornets front office had the foresight to make the second season of this contract a team option.
The Hornets have two avenues left to acquire a backup point guard: A trade or free-agency.
Both general manager Rich Cho and coach Steve Clifford said multiple times since last season ended that improving depth at point guard is a priority. Walker, coming off his first All-Star season, played 2,739 minutes over 79 games. Over six NBA seasons, Walker has already passed 15,000 career minutes.
What do they do for Sessions’ replacement? Briante Weber will be on the Hornets’ summer-league team in Orlando, but he’s played in just 27 NBA games over two seasons for four different teams. That makes him a developmental player, not a point guard ready for major minutes.
The Hornets didn’t go point guard with either of their two picks in last week’s draft, selecting Kentucky shooting guard Malik Monk in the first round and Florida State guard-forward Dwayne Bacon in the second round. Clifford said Monk will play some point guard in summer league, but that sounds more like an experiment than a plan of succession.
That leaves two avenues to acquire a backup point guard: A trade or free-agency. One point guard named nationally in trade chatter last week was Denver’s Emmanuel Mudiay, the seventh pick in the 2015 draft. Mudiay was linked to a possible trade to the Phoenix Suns that didn’t happen.
If the Hornets go the free-agency route to find a point guard, they have the mid-level exception – with a maximum first-season salary of about $8.4 million – available.
Among free-agent point guards who will hit the market July 1: Darren Collison, Patty Mills, Shaun Livingston, Brandon Jennings and Raymond Felton.