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The Latest Speculation on Ramon Sessions

It's quiet out there people.  Too quiet.

We continue to see nothing in the way of hard news on restricted free agent Ramon Sessions - as has been the case all summer, the conventional wisdom is that the Knicks and Clippers are interested, while the Bucks of course have the right to match an offer shhet.  There were however a couple of dominoes late last week, that may or may not be falling towards the Sessions' game piece.  The Bucks finalized their trade of Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems to Toronto for Carlos Delfino and Roko Ukic.  Ukic' arrival now gives the Bucks three point guards under contract, including last year's starter Luke Ridnour and this summer's lottery pick Brandon Jennings.  So there's clearly no room for Sessions on the court, and it's difficult to imagine that the Bucks would match an offer sheet, even to retain a relatively cheap asset.  The other transaction of note was the Clippers decision to waive Mark Madsen.  It would seem that GMMDsr has specific plans for that roster spot, and Sessions is pretty much the only high value target left in the game.

HoopsWorld's Bill Ingram mentioned Sessions in LA five times, with nary a word about him in New York.  So that's interesting, but I have no reason to suspect that Ingram would have particular insight into the situation. 

Someone who has covered the situation closely all summer is Gery Woelfel of the Racine Journal Times.  Earlier this evening he tweeted this:

Knicks/Clippers know Bucks won't match offer sheet for R. Sessions yet both prefer a sign and trade.

I've mentioned many times that I don't think the sign and trade talk makes sense.  And I have to repeat it - it still doesn't make sense, at least not to me.  But what's interesting about this Tweet is that it says that the Clippers would prefer it.  Which begs the question:  why?

When the S&T scenarios were first floated, the Clippers had a really big trade exception to use.  So the (flawed) logic at that time seemed to be "The Clippers can offer more than the Knicks, which gives them an edge."  Unfortunately, it wasn't true, since Sessions' status as an Arenas Rule RFA limited him to a maximum starting salary of the MLE.  (Not to mention that it's pretty clear at this point that no one is offering him that much.)

But why would the Clippers prefer a S&T?  Why would the Clippers willingly give up a player in order to acquire Ramon Sessions rather than just signing him outright?  The possibilities include to clear a roster spot, to preserve their MLE, or to shed salary.  Let's look at each.

They prefer the S&T in order to clear a roster spot.  Well, this would have made a little more sense before Friday.  But they just waived Mark Madsen, and they really don't have a roster spot problem right now.  So unless there are bigger plans afoot (which may be), I don't see this one.

They prefer the S&T in order to preserve their MLE.  There are a limited number of salary cap exceptions that can be used to sign players.  If Sessions can be acquired via S&T, then the Clippers would be free to use their MLE to sign someone else.  The only problem with this thinking is that there's basically no one out there worth more than the minimum after Sessions is gone.  Oh, I suppose the Clippers could get Sessions AND then sign Raymond Felton... but realistically, I think the Clippers are done after Sessions, so hanging on to the MLE is unnecessary.  Don't forget that they still have a trade exception and the bi-annual exception to use as well.  They've got a ton of flexibility for signing guys, and there's not many FA's left to sign.  So again, unless I'm missing some grander scheme, this doesn't seem like a valid reason.

They prefer the S&T in order to shed some salary.  This of course makes the most sense from the Clippers' perspective.  If they can save some money in the process of signing Sessions, why wouldn't they?  There are a couple of glaring problems here though.  One is that the Clippers just waived Mark Madsen.  If they were holding out for some sort of salary reducing Sessions S&T, wouldn't Madsen be a logical candidate to go into that deal?  But there's a much bigger problem.  It's not uncommon for fans, when playing with a toy like the ESPN Trade Machine, to forget that there's another team involved, and that something has to be in it for the other team also (Pau to the Lakers notwithstanding).  This is the ultimate example.  "We can give Sessions an offer sheet, but we prefer a S&T."  "Why do you prefer a S&T?"  "Because we intend on jettisoning something we don't like."  "Well, if you don't like it, we don't want it."  Anything the Clippers want to throw into a deal, the Bucks don't want.  Anything the Bucks want (like draft picks), the Clippers don't want to include.  And here's the thing - neither team has anything to lose.  The Clippers can always just sign him as a FA; and the Bucks can always just let him walk. 

Continuing this theme of reciprocity, let's take the simplest example.  Let's say Sessions is willing to sign for $3.4M, which just happens to be the amount of the trade exception the Clippers have left.  It's about the least thing the Clippers could part with - less valuable than a draft pick - and it's something the Bucks might actually want.  And it happens to make all of the nastiness of base year compensation issues go away.  It's a win-win, right?  One problem.  The trade exception has value to the Clippers also, and if he's willing to sign for $3.4M, they can just sign him to an offer sheet for that amount without losing the exception.  Trust me, the trade exception has more value than the mid-level exception.

So if the simple, straightforward trade exception trade doesn't work, things start getting MUCH more complicated.  I suppose it's possible that the Clippers 'prefer' some highly complex transaction involving Chris Kaman or Baron Davis.  Maybe there's some third or even fourth team lurking out there, waiting to facilitate a massive trade involving 6 or 8 players.  We saw the seemingly impossible accomplished earlier this summer with Shawn Marion.  But the fact is, the guy at the heart of this conversation isn't complex at all - the Clippers have their full MLE to offer Sessions, and he is restricted by rule to a maximum salary of the MLE - if they want him, it seems they can have him.  So who exactly is motivated to jump through hoops to get this done? 

Of course, this all reminds me of the time I wrote post after post about how a Sam Cassell buyout made no sense - and then they bought out Sam Cassell.  I've been wrong many times - spectacularly so on occasion - so we'll just have to wait and see what happens here.