[This is one of StR's '07-08 Kings previews. Follow them here.]
It is ... difficult to keep faith in John Salmons when faith is a) so hard to come by, and b) Salmons fails to regularly live up to expectations sealed by your faith. In few Kings matter do we trust. Why waste a share on a spotty player who sits on the older end of the Tomorrow Brigade age spectrum*? And when we feel we can rely on a player -- we put faith in his ability to perform -- and we do not receive the expected performance, we will withdraw future offerings of faith.
Or, in simpler terms: Johnny sells wolf tickets, and I can't afford no more.
But, as with all things Kings, there is hope just outside the grave.
Check it out: when Salmons plays many minutes over the course of numerous games, he tends to be good over the course of numerous games. When his minutes come inconsistently, or when they are consistently low, his performance suffers, even if you toss in a spare 40-minute game for kicks and giggles. (Reggie Theus is ALL ABOUT ironic humor.)
Now, the graph above shouldn't be taken as gospel. Game Score (a Hollinger metric, a basic version of PER) is a bit too dependent on minutes for my taste, so there's some causal crap in there. And there are some instances of relatively low minutes with strong performance, as well as (of course) high minutes in conjunction with crap performance. He's not a perfect science, folks. Hate to ruin your daydreams.
But we all know there's something to the "flow factor" for Salmons: we saw REPEATEDLY that he needs to get into a flow to be effective. Flows come with regular, consistent minutes: you can't get into rhythm with two minutes here and four there. As you'd expect, starters get more flow-inducing minutes than bench players. So last year this came down to a "Johnny needs to start to be effective" motto, which is really the most basic way to put things (unless you turn Salmons into a de facto sixth starter, a la Jerry Stackhouse or Manu Ginobili; this is unlikely to occur).
So let's get basic: the starter-bench splits for Salmons '07-08 are MIND-BLOWING. Shooting at as a starter: .515 on twos, .385 on threes. As a reserve: .475 on twos, .214 on threes. !
Scoring: 16.6 points per 36 minutes as a starter, 11.2 points/36 as a reserve !!
Aggressiveness: 14.5 shooting possessions per 36 minutes as a starter, 10.7 per 36 as a reserve. !!!
Even assists, rebounds, steals ... everything! Some of that (shooting, aggressiveness) is flow. Some of it (rebounding, steals) is effort. Salmons didn't provide the same effort off the bench as he did in the starting lineup. We can only blame the wing logjam for so much.
We assume Salmons will start the season opener at small forward. He'll have every chance on Great Mother Earth to perform, to meet expectations, to justify our faith. The record shows he can do it. But you'll understand if I take a "believe it with my own two eyes" approach.
Make me believe, Johnny. I want to believe.
* Coming soon.