I have a theory regarding all of this Salmons 'hate', for lack of a better word since yesterday's draft day trade announcement. His time with the Kings was associated with a lot of losing. It is not John Salmons per se, it is the team-wide underachieving results while he was a King that elicited a collective and explicit-laced groan from an anticipatory fan base.
It is true, although, that his style of play does little to endear himself to fans. His game is not pretty to watch. He does not display any emotion or passion for the game. Not exactly an animated competitor. Often it looks like John Salmons is just going through the motions on the floor, which makes him difficult to root for, but that is just his style of play. He is not unlike Tyreke in regards to his relatively stoic on-court demeanor.
But I think the predominant factor regarding the trade backlash is that John Salmons was a primary player on a team that sucked really bad. Our memories of him are connected to a lot of losing! I will not recount the win/loss percentage out of mercifulness. But to me thats the main source of the animosity more so than an objective evaluation of his skills. Skill-wise, John Salmons is not bad.
Here's what Salmons brings to the court for those unfamiliar, or for those who have intentionally blacked out that portion of Kings history from their mind, and rightfully so!
Salmons is a below the rim player who likes to pause and hold the ball off the catch to size up his defender. And pause, and pause, and pause some more.
He uses a quick stutter step to get by his man. He looks to get to the hoop aggressively and draw fouls. He has a patented head and shoulders shake move off the dribble to create space and shoot 12 to 18 footers. Even though he doesn't jump high, he has an ability to get to the rim and get his shot off. His 3 point shot has improved over the years. Defensively, he does a good job of keeping his man in front of him, provides decent help defense, and can hold his ground in the post and paint. He does a fair job of closing out on shooters on the perimeter. When a man is open on the weak side, the strong side, or any side, don't count on Salmons always noticing him, or rewarding with pass.
All this sounds pretty good, so what's problem? Well, his career has unfolded primarily within the context of a lot of losing. His culpability in overall team performance is up for debate. I think he has to be held accountable to a degree, but he has skills that help a team to compete. I am not trying to put lipstick on a pig, but John Salmons has game. He's not a bad player, he just hasn't found a role yet within a team that wins consistently. His career doesn't have to end that way.
Coach Paul Westphal made an excellent point in his post draft video that is worth mention. Kings opponents last year would frequently hide smaller guards on our SFs (Garcia, Greene Casspi), and away from Tyreke, because they could get away with it. Our trio of SFs could not exploit the size difference and post the mouse in the house. Salmons will exploit the mismatch. He has a strong base, and can hold his position on the block, and punish smaller defenders for layups, fouls, and and-one's. We have not seen this from Omri or Donte with any degree of reliability. This does not mean Salmons is going to get 10 post touches per game, or more than one or two for that matter, but our team will be harder to match up against teams rotating the JJ Barea and Ty Lawson types.
Enough scurrying adjustment to what the other guy does, let them do the adjusting! It is time for the Kings to dictate how the game is played.
Further one of the foremost needs for the Kings is a front court player who can handle the ball and initiate offense, and take pressure off the guards on occasion. Salmons can do this. Hopefully, the possession does not end with the ball in his hands, and it is up to the coaching staff to see that the basketball does not get stuck where it does not belong.
Do I like this trade? No, not really. Retread, 31 years old, limited to no upside. Uninspiring playing demeanor. Dubious leadership skills. But everyone deserves a second chance. It is a new day, and Jimmer is open in the corner! If Salmons buys into his new role, as 4th or 5th scoring option and defensive stopper, he can help a lot.
I would anticipate he will be amenable to his lesser status as a scoring option because John Salmons got paid. And he is paid until the age of 34. He's not playing for a new contract. He's not trying to emerge from the Allen Iverson shadow like he was in his first stint with the Kings. He does not have to prove he is a scoring force. He's had seasons of near 20 points per game. He's set financially with his third NBA contract. His priority should be winning and providing veteran leadership. It is up to Coach Westphal to sell him on this new role, and for Salmons to embrace it, and bounce back from an off-year, at 41% FGs.
Can he do this? Of course he can. And I expect he will.
Pass the salt, please.