We wondered if John Salmons had crossed the river into "past his prime," if he had seen the greatest bites of his NBA career and watched them trickle by. We took the bait when the Sacramento Kings pitched it as a big catch for a team with shallow depth at small forward. A consistent stream of defense and offensive roleplaying, someone to unblock the dam of playmaking pressure on Tyreke Evans, we were told. Instead of swimming upstream at the three every single game, we'd have some parity with opponents there. The move would spawn a more balanced, consistent attack.
Instead, all we got was a set of really fishy set of puns.
Salmons is easily playing worse than anyone that the Kings trotted out in 2010-11, with the singular exception of Antoine Wright. He's an absolute disaster on the glass (as he's always been at small forward; this is no surprise), he's been a poor secondary playmaker (10 percent assist rate), he's scoring little (9 points per 36 minutes) and inefficiently (36 percent from the floor, 22 percent on threes, .423 True Shooting percentage) and his defense has been totally uneven. He's been bad bad bad.
He is also the Kings' highest-paid player, one the team acquired willingly just months ago. The Kings took on $11 million in additional guaranteed salary in the swap for Beno Udrih (a better, younger and of course cheaper player than Salmons) ... and moved down in the lottery. Including this season, Salmons is due $25 million through 2014. He had been in decline -- his efficiency and scoring had both fallen in 2010-11, and his PER fell from a career-high 16 in 2009 to 14.7 in 2010 to 12.8 in 2011. (It's 7.9 this season.)
Geoff Petrie, no doubt with Paul Westphal's encouragement, made an investment in Salmons hoping he'd provide a serious improvement at small forward. Instead, he's been much worse -- something beyond what even critics of the deal saw -- and the only saving grace is the fact that the Kings (if they can afford to burn cash) can amnesty him next summer. Whether they do or not, the Kings still have an incredible weakness at small forward. (Travis Outlaw doesn't seem to be the answer. Color me stunned.)
What a disaster that trade was, no matter how Jimmer develops.