30Q: Can John Salmons Be More Than A Contract Albatross?

2011-12 Statistics:

46 Games Played, 27.2 MPG, 7.5 PPG, .409 FG%, .295 3P%, 2.9 RPG, 2.0 APG, 0.8 STL, 0.2 BLK

Contract Status:

3 years, $22.7 million remaining (Last Year is only $1 million guaranteed)

When the Kings dropped down in the draft last year and added John Salmons to boot, I was confounded. To me, this was a terrible trade. Salmons, a two guard for most of his career, was being brought in on an even bigger contract than he had before, while being older and past his prime, to play out of position. The trade was even more of a disaster than I imagined as Salmons had probably the worst year of his career. Salmons' shot was non-existent for most of the season, and by the time it arrived, injuries knocked him out for the duration.

Still, Salmons somehow is one of the better wing options the Kings have, so he will see plenty of playing time if he's healthy. But will we see a repeat of last year's debacle, or can he have a Beno Udrih-like resurgence where he adapts to a more secondary role and thrives?

Section214 and I went to a few games together last year. After one of them in which Salmons struggled yet again, he made the astute observation that Evans and Salmons on the floor at the same time was not working. Both players want the ball in their hands, and when they have it, the offense stops and there is a lot of isolation. 82games.com's lineup data seems to back this up:

Salmons + Evans on the floor: -130 Points over 627 minutes

Salmons w/o Evans: +55 Points over 203 minutes

Evans w/o Salmons: -28 Points over 714 minutes

Clearly, the team benefits when only one of them is in the game at a time. However, due to the nature of the business and the general lack of quality wing depth on the Kings, there are still going to be many lineups that feature both Evans and Salmons. In these cases, Salmons needs to adapt to playing more off the ball.

Salmons is a much better shooter than Tyreke. Last year was probably an aberration in his three point percentage. Before last season, Salmons was consistently around the 38% mark for accuracy, which would easily have put him at the top of the team last year. The team desperately needs him to bring that back, and if he does, he instantly becomes an asset, especially if he can get open and hit catch-and-shoot threes consistently.

When he is in the game by himself, that's when I think he can take over the role that Terrence Williams had at the end of last season: Point Forward. Salmons does not have as good court vision as Williams did, but he's still a capable playmaker. I could see a second unit of Jimmer Fredette, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, Thomas Robinson and Jason Thompson working really well, featuring a good set of shooters and two athletic big men who can run the floor and handle the ball themselves.

On the bright side, it can't get much worse. But if it does, or if it stays the same, Salmons will be nothing more than Kenny Thomas 2.0, relegated to the bench and untradeable. The trade to bring him back was still a bad one no matter what, but it doesn't have to be a complete disaster. John Salmons is a better player than he showed last season. Hopefully we get to see that.

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