(And yes, he is now officially "Johnny Salmons" according to StR Bylaw 12.3.1a. Thanks, coach.)
Back in June, it seemed possible that, in an effort to clear additional cap space and rebuild a dilapidated roster, the Kings could waive Johnny Salmons under the amnesty clause. It didn't happen, though: instead, the Kings traded away Tyreke Evans and his massive cap hold to open up the space for Carl Landry and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute. But ah!, Mbah a Moute is a small forward, which has been where Salmons has been used most often in both stints in Sacramento. Which produces a question: what's going to happen to Salmons's role?
Salmons was No. 3 in minutes played for the Kings last season; he played only 11 fewer minutes than DeMarcus Cousins and seven fewer minutes than Jason Thompson. Salmons was also No. 3 in minutes per game, barely behind Tyreke Evans and Cousins. There was a lot of Johnny last season!
... and it was not good. Not a single stat indicates he was better than "awful" last season. But he was still the team's best small forward not named Tyreke, who is a much better shooting guard than small forward. So, alas, 2,200 minutes of Johnny.
This year, Mbah a Moute figures to nab those Salmons minutes, depending on how tight or loose Michael Malone's rotation ends up. But Salmons won't likely slip all the way to Travis Outlaw territory in the rotation (despite the fact that Outlaw probably helps the team more than Salmons could), because Salmons is far more natural a shooting guard than a small forward. He's been a small forward in Sacramento out of necessity: in his first stint, Kevin Martin and Francisco Garcia were the shooting guards, and there was no small forward of note once Ron Artest was traded. In this stint, Salmons's competition at two-guard has been Evans and Marcus Thornton, far better players. The competition at small forward has been James Johnson and Outlaw. Big difference.
The competition for minutes at shooting guard will now be Salmons, Thornton and Ben McLemore. I dare say that Johnny is going to draw the short stick here: Thornton is likely the team's best overall guard at this point (Isaiah Thomas is right there; Greivis Vasquez could be there), and McLemore is going to get minutes unless he's a Robinsonesque disaster. That doesn't leave much for Johnny at two-guard.
But as the No. 2 small forward and No. 3 shooting guard, and given the reality of injuries in the NBA -- and particularly Mbah a Moute's recent injury history -- Salmons will play. For the sake of the team's win-loss record, he will hopefully not be a top reserve and nowhere near the top five in minutes played. But this is the season we likely say goodbye to ol' Johnny, and he should get a chance to say goodbye on the court most nights, in his special tilted-head, lack-of-expression, hand-switching way.