Sacramento Kings’ John Salmons Is Who We Thought He Was


I, among many others, made no qualms about their feelings when John Salmons was re-acquired by the Sacramento Kings in a June 23rd trade. It wasn’t that I didn’t like John Salmons as a person – it wasn’t that I didn’t like John Salmons as a player, it was just, he didn’t fit – not with this roster.

I still stand by that.

Salmons has started off his 2011-2012 season with a pace that only a snail could be envious of, playing ball at a career low clip in his second go-around with the Sacramento Kings. For Salmons, his game revolves around the ball being in his hands much like many of his teammates who play at their best with possession of the ball. So while that worked during his two years in Sacramento when he was surrounded by talent like Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson, Spencer Hawes and Beno Udrih, with ball-hawks such as DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans now filling out the Kings roster Salmons simply no longer has that freedom nor the chance to have the ball in his hands at such an elevated number.

Just an unlucky early start to the season? Sure, I’ll buy that a bit – but for Salmons, the lack of ball handling in the offense comes at a hefty price to his game.

After Salmons was traded to the Chicago Bulls in the 08-09 season, his already high usage rate dipped a bit, but still maintained a high number (21.9 in Sacramento, 20.2 in Chicago) and his effectiveness showed it in his very solid stats.

However, once Derrick Rose‘s game began to mature and the offensive focus was shifted to the young player out of Memphis, Salmons’ effectiveness began to dwindle as his usage rate and ball handling continued to drop – nearly two full points to 18.1.

Salmons then moved north to Milwaukee and again had a wonderful opening season with the Bucks, putting up nearly 20 points a game on 46% shooting, but again, his usage rate was extremely elevated at a career high of 22.7. However, once 2011 rolled around and the Bucks offense was given to Brandon Jennings, Salmons’ usage rate again dropped as did his play – resulting in nothing short of a terrible season given his ability.

Notice a trend in these numbers?

  • 08-09 – (Sac, 18ppg, 47 FG%, 21.9 usage rate) (Chi, 18ppg, 47 FG%, 20.2 usage rate)
  • 09-10 – (Chi, 12ppg, 42 FG% 18.1 usage rate) (Mil, 20ppg, 46 FG%, 22.7 usage rate)
  • 10-11 – 14ppg, 41 FG%, 20.9 usage rate
  • 11-12 – 8ppg, 36 FG%, 15.2 usage rate

Now granted – that’s just a portion of what was causing Salmons’ ineffectiveness (or effectiveness) in those scenarios, but it’s certainly a trend in his game. The more he has the ball in his hands – the more shots he can get up – the better he plays. When he’s simply just a role player in the offense and not a facilitator, he struggles. When Brandon Jennings took over his role, he regressed. When Derrick Rose took over his role, he regressed. When Tyreke Evans took over that role, well, I think we’ve read this book.

Salmons simply isn’t the spot up player the Kings need to spread the floor. He isn’t the player who can play off the ball that the Kings require with this current roster.

For what it’s worth, yes, Salmons is better for the Kings than a Donte Greene or a Travis Outlaw. I personally think he’s a bit overrated on the defensive side of the ball, but, he’s still effective on that side of the floor more times than not and is the clear choice over those players. But expecting to see Salmons return to the player he was in Sacramento during 2006? I just don’t see it.

For Salmons, I think he’ll have his moments because he is a talented player – I have no doubts about that – but he needs to be in a particular position to thrive and with the current crop of players on the Kings roster, he’ll never have that opportunity outside of a significant injury.