Scouting Report: John Salmons


Over the next few weeks, I’m going to provide a scouting report on all the current Bulls players. This should make it a little easier for me (and maybe for you) to sort through the pieces of Chicago’s jigsaw puzzle. I decided to start with the man who will replace the dearly departed Ben Gordon as the team’s starting shooting guard.

Name: John Salmons (pronounced SAL-muns)
Position: SG/SF
Height: 6’6″ or 6’7″ (depending on whom you ask)
Birth Date: December 12, 1979 (29 years old)
Birth Place: Philadelphia, PA
Number: 15
Nicknames: Buck, Get Right, The Fish Man, Up Stream
College: Miami (FL)
Drafted: 2002, 1st Round, 26th overall by Philadelphia
Experience: 7 seasons
Previous teams: Philadelphia (2002-2006), Sacramento (2006-2009)
Contract: $5.5 in 2009-10, $5.8 million in 2010-11 (player option)
Expect: Pull-up jumpers, strong drives, solid man-to-man defense
Don’t expect: Floor leadership, amazing ball-handling, a sixth man

On offense:
Salmons has become a highly effective slasher. He can get to the hoop, absorb contact and finish with either hand. However, Salmons prefers to stop short of the basket, pull up and squeeze off midrange jump shots. In fact, according to, 73 percent of his shots during his 26 games with the Bulls were jumpers. (He attempted jumpers 68 percent of the time when he was with the Kings.)

Despite his love affair with the jump shot, Salmons was a pretty efficient scorer last season, shooting 47 percent from the field and nearly 42 percent from three-point range. In fact, he led the 2008-09 Bulls in True Shooting Percentage and was second (to Joakim Noah) in Effective Field Goal Percentage. And while it’s true he played only 26 games in Chicago, his season totals still would have ranked him second in both categories.

So Salmons can penetrate, create his own shots and spread the floor with his outside shooting ability. Those are good things. Unfortunately, a decent chunk of his scoring comes from isolation plays that feature him dribbling, dribbling and dribbling some more until he can cut to the hoop or invent a jumper. During these isolations, Salmons can (and will) overlook cutting teammates and interrupt the flow of the offense. He sometimes commits needless turnovers by overdribbling or forcing a drive. He also has the tendency to disappear when his number isn’t called frequently enough.

On defense:
Salmons is a solid — and sometimes exceptional — man-to-man defender, even when matched against premier wing players (such as Paul Pierce and Michael Redd) and talented point guards (like Steve Nash). He’s doesn’t possess blazing speed, but he has the lateral quickness and determination necessary to keep his man in front of him. In fact, his primary defensive strategy is to stop his man’s drive and force a contested jumper. Salmons is willing (and able) to fight through screens and body-up on his man when necessary. He’s not a great rebounder at the SF position, but he’s slightly above average when playing SG, as he will be this season.

On the downside, his team defense is average to below average. His rotations can be sluggish (and sometimes nonexistent) and he’s often so focused on staying with his own man that he fails to help out when his teammates get beaten off the dribble. Salmons tends not to play the passing lanes and doesn’t have great anticipation, so he won’t disrupt many passes or collect a lot of steals.

At this point, everybody knows that Salmons is much more effective starting than coming off the bench. To my knowledge, he’s never complained openly about his role (although it was reported he once stormed out of the lockerroom during his Sacramento days), but the change in his productivity has been pretty easy to track. In 2007-08 for the Kings, Salmons started 41 games (due to injuries) and subbed for 40. On a per-40-minute basis, he averaged 18.4 points on 49.7 percent shooting when starting, and only 12.4 points on 43.0 percent shooting in a reserve capacity. This Jekyll-and-Hyde behavior shouldn’t be a problem this season, since he’s expected to start.

Salmons is a quiet player who isn’t known as a motivational, team-leader type. Which is fine, because that’s not his role with the Bulls.

Note also that Salmons has a player option on the final year of his contract (2010-11). So unless he falls apart this season, he’ll probably opt out of his contract next summer. On the upside, that could spark a little Contract Year Phenomenon.

Salmons is a versatile player. He can defend (and defend well) at three positions (PG, SG and SF). He can drive and finish, create pull-up jumpers from midrange and stick it from long distance. He’ll probably never be an All-Star, but he can and most likely will be a very good utility/complimentary player.

More Salmons: profile profile
Basketball-Reference profile Player Stats
Wikipedia entry

Bonus video:
Now watch Salmons go to work. (And, in case you’re interested, here’s a mix from his Sacramento days.)


16 Responses to Scouting Report: John Salmons

    granville waiters August 12, 2009 at 6:14 pm #

    I don’t think you’re giving his offense enough credit. His ballhandling is crafty and controlled. He gets a lot of quiet points. His efficiency leads me to believe that he’ll put up bigger numbers this year due to getting more shots with BG in Detroit. He could average 22-23ppg on a good % wich would make him a top 10 or 12 scorer in the league. I think he’s got a good shot at making the allstar team. Just look at last year’s East team. Bulls immediately got better with BG gone. Salmons is clearly better than BG.

    Matt McHale August 12, 2009 at 6:46 pm #

    granville waiters — I too feel that Salmons is an upgrade over BG at the SG. The only area where Gordon seemed superior was in his ability to just blow up. I have not, to this point, seen that kind of explosing scoring ability out of Salmons, including when he was with the Kings. But his overall versatility (particularly on defense) not to mention his height should make him a better fit at the two-spot than Ben.

    I wasn’t trying to undersell Salmons’ offense. He certainly seems to have developed into a fairly efficient scorer and his long-distance shooting improved dramatically last season. But at 29 years old — and he’ll turn 30 in December — does Salmons have another Leap left in him? Or has he hit his personal ceiling?

    It’s hard for me to imagine Salmons scoring 20+ points per game in a Vinny Del Negro offense, and he’ll have trouble cracking the guard rotation on the All-Star team with guys like Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson around. But I suppose it’s not altogether inconceivable either…assuming he’s treated as a strong second option on offense. But you have to wonder how many shots Luol Deng will get, and how many shots will be force-fed to Tyrus to either pump up his trade value or get him to actually live up to his potential.

    All in all, I’m a huge Salmons fan, which is another reason I scouted him first. But last season was by far his best season as a pro, and I’m going to have to see him top that to believe it.

    Brad S. August 12, 2009 at 7:00 pm #


    I disagree, but I like your attention to deeper basketball thought. I appreciate John Salmons as a player, and his price-tag vs skill-set is fantastic. However, if the guy couldn’t put up All-star numbers on a crap team like Sacramento, there is no way he will get enought shots on the Bulls. (Ty Thomas is in a contract year, D-Rose will need to keep defenses honest, Luol needs to prove he can still play. And I am sure that our rookies will be in there throwing up bad shots as well!) In order for him to be realistically considered for the All-star team, John would need to average 25 pts a night for the first half of the season. At his shooting percentage that equals between 20 and 30 shots per night. Do you really see him getting 20 to 30 shots a night on this team? Keep in mind that BHB (that’s Ball-Hog-Ben) didn’t even get off that many shots and he never made an all-star game either.

    BTW, Thanks for the update, Matt. I know there has been nothing to report on this front, but it’s the 13th and your last update was on August 7th. “I been Jonesin’ for some Bulls!”

    granville waiters August 12, 2009 at 7:39 pm #

    i can’t disagree too much with any of this. Just wanted to chime in again to agree with Brad and say thanks Matt for giving us something to chatter about during august. i too am jonesin’.

    i know we’re not a powerhouse this year but i’m pumped to see our backcourt gel. rose and salmons with a fresh-legged kirk causing havoc off the bench…how many teams have a more talented and well-rounded backcourt? i’m just excited to see the whole team grow now that BG can’t stifle everyone elses game.

    and yes, i have a hard time not turning everything into an anti-BG rant. it seems that sometimes i blame traffic on BG. he has drained me for years.

    Matt McHale August 12, 2009 at 10:50 pm #

    Brad — You hit the nail on the head there: No way will JS get enough shots in this offense to average an All-Star PPG. But I don’t care about that, as long as he makes the offense hum.

    And I promise you both, I’m going to try my best to churn out a scouting report a day (or, at worst, every other day) until I get through the team, and then we can all discuss how these parts fit together.

    felipe garcia August 13, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    I strongly agree, the Bulls are going to be way better off with Salmon at the SG position then BG was last year. Like I said b4, Salmon alway hits high percent jump-shots, he can hit 3 pointers as well if you leave him open, he can take it inside the hole and draw contact to get to the free-throw line and he is a really good defender then BG ever was during his career. That is what I been trying to tell you people these past few weeks. I don’t see why the Bulls are not a playoff team again this year. It is not like they have a bad line-up of young talented guys. Trust me, the Bulls are a playoff team again this year you’ll see.

    andres Lopez August 13, 2009 at 1:21 am #

    I agree with garcia, believe it or not people the Bulls have another chance of getting into the playoffs this year for sure! Now that they have lost BG the Bulls are going to become a much better improve defensive team along with Rose improving as well. Having Salmon to replace BG spot make more sense now. Salmon is a bigger guard at 6-6, he can average about about 18-20 points per game, play good defense and an unselfish player that can past the ball to his open teammates. The only thing we will miss about BG present was his big shots under pressure, which is no big deal b-cuz we have Rose, Pargo and Hinrich to hit those shots. Plus the Bulls are getting back Deng soon at 100% and hopefully he will become an improve player then last year. Along with Ty Thomas, J. Noah and the 2 rookies.

    Dan August 13, 2009 at 1:01 pm #

    Proposing a new nickname to add to the list. “The Salamander”

    Brad S. August 13, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    Not bad on the nickname, but why does everyone always focus on his last name? I mean it’s kind-of low hanging fruit, don’t you think? A really creative nickname goes a bit deeper to capture the essence of the person. I think we should try and build one based off of John’s god-awful facial hair. How about “King Tut”? …Or “PubeChin”, or maybe “Richard Hamilton II”.

    mike killer August 15, 2009 at 6:44 pm #

    Salmon was a great pick-up player for the Bulls last season from Sacramento in order to replace BG presents this year. Now that Salmon will take over the SG spot. The Bulls will become a bigger & better defensive team this year, with a lot of ball movements & improvement of developing young players like: Ty Thomas, J. Noah, L. Deng, D. Rose & others. will play much better without BG. GO BULLS!!! Can wait until the season starts again.

  11. Dan August 16, 2009 at 2:18 am #

    This guy was such a great pickup…he can play the two if needed, but is great at that Small Forward Position…I really hope Tyrus will breakout along with Noah. This will be a fun season without BG because we are moving into the right direction now. The most important thing is for Rose to make another step forward to that superstar level.

    EAM August 17, 2009 at 10:38 am #

    I like Salmons alot, but better than Gordon? No. Gordon has better career averages. He is a better shooter. Last season was Salmons most productive year. He shot very well. He gets to the basket but his handle is shakey. Hopefully he continues to improve because without him the bulls would be in a world of hurt.

    andres Lopez August 18, 2009 at 5:13 am #

    I agree with your comment their EAM, Salmons was a better pickup player then BG, but don’t forget ‘EAM’, Salmon was not that bad as a ball handler then BG was in the past, creating a lot of turnovers and lot the ball handle. Hopefully Salmon will continue his good career that he had last season with even more better numbers. Go BULLS!

    andres Lopez August 18, 2009 at 5:20 am #

    and missing handling the ball a lot*

    Boppinbob August 18, 2009 at 6:50 pm #

    EAM, I would say Salmons is different than Gordon. Salmons will be more consistent than Gordon on offense. He will not be as explosive as Gordon. He will play much better defense than Gordon. He will spend most of his time at the 2 spot, ocassionally playing the 3. I definitely feel that the Bulls guard rotation with Rose, Salmons, Hinrich, Pargo and Hunter will be better than 2008/09.

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