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)
Height: 6’6″ or 6’7″ (depending on whom you ask)
Birth Date: December 12, 1979 (29 years old)
Birth Place: Philadelphia, PA
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
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 82games.com, 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.
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.
Now watch Salmons go to work. (And, in case you’re interested, here’s a mix from his Sacramento days.)