July 17 looms large for John Salmons and the Sacramento Kings. That is the last day the Kings have to decide whether to amnesty the 33-year-old wing or guarantee his $7.6-million salary for the 2013-14 season.
The amnesty provision would allow the Kings to free up cap space to make a run at a player like Monta Ellis. It would also cost Vivek Randivé roughly $8.6 million up front ($7.6 million for 2013-14 and a $1-million buyout for 2014-15) and further weaken the team’s biggest need.
The easy answer is to send Salmons packing. The new ownership group has plenty of money to make a move like this and when we polled the audience a few weeks back, 54 percent of our readers said cut the guy a check and move on. But is that still the right decision?
It’s hard to make an argument for a why a player that posted a player efficiency rating of 10.2 last season and 9.0 the season before should stick around. But it’s also hard to see how the Kings can make an improvement as a team without the 11-year veteran.
The free agency market for wings has dried up. The Kings added Luc Mbah a Moute earlier this week, which should help, but we are talking about a player that averaged just 23 minutes per game over the last two seasons and who missed 32 percent of his team’s contests over that stretch due to an ailing right knee. Mbah a Moute is a nice addition, but not a solution.
There may be another trade out there that would fill the need at small forward, but what if Salmons is the best option?
It is clear that the combination of Salmons and Tyreke Evans was a bad fit. Evans is a stronger, younger version of the same player type and Salmons was forced to become something he has never been – an off-the-ball 3-point specialist. The transition hasn’t been easy for Salmons, but his 37-percent shooting from outside helped open a lot of holes for Evans and DeMarcus Cousins.
With Evans now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans and the additions of Greivis Vasquez and Ben McLemore, Salmons is no longer a redundant piece to the puzzle. The question is whether he can turn back the clock and provide Michael Malone with solid secondary ball-handling and scoring.
Salmons has always been a good defender and when he is called upon, he can score in a variety of ways. He is also one of the most durable and hardest workers on the team, always keeping himself in incredible shape. Last season he even found his voice as a leader, which was surprising to say the least.
So what if Salmons is the Kings’ best option? Fans aren’t going to celebrate that reality, but dumping him to sign a luxury item like Ellis may come back to bite the Kings in the behind.
You can’t trust the health of Mbah a Moute. You have no one better to fill the void right now. And you can always send him packing as a near expiring contract at the deadline or just not pick up his deal for next season and pay the $1 million buyout.
Unless a magical deal materializes in the coming days, there is good chance that John Salmons is your starting small forward Kings fans.