A Substitute for War

Basketball philosophy

Trying to justify the Sacramento Kings moving down in the draft to add John Salmons

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John Salmons of the Chicago Bulls vs Pacers, D...

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Quick recap: In the player moving draft day deal between the Bobcats, Bucks and Kings, the gist of the Kings side was moving from #7 to #10 pick for taking on John Salmons’ bad contract for Beno Udrih. (I’ll have thoughts on the Bucks and Bobcats end of things later) A lot of NBA fans went: Huh??? It seems out of place for a young team like the Kings to give up value for an old, big contract like Salmons.

Yet NBA teams don’t do deals for no reason. Here’s my best guess as the Kings motivation for this

–  First, I suspect they were taking Jimmer Fredette at #7 as much as at #10. Yes, Brandon Knight was available at #7 and a great basketball fit beside Tyreke Evans. But Jimmer was just as strong of one and more importantly for the Maloofs who need money, the most popular player in the draft and a huge jersey mover and fan maker. Jimmer was going to the Kings. So the move down didn’t effect anything for them in terms of draft position. It’s simply  Udrih for Salmons, which certainly doesn’ t look as bad.

–          Udrih is owed 15 million the next 2 years in a backcourt with minutes taken by Jimmer, Tyreke Evans and presumably a resigned Marcus Thornton. That’s a lot to pay for your 4th guard. On the other hand their best SF is Omri Casspi or Francisco Garcia. Salmons fills more of a role as a 30-35 minute SF who can score, and more importantly on this team, defend and rebound on the perimeter. He is owed 3 years 24 million, but I do believe the Kings are presuming his extra 7.5 million in 2013-2014 seperating him from Udrih’s contract, can be moved by then if they want. Also, the Kings have so little contract commitment in 2013-2014 that they can set up exactly how big they want their payroll to be by then, whether that’s reflected through having Salmons or another player. Adding 7.5 mil to that year is not a big deal when the slate is nearly empty.

–  Getting Salmons, in a weird way, could be a financial move. Beno Udrih does not move tickets or jerseys or attract TV viewers. He is a backup PG who plays like one. This is especially true if he’s the 4th guard next year. Salmons is a former King casual fans recognize, a player that can show up on highlight reels with a 25 point game every once in a while, he’s a face you can put on billboards and ads that people will know – and he’s someone that perhaps can make Kings games a little closer and more competitive. The NBA is a product and Salmons helps you market the new Kings a bit more than Udrih does, in my opinion. Right now you have to assume money is playing it’s part in every deal the infamously cash strapped Maloofs are making. A fan who quit 3 years ago may see Jimmer added and Salmons who he remembers and decide to start watching again. Little additives like this may not be a substantial gain in cash, but it’s always something and to the Maloofs every dollar matters.

Ultimately the move doesn’t drastically change the Kings future. The important part is still making Jimmer, Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins fit together offensively and trying to find a way to teach them defense and rebounding. Salmons and Udrih are both blips along the way, but in my opinion, Salmons makes them better the next two years by filling a defensive SF hole and by taking pressure off Jimmer, Evans and Cousins to score. The gist of draft move downs is getting the player you want and getting a little extra to help you – and that’s what I believe this move was.

4 Responses

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  1. It’s a nice attempt to justify the trade, but I disagree with basically everything:

    1. Even if they wanted Jimmer all the way, they extracted zero value from the pick swap. That’s bad.

    2. Udrih isn’t a 4th guard for the Kings, as the other three guys you mentioned aren’t point guards. If you look at the roster in terms of PGs/Wings/Bigs, they traded their only true PG for a 6th wing. Also, even if the last $7.5 million of Salmons’ contract is movable, doesn’t that apply a fotieri to Udrih, who is making less money over fewer years, and also happens to be the better player?

    3. The jersey argument doesn’t work, since revenues from jersey sales are divided among all the teams. I’m also not sure how many fans Salmons is going to bring back once they realize he’s not close to the player he was the last time he played for the Kings. I think having a real PG might help the Kings draw fans, and Udrih’s not a backup if he keeps spitting out a 15.70 PER and ~58 TS%, even if he’s a poor defender and the PG position across the league is arguably as deep as it’s ever been (lol Lakers). If the Maloofs are so cash-strapped, they could have easily packaged Udrih and their pick for salary relief, or at least not taken on additional money over additional years, or gotten a younger player than Udrih instead of a guy who will be gone by the time the Kings approach relevancy (if they ever do).

    There’s really no reason to like this deal. They traded from a position of weakness to logjam a position of strength with a player who isn’t better than the ones they already had, saved no money, and skipped down in the draft for no return.


    June 26, 2011 at 11:25 pm

  2. In response to your objections

    1. Udrih for Salmons would be “the value”, I suppose

    2. The Kings liked to play Tyreke and Thornton together last year with Tyreke at PG. Jimmer will be played as a full time PG. So they can rotate a 3 guard rotation of Jimmer, Tyreke and Thornton quite easily I believe and will have to if they wanted to pay Thornton and play him 30 minutes a game

    3. I didn’t know about the jersey sales being split, good point. Udrih is definitely a backup PG now that Jimmer is there though. Jimmer will be pushed in as the man at PG from day 1. I don’t think moving from 7 to 10 would have been enough to dump Udrih’s 2012-2013 salary, on that point.

    I believe Salmons is better than Udrih. He has more in his toolbox with scoring and size and defense, he’s just unpredictable mentally. It bears mentioning last year’s Bucks offense was a complete disaster. Skiles had a team that didn’t fit and then paid no attention to offense on top of that. No surprise Salmons, Maggette, Bogut all looked below their average and Jennings looked below his talent. It’s like trading from a Don Nelson team but the complete opposite. Salmons also played beside Maggette, one of the biggest black holes in the league. Mind you playing beside Tyreke Evans is not a substantial difference, but we’ll see if they take the ball out of Tyreke’s hands more this year


    June 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm

  3. John Salmons may be a better player than Beno Udrih on reputation, but even that’s debatable right now. Offensive stats such as PER, TS% (12.85 and 51.0 for Salmons versus 15.88 vs. 58.8 for Udrih) clearly show that Udrih is the more efficient player. Salmons coasts through games while only playing an effective role in the offense if the ball is in his hands. Udrih can provide some offensive value setting up teammates in the pick and roll or as a spot up shooter in comparison to Salmons. The funny thing about this is that the Kings still need a point guard! What if Jimmer Fredette goes the way of J.J. Redick or Adam Morrison? Surely that wouldn’t warrant a starting spot, even on the Sacramento Kings. Outside of Pooh Jeter, they don’t have anyone to play point guard unless you count Tyreke Evans. I disagree with the notion that Salmons should be the point guard because while he’s a decent ballhandler for his position, he’s not one to set up teammates. Udrih was fine in his role with the team, and they could have drafted Fredette knowing they could ease him into the starting role because of Udrih. Instead Fredette will likely be the starting point guard or main backup combo guard on a team full of players with high usage rates (Evans = 25.30, Salmons = 20.90, DeMarcus Cousins = 27.19 , Marcus Thornton = 24.41. And those are their four best players). And with what we’ve seen from Fredette’s game to date, he’ll likely continue to be a high usage player but with low efiiciency, or have to spend his rookie season adjusting his game to his teammates.

    Among other problems created with the trade are: the additional long-term salary the Kings are taking on; killing the trade value of Omri Casspi and Donte Greene; and getting older while on a rebuilding team (a problem since Salmons doesn’t really bring any “intangibles” value in their locker room or court one would look for in a veteran).

    It’s a noble attempt to try to justify this trade for the Kings since they’re being killed by experts, fans, and bloggers all over the interweb. You’ve defended it well as anyone I’ve seen so far, so kudos to you for that.


    June 29, 2011 at 9:24 am

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