Five weeks into the start of next season, John Salmons(notes) will turn 31 years old. Last year, taking a step down from what was a career year in 2008-09, he rounded out to about an above-average player for the Chicago Bulls and Milwaukee Bucks; and Milwaukee just agreed to re-sign him to a deal that will pay Salmons $39 million over five seasons.
This has been a good day for NBA basketball players.
This isn't an outrageous deal. John Salmons making around $8 million in 2015 (David Aldridge, who first reported the deal, says that the Bucks will have a buyout option in the final season; but this would still mean Milwaukee sends money Salmons' way), yeah, that's pretty bad. But this isn't the worst free- agent signing we saw Thursday. But couldn't the Bucks, who clearly appreciate what Salmons brings to the table, have waited a bit? Made John, perhaps, a bit more tradeable near the end of his contract?
Now, we don't know how the deal is put together. It could be front-loaded (which would leave Salmons still pretty overpaid initially, in my book), with the numbers dwindling from next season until 2015, but we're just a day and a half into negotiating time. And even with all the massive contracts floating around, couldn't we just get a bit of patience?
Because Salmons is a wing player. He depends on his quickness and just enough hops to get free to work shots over the tops of defenders. And shooting guards like Salmons just don't age well. In fact, by the time they hit 33 or so, they look pretty awful. And Salmons, for the first half of his first half of 2009-10, looked absolutely terrible with Chicago. Anyone who was watching closely surely saw that as a sign of things to come, even if the 30-year-old picked it up as the year moved along.
And the fear, to me, is that you get 1 1/2 years (and that's a bit of a stretch, based on his early play in Chicago last season) of Salmons sustaining this production at age 31, before the drop-off. And you would then pay four years and around $32 million for the right to sponsor that drop-off, with a contract that seems pretty untradeable.
The Bucks are shooting to sustain, though. They're done with that brief grab at going young, and are moving ahead with a (hopefully) healthy Andrew Bogut(notes) leading the way. Brandon Jennings(notes) will be a year older and (again, hopefully) a lot better from the field in his second year. Corey Maggette(notes) will help the Bucks (last in the NBA in 2009-10 at earning whistles) get to the line more. And Drew Gooden(notes) is a master at turning loose balls and broken plays (Milwaukee had a lot of those, last season) into high-percentage scores.
And Salmons can fit in, here. He can score on plucky drives, shoot from the perimeter, and make the sound pass. His defense has fallen off a bit, but he can still lock down now and again, and he's a good locker room guy.
Five years, nearly $40 million, though. Woof. We'll see how this works.