News/notes after the jump...
JS: Salmons' calming influence
Think of him as Michael Redd without the baggage. After dropping 32 and 22 in his previous two outings, Salmons is now averaging 20.4 ppg on .470/.364/.872 shooting in his eight games with the Bucks. And while he has only had a couple games where he racked up decent assist and rebound numbers (2.9 apg and 3.5 rpg), the most important stat is 7-1: the Bucks' record since he was acquired from Chicago a couple weeks ago. Charles Gardner spoke to Scott Skiles about the Bucks' big acquisition:
"He's a steady influence," Skiles said. "He's pretty much the same every day. You don't get the sense in a big game or a not-so-big game that he's going to ride the emotional roller coaster up and down.
"He's not going to get rattled out there."
While fellow swingmen Carlos Delfino and Jerry Stackhouse have also had their fair share of moments, neither guy can create quality shots and trips to the free throw line as consistently as Salmons, which is what the Bucks have been missing since Michael Redd tore his ACL the first time.
Just as importantly, Salmons isn't wrecking the Bucks' cap situation, nor does he carry the on-court burden of being a max player expected to be the team's best player every night. I think it's easy to overlook how much that likely weighed on Redd's ability to lead and play within himself over the past few years. On the flip side, his resurgence on the court also increases the likelihood that Salmons opts out of his $5.8 million option for 10/11, which could put the Bucks in an awkward position this summer. At 30, Salmons isn't exactly on the upswing of his career and he'll likely be looking to cash in with a multi-year deal, especially if he helps lead the Bucks to a surprising playoff trip. John Hammond has been perhaps the shrewdest guy in the league when it comes to knowing when to cut bait on a guy--ask Richard Jefferson, Charlie Villanueva, Ramon Sessions and Ben Wallace (in Detroit)--so I doubt the Bucks would toss Salmons a four or five year deal. But someone else might.
Courtside: The Moute Effect
One thing I meant to link earlier this week was Ty's excellent post about Mbah a Moute's impact on the Bucks' resurgence over the past couple months.
But Skiles knew a few things. One, Moute’s perimeter defense was overrated, or at least it wasn’t enough to mask the fact that he lacked traditional small forward skills. Two, Moute is actually a more effective defender against interior players, where his quickness and effort level are quite disruptive. Three, playing Moute on the inside allows him to do what he does exceptionally well — offensive rebound like a man possessed, and convert those opportunities into points, both of which he has done exceptionally well since the move.
Ty put this together before Salmons' explosion the past couple games, but I think the underlying point is Mbah a Moute's resurgence since he moved back to the PF spot. That means we may have to acknowledge Luc more or less is what he is: a tremendously versatile defender whose lack of perimeter and ball-handling skills make him a suboptimal fit at SF, while his lack of ideal size means he's never going to be a prototype PF.
Maybe we should have seen it coming--remember that Mbah a Moute burst onto the college scene at UCLA as a freshman but never really made much progress in his remaining two years at UCLA. So he's essentially always been a fantastic role player, and while there was some hope last year that adding a jumper might turn him into more of a pure SF, it hasn't happened.