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The Worst Bucks Contract of the Last Decade: John Salmons Takes 6th

The Fear The Deer leader’s time in Milwaukee was short and sweet

Milwaukee Bucks v Miami Heat Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

John Salmons was that friend who came whirling into your life in college, took you to the righteous keggers and basement bashes, you prematurely agree to live with for sophomore year and subsequently get that familiar feeling after the incessant partying wears out its welcome:

Salmons was a journeyman for many years, playing his first four years for his hometown Philadelphia 76ers, but rarely making a significant on-court impact. He hit then-high 7.5 points per game his final season in Philadelphia before shipping off to Sacramento, where his production and responsibility steadily grew. By the 2008-09 season, he’s moved to 37 minutes per game with the Kings before they shipped him to Chicago. He continued his upward trajectory, averaging 18.3 points, 4.2 boards and 3.2 assists on shooting splits of 47.2/41.7/83.0. With his 3-point attempts leaping from 1.5 to 3.8, the increased percentage made for one compelling backcourt player who could potentially score efficiently with upped usage.

He regressed for the Bulls in 2009, averaging just 12.7 points per game before the Milwaukee Bucks acquired him in a midseason coup. The Bucks received Salmons, two second round selections and a pick-swap option in exchange for Hakim Warrick and Joe Alexander. The rest is history. Salmons emerged as a C.C. Sabathia-lite acquisition, injecting an offensive burst to the tune of 19.9 points per game on 46.7% shooting. His 22.7% usage rate over those 30 games was the highest clip of his career, he accrued the best win shares/48 too at .165, same with his 17.6 PER. Salmons also had a ludicrous 10.7 on/off net rating differential. That Fear The Deer team was rolling and Salmons was the key offensive initiator.

In the Playoffs, Salmons couldn’t quite keep up the same efficiency, as his true shooting dipped from 58.1% in the regular season to 49%. He had to carry a larger burden in the absence of Andrew Bogut, and he shot a horrid 17.4% from deep on 3.3 attempts per game. Even as that Bucks team heroically dragged the Hawks to seven games, Zaza Pachulia and company dispatched Salmons. So, heading into the offseason, John Hammond sensed positive momentum and elected to re-sign Salmons to a 5-year $39M deal with the final year partially guaranteed. The plan was to pair him with Corey Maggette, whom they traded for, and Drew Gooden.

Like most things for this franchise since 1990, it didn’t go as planned. Salmon’s true shooting dipped to a still-respectable 51%, his PER dropped closer to his career average of 12.8, and his free throw rate dropped to 26.7 in a sign of precipitous decline for his ability to get to the line. The 2010-11 team missed the Playoffs. Salmons fell to 14 points per game, and his 2-point field goal percentage dipped from 49.7% during his 30-game run in ‘09-10 to 42.7% that subsequent season. He was fourth on the team in terms of his contract, behind Michael Redd, Andrew Bogut and Corey Maggette. His once ridiculous net rating differential actually turned into the Bucks being about 0.8 points per 100 possessions better with him off the court than on. It was a lost season for the franchise.

Still, his individual production didn’t falter too much from where his career was likely headed, it’s just that fans may have expected his epic run to illustrate a leap forward, when in reality, it was a hot spell. There wasn’t some higher level for Salmons to reach, and ultimately, his contract wound up not hindering the Bucks for years on end thanks to some slick haggling from John Hammond after that season.

The best part of this signing was Hammond recognizing the decline as a sign of things to come, and shipped him out to hapless Sacramento, who may have felt burned after his emergence following their trading him in the first place. Kudos to Hammond, the bad-contract magician who could make almost any ill-advised deal somehow disappear. Salmons burned out quickly, but thankfully only left a little ash in the Bradley Center from his massive deal in Milwaukee.

From the archives

Here’s a nice roundup from Frank that delves into the different feelings from folks across the league on both the Salmons and Gooden impending signings.

Before he was shipped out of town, Steve Von Horn’s feeling on Salmons first year.

Brew Hoop Worst Contract of the Last Decade Ranking

10. Ersan Ilyasova (2012; 5-year, $40M; team option last year)

9. O.J. Mayo (2013; 3-year, $24M)

8. Mirza Teletovic (2016; 3-year, $31.5M)

7. Tony Snell (2017; 4-year, $44M)

6. John Salmons (2010; 5-year, $39M)


What is the BEST Bucks contract out of this bad bunch?

This poll is closed

  • 22%
    2010 Drew Gooden (5-year, $32M)
    (39 votes)
  • 20%
    2013 Larry Sanders (4-year, $44M)
    (37 votes)
  • 44%
    2015 John Henson (4-year, $44M)
    (78 votes)
  • 12%
    2016 Matthew Dellavedova (4-year, $38.5M)
    (22 votes)
  • 0%
    2016 Miles Plumlee (4-year, $52M)
    (1 vote)
177 votes total Vote Now

This poll will close on Tuesday, May 19 at noon CST.