Why The Bulls Are Better Off With Leftover Salmons
Should John Salmons be starting over Luol Deng? That question has been rattling around in my head all week, even before news that Deng was injured and may miss the rest of the season came in last night. Although it now looks like Deng might be back in action sooner rather than later, the question still remains.
I’m on record as being in favor of the Deng contract (6 years $71 million) and I blame his poor performance on the court this year on Vinny’s horrific offensive scheme (if he even has one). That being said, maybe Salmons is better than Deng, and far cheaper.
While Deng can be an effective player, what exactly can he do better than Salmons? Let’s take a look at different aspects of their games and see who has the edge:
3 Point Shooting: Salmons obviously has the advantage in this category. Salmons is shooting better than 42% from 3 point land, far above the league average and very efficient. Deng used shoot a lot of 3s his rookie year but abandoned them until very recently. He has started to take more 3s this year, but still only takes about 1 every 2 games. He is 8/20 this year but that is a small sample size and his career 28% is more indicative of his usefulness behind the arc than anything else. EDGE: SALMONS
Jump Shooting: The days of Deng knocking down the open 20-footer with consistence seem to be in the past. Though he is not the sharp-shooter he was on the mid-range shot, he still hits it enough to be useful. Salmons is about as effective as Deng in this department, though perhaps slightly better considering his field goal percentage this year rests at 47.5% as opposed to Deng’s 45%. Since Deng gets to the basket more it’s probably a safe bet to say that his layups and dunks inflate his field goal percentage. Salmons has a better jump shot and equally as important he seems able to create it on his own. EDGE: SALMONS
Attacking The Rim: This is an offensive category where Deng has the slight edge. His ability to attack the basket off back screens and in transition is excellent. While Salmons can attack the basket (and gets to the line a lot), he seems a little out of control when he does it. EDGE: DENG
Ball-Handling: Is it just me or do they both suck? To play the 3-spot, you basically need a few skills: 3point shot, slashing ability, ball-handling, versatile defender. Neither of them seem to be able to handle the ball. Although this is not a huge problem for the Bulls since Rose is comfortable having the ball in his hands a lot of the time, it would still be nice if one of these guys could actually bring the ball up the court once in a while. EDGE: TIE
Passing: They both seem able to pass fine, but Deng seems more willing to make the extra pass than Salmons. Although it ends in a made bucket a lot of the time, Salmons is a bit of a black hole with the ball. He seems to dribble around a lot and waste the shot clock trying to create his own shot, which can lull the other Bulls to sleep and ruin the flow of the offense. It’s not necessarily always bad, but Deng doesn’t gum up the offense in the same way. EDGE: DENG
Perimeter Defense: Both players have shown the ability to defend the perimeter. While Deng’s man defense has been on and off of late, Salmons seems to be able to lock down his defender. He is almost as long as Deng and can stay in front of his man on a more consistent basis. EDGE: SALMONS
Help Defense: As good as Salmons has been in man defense, it seems like he either doesn’t want to rotate to help his teammates, or doesn’t know how. Since the Bulls don’t play great team defense in general, Salmons fits right in, but eventually (I hope), they will start to play better defense, and Salmons shortcomings in this category could be very costly. EDGE: DENG
Rebounding: Deng seems to have this one by sheer statistics. He is averaging 6 a game where Salmons is only averaging 4.2. I don’t notice such a stark difference when watching the games , but Deng is around the basket a little more when he is cutting, so maybe he is in better position to grab boards. EDGE: DENG
Overall: When looking at them overall, the question isn’t who is the better talent or player, but who will be more useful to the team. Salmons is a far better offensive weapon and defensively his ability to defend the perimeter covers up for most of what he lacks in the team defense department. EDGE: SALMONS.
So there you have it. Losing Deng for any amount of time is bad, and it will hurt our depth significantly. Salmons, however, seems to be a better overall player. Statistics tell the same story, as Salmons PER is 16.44, while Deng’s does not even crack 15. I wish we still had Thabo right now to soak up those minutes at SF that will have to go to Hinrich, Tyrus, or Tim Thomas while Deng is out.