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The Importance of John Salmons

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Ever really want something but have absolutely no expectations of obtaining it?

Maybe it was that Nintendo with the "track and field" mat that you were pining for at Christmas.

Maybe it was that blonde bombshell when you were in Grade 10, who only a year earlier had been this shy, discreet little Grade 9er.

Or maybe it was John Salmons.

Ok, I'll be the first to admit that maybe acquiring someone who for his career has averaged 5.1 points, 1.8 assists and 2.1 rebounds in 18.4 minutes of action a game, is nothing to shout out loud in your living room about.

But nevertheless, and as my neighbors can probably attest to, I did just that after hearing the news that he was headed to Toronto.

Yes, it's great that Bosh re-signed this morning and that Parker and Garbajosa are going to be Raptors next season...but after hearing yesterday's news that Salmons had picked to come to Toronto over Phoenix, this is when I really got excited.

Salmons was actually the free agent I wanted most to see the Raptors sink their proverbial teeth into this offseason. As many of you remember, prior to CV Smooth being shipped to the land of breweries, I was going back and forth via email with my compatriot, Howland, concerning free agent possibilities. Number 2 on my list? John Salmons.

I've always been a fan of Salmons' game since his college days with Miami. He's not going to win a dunk contest and probably won't win a scoring title in Toronto either. But he is a very underrated player on both sides of the ball. He's long and athletic, can play numerous spots on the court and also makes everyone around him better, a rare commodity in today's "Sportscenter" era of highlight reel plays.

In fact I'm going to go as far as saying that Salmons is quite possibly the most important free agent acquisition in Toronto's history. Oh wait, no, maybe that would be Hakeem right? Let me explain.

First of all Salmons' averages seem paltry but let's keep something in mind. He's played his entire career backing up Allen Iverson and at times Eric Snow...not exactly what you would call a great opportunity to shine. (And on this topic, is there a player in the league who you'd least like to be stuck behind in terms of playing time besides Iverson? Even when he loses an arm he still plays!) No, I just never felt that Salmons' talents were being used to the best of their abilities while he was a member of the 76ers. (Although you could argue that based on AI's dominance of the ball in Philly's offence, no one is being used to the best of their abilities - see Andre Iguodala.) Therefore I really expect this kid to have a breakout season with Toronto as he receives much more playing time. Will he start? It's quite possible unless Joey Graham wows Sam Mitchell and co. and proves he's ready to play the 3. If Graham fails to deliver, we may indeed see an opening day roster of Rasho at the 5, Bosh and the 4, Ford at the 1 and Mo Pete at the 3 with Salmons the starting 2 guard. Salmons' size and ball handling skills allow him to play a number of positions and this really brings me to my next point.

Fit.

Fantasy basketball players have always been big on Salmons. AI took a lot of hits in Philly and when he WAS injured, Salmons' was always a hot "waiver-wire addition." He wouldn't get you 30 points, but he would contribute in almost every category and you'd typically see box scores like this from him:

12 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals.

Salmons just does a bit of everything and is a great perimeter defender and for these reasons, I don't think there was a better attainable fit out there for the Raps in terms of free agents.

So simply because a player is a good fit and may have a breakout season, why does that make him the most important free agent acquisition in Toronto's history?

Admittedly these two points alone definitely don't make the case, but I think it's more the symbolism of this deal that gives me reason to argue my point. I mean, when was the last time you remember a free agent wanting to come to Toronto? And when was the last time you remember a free agent coming to Toronto henceforth turning down a chance to play for a top four, championship contending team? Yes Toronto offered more money to Salmons but we're not talking an additional $3 million a year here!

Salmons to me represents more than just a player with nice upside who seems to fit well with Sam Mitchell's game-plan. No, I see Salmons as more of a sign of optimism for Raptor fans, a so-called "beacon of hope." Three years ago, can you see Salmons choosing Toronto regardless of how much money we offered, especially over a team like Phoenix? So my "jumping for joy" was not only because I think Salmons is a great catch due to his on-court abilities, but even moreso because here's yet another player who WANTS to be in Toronto. Not only does this say alot about Bryan Colangelo but I think it also speaks volumes about the situation he's creating here.

I know some fans think that the Raptors might as well have kept Mike James for the amount we're paying Salmons, and the length of his contract reportedly, but I don't see how that makes sense. James was great at times last season but everyone's main issue with him was his "score-first" mentality, especially since at times it came at the rest of the team's detriment. Yes, James was much better at this style of play than his predecessor Rafer Alston, but how many times did you watch a game and want to jump through the TV to make James pass the ball?? With Salmons, that won't be an issue and his ability to defend numerous positions ala Mo Pete should make him a fan favourite. In fact, Salmons' game is quite similar to Peterson's in many ways and interestingly may represent a nice (and relatively inexpensive) backup plan if Morris Peterson decides to take his game back south of the border next season.

Maybe Salmons never turns into a "Raja Bell diamond in the rough" acquisition. Maybe his current career averages are similar to what he produces for Toronto. And maybe Sam Mitchell doesn't give him many more minutes than he had in Philly. In any event, the mere fact that Salmons' is here in the humidity of Toronto rather than the dry heat of Phoenix, should be another testament to the fact that this franchise is on the right track.

FRANCHISE