Another piece from contributor Ross Geiger, this one on John Salmons and his options this coming summer.

There’s no question that the Milwaukee Bucks deadline acquisition of John Salmons has undoubtedly paid off short term, helping solidify the Bucks as a top five team in the Eastern Conference. Since traveling north on the Interstate 94 up to Milwaukee, Salmons is averaging a career best 19.9 points per contest on nearly 46% shooting, 37% from behind the arc, and 87% from the charity stripe. His immediate impact towards the Bucks success heading down the home stretch of the season has reached and exceeded the expectations of the entire city of Milwaukee.

While it’s appropriate that Bucks fans and the city of Milwaukee alike enjoy this well deserved surge as the playoffs near, it’s also never too early to begin looking at Salmons’ future with the Bucks. This summer Salmons will have to make a difficult career decision: accept his $5.8 million dollar player option to remain with the Bucks or decline his player option and test the waters of free agency amongst the NBA’s most historic free agent class.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Salmons decline his player option and see what the market is for his services this summer. With the NBA salary cap likely to drop next season and then again after CBA negotiations in 2011, now’s the time for players like Salmons to consider risking the final year of their player option deals and lock up a long term pay raise.

But even more specifically for Salmons, the timing is perfect helping the Bucks transform from a team that looked like it’d barely squeak into the playoffs to a team that is widely regarded as a first round opponent no one wants to face. The time is right, the decision may come which enables Salmons to become a unrestricted free agent, and the ball will then be shifted into the hands of Bucks General Manager John Hammond.

Why it makes sense for the Bucks to resign John Salmons

It’s pretty clear and can easily be simply put: John Salmons brings a lot of strengths on both the offensive and defensive sides of the floor that the Bucks were lacking. On offense, Salmons is a swingman who likes to put the ball on the floor and has the ability to effectively get to the basket which leads to easy scoring looks or wide open kick out opportunities for his teammates. His ability to be create shots attracts defensive attention which gives the Bucks perimeter shooters (Ersan Ilyasova, Carlos Delfino, Charlie Bell, Brandon Jennings, Luke Ridnour, and (occasionally) Jerry Stackhouse) a good look from outside. Also being a successful offensive performer in isolation situations makes him invaluable to the Bucks offense because he can take a game over down the stretch of close games, providing balance. Having a postman in Andrew Bogut and a wingman like Salmons gives the Bucks both an inside and outside offensive threat that can create their own shot, which usually requires a help side defensive effort.

In addition to his abilities with the ball in his hands, Salmons also requires the defensive to respect his range, as he’s able step into shots from the perimeter and knock down open three pointers. And maybe the most overlooked factor Salmons has brought to the Bucks since coming over from Chicago is his ability to get to the foul line early and often. Early on into the season the Bucks struggled to earn trips to the foul line, which is a huge concern for any team that’s looking to be successful. Salmons tends to not only finish around the rim after drawing contact but can cap off three point plays and drill important free throws when the game is on the line.

Defensively he’s very solid man to man, he’s very well conditioned, and is able to continue to produce on the offensive side of the floor while also being held responsible of stopping the opponent’s go-to perimeter player. Finding a very strong offensive player that is able and even more importantly willing to give effort on both sides of the ball is something the Bucks must value in Salmons.

If Salmons does happen to opt out of his $5.8 million, a realistic offer that could keep him right here in Milwaukee should be around the three year, $21 million dollar range. But the Bucks may also finding themselves bidding with both the teams looking to add all-stars (Knicks, Heat, Clippers, Nets) and those teams that will lose their all-stars this offseason (Hawks, Cavaliers, Suns). Salmons is an affordable piece and a attractive player that can surround and help take some pressure off a star like LeBron James.

For the Bucks, it’s also worth mentioning Salmons’ value in taking pressure off Michael Redd. Keeping Salmons helps relieves the pressure off Redd’s recovery timetable. While the expectations for a healthy Redd have dropped significantly, the play of Salmons helps take the focus off the injured Bucks star who’s due to make a massive $18.3 million next year. With Redd rushing back the past two seasons, which in an end result led to reoccurring injuries and setbacks, Salmons can help keep Bucks fans patient. Patience is a virtue and come summertime the Bucks may also want remain patient before immediately offering Salmons an extension.

Why the Bucks shouldn’t resign John Salmons

While the idea of just letting John Salmons walk sounds crazy, there are a few concerns worth noting. Take a look at Salmons recent history with the Chicago Bulls. After heading over in a trade from Sacramento during the 2008-2009 season, Salmons elevated the Bulls play over a 26 game stretch where he averaged 18.3 point per game on 47% shooting, nearly 42% from deep, and 84% from the foul line. This year with Bulls, Salmons’ play dropped off dramatically which definitely raises some questions, especially after the Bulls opted not to match Detroit’s contract offer to Ben Gordon, figuring that Salmons could have even more of an impact. Salmons seems to be player who prospers in short stint positions with teams. Yes, he’s been very dependable thus far but the real question is, for how long will it last?

Keeping him under contract for around three years limits the amount of money the Bucks will able to play with in upcoming free agent classes. Salmons is a “handle with care” investment that may not be worth the downside. Instead, Milwaukee can continue of their path of going young and building a future foundation. Bucks have a grand total of nine draft picks in the next three drafts, should we be focused on drafting and developing our future shooting guard or rolling the dice on a 30 year-old veteran whose performance has been very unpredictable? Next year Jennings will only be 21, Mbah a Moute 24, Ilayasova just 23, and Bogut 26, with steady progress from these young talents, the Bucks have the opportunity to compete as one of the top young, upcoming nucleuses in the NBA (Thunder, Blazers, Timberwolves).

In year’s past, it’s safe to say Salmons is a bit indecisive when it comes to career decisions. First agreeing to be traded in a sign and trade deal that would’ve shipped him to the Raptors yet had the sign and trade deal cancelled after further thought. Then not to long after, he shockingly decided to choose the Kings over the Suns as a free agent when leaving Philadelphia.

Summer 2010

This summer’s decision for both Salmons and the Bucks will be handled much like his overall demeanor on the offensive end of the floor: a jab-step left then right and a little hesitation before putting the ball on the floor. Which home floor Salmons decides to put the ball on next season is still up in the air.

Follow Ross Geiger on Twitter: @RossGeiger