John Salmons could be a fit at small forward for the New Orleans Pelicans

Over the course of the next 3 ½ weeks, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams and his staff have some things they'll need sort out. The most pressing appears to be finding a starting small forward.

John Salmons, a wily 12-year veteran signed this offseason, could be the answer. But the Pelicans have no plans to anoint him just yet.

Salmons will have to win the job through his performances in training camp and preseason games. And he'll have to beat out Darius Miller and Luke Babbitt for the job.

"We want to get a look at a number of guys in that position," Williams said after Thursday's practice. "I'm still not sure who we are going to go with at that spot. But we have some different options.

"Obviously John is a guy we brought in to play some minutes there, but he can also play the two (shooting guard) and at times he can play as a big ball handler. That's what these preseason games and camp are about. We want to get a good look. But at the same time, I don't want to be getting a good look and sacrificing the continuity of our team. I feel like we need the guys who are going to play out there on the court together so we can get some rhythm."

If none of the three take the reins, the Pelicans could start swingman Tyreke Evans, who is expected to miss most – if not all – of preseason while nursing a strained hamstring.

But it appears Salmons, who was signed for one season at $2 million, will be given a good look.

Salmons, 6 feet 6 and 207 pounds, has been a starter for about half of his NBA career. But he said it isn't necessarily critical that he starts this season.

"I'm just going to come in here and do my job, try to do the best I can," Salmons said. "I'm more focusing on trying to win some games than anything else. But we'll see. That's up to the coaching staff to try and figure that out.

"I look at myself as a basketball player. You get to a point where whatever it is and however you can help this team win that's what you do. Whether that's to start or come off the bench, you just try to help the team win."

While the battle for the starting spot is ongoing, the ultimate winner of the position might not be the best player.

Williams said the staff hopes to find the best fit to mesh with his other starters, preferably a good shooter and defender.

"I know there is a theory to put the best players on the floor," Williams said. "But if you look at the World Champs (San Antonio Spurs), they don't always do that. They usually go with the best fit rather than putting the best players on the floor all the time."

The Pelicans have had neither in recent seasons.

For years the Pelicans struggled to get consistent production from the small forward position. The Pelicans haven't had a small forward average more than 11 points a game since Peja Stojakovic in the 2009-2010 season.

The starter the past 2 ½ seasons, Al-Farouq Aminu, was an offensive liability who never averaged more than 7.3 points per game or shot better than 27.7 percent from the 3-point range.

After Aminu was signed by the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, a void was left.

The 34-year-old Salmons, who has averaged 9.4 points a game for his career and shot 36.6 percent on 3-point attempts, said he didn't sign with the Pelicans simply because of a perceived need at the position.

"That wasn't a factor in why I came here," Salmons said. "I played with coach Williams my rookie year and we have been friends ever since. He is a guy who helped me out a lot my rookie year, spiritually on the court and off the court. I knew other guys on the coaching staff, and just knowing what kind of organization they were trying to run and turn around, I wanted to be apart of."

Indeed, Williams said he took a liking to Salmons early on. Williams was a veteran forward for the Philadelphia 76ers when they obtained Salmons shortly after the San Antonio Spurs selected him in the first round of the 2002 draft.

Williams said Salmons would bring some much needed leadership and toughness to the team.

"He reminds me how old I am getting because he was my rookie in Philly," Williams said. "We just stayed in contact over the years. I love his way. He has developed nicely. He has had a really good career. We never really talk about basketball. We just talk about our families, our faith and different things like that. He is just a solid, solid dude.

"We talked about trying to get him a couple years ago but he was making so much money we couldn't do it at the time. But it just seemed like the appropriate time to bring him in because he can show our guys some things we are trying to teach. And sometimes your best teacher can be another player, especially a seasoned vet."

Salmons can play, too.

Although he wasn't a starter last season when he played in 60 games for the Toronto Raptors and averaged 5.0 points and 2.0 rebounds, Salmons is considered a solid defender and a good shooter. His best season came in 2008-2009 season when he averaged 18.3 points per game for the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings.

"He can shoot the ball," Williams said. "He has great experience. The thing I have always liked about John is you can't rattle him. With John sometimes you have to grab his wrist and check his pulse because that's just his way. He's got a solid demeanor about him and he has experience. He has been on some really good teams and been in really good programs. I just like him as a player."

It's uncertain if Williams likes him enough to be the starting small forward.

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