FanPost

Training Camp Battles: Samardo Samuels vs. Jon Leuer

<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> 0 0 1 87 498 Carnegie Mellon University 4 1 584 14.0 </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]-->

11659129-large_medium

via media.cleveland.com

Over the next week or two, I'll be looking into some of the more intriguing positional and role battles that will face the Cavaliers as training camp and the preseason begins. Within these posts, my goal is to introduce some of the new Cavaliers, understand what's facing the familiar faces of this team, and seeing who I believe could contribute off the bench this season. Today, I'll be focusing on the backup power forward position, where Samardo Samuels and Jon Leuer will be battling for minutes this season.

<!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> 0 0 1 1269 7238 Carnegie Mellon University 60 16 8491 14.0 </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE </xml><![endif]--><!--[if gte mso 9]><xml> </xml><![endif]--> <!--[if gte mso 10]> <style> /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin;} </style> <![endif]-->

Really, this boils down to the fourth big man spot. Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Tyler Zeller are firmly ensconced in the rotation for minutes. These two are the next best guys on the roster to fill that essential fourth big man role. Of course there are others who will be considered, such as Luke Harangody and Kevin Jones, but ultimately this battle will come down to Leuer and Samuels.

If we simply go by what these two players showed last year, then Leuer should win this job. Leuer is a second-year player from Wisconsin who played last season for Milwaukee. He began the season getting a lot of minutes, but (as Scott Skiles is prone to do with young rotation players) he started getting fewer minutes as the season progressed. He played in all but two of Milwaukee's games until the end of February, but after that he saw his minutes and games played drastically decreased.

I really liked what I saw of him last year when watching him, and the numbers back that up. He was a very efficient player at the power forward position, which is where he saw the majority of his minutes last year. According to 82games.com, Leuer had a 17.9 PER at the power forward spot, with an eFG% of .571 and 11.2 rebounds per-48 minutes. He also held his opponents to a 10.3 PER and a .400 eFG%. These numbers are extremely encouraging for his possibility of becoming a rotation player, especially when considering the fact that Byron Scott has said Leuer will only be concentrating on the power forward position in camp.

Offensively, what Leuer does especially well is stretch the floor as a big man, which makes sense since he was a 6'0" guard until he grew to 6'8" as a junior in high school. He has an especially strong, almost innate sense of finding open space to get his shot off. Where this manifests itself most is as the "roll man" in pick-and-roll situations ("roll man" in quotation marks because normally he tends to pick-and-pop as opposed to rolling). He scored 0.94 points-per-possession and shot .471 in this situation last year. He tends to shoot a lot of long two-pointers in this situation (which I know Conrad is going to love), but he tends to be very efficient at scoring in this scenario because of his ability to find floor space. He doesn't have the lateral quickness to consistently get to the basket, but where he can be effective is as a spot-up shooter and a pick-and-pop big that can bring big guys away from the basket and make jump shots.

Defensively he was strong according to situational metrics, but my assumption from watching him is that these will tend to even out to average to slightly-below-average as he gets a larger sample size. According to Synergy, Leuer was in the top 10% statistically of all big men in defending the post, allowing only 0.66 points-per-possession. This is where he saw a majority of his possessions on defense, but watching game film on him tells more of a tale than statistics. He isn't particularly adept at keeping guys off the block (especially stronger players). Also, while he is somewhat proficient at getting his hands up fast and contesting shots, he tends to foul a lot (in 13.2% of post-up situations). These good defensive metrics for the most part simply seem to be a result of guarding weaker and less skilled post players while on the court. Leuer will need to keep improving his strength and particularly his ability to not foul in the post if he is to stay on the court this season.

**************************

20120719_ajl_aj4_086_extra_large_huge_medium

via cdn2.sbnation.com

Before starting this next section, I'm going to be blunt: I have never liked Samardo Samuels. I'm sure he's a great guy. And yeah, when he's going well his game is solid. The guy has a lot of basketball skill. But Samuels is a guy who for his entire basketball career (until apparently this offseason, which I'll get to later) has coasted on his athletic skill and size to beat opponents. Samuels was one of the most highly sought-after recruits in the country in 2008. He had the skill to become one of the most dominant big men in the country in college, but it never materialized because he never wanted to work for it. Then he left Louisville after two years even though he clearly wasn't ready for the NBA (here's a nice write-up on that situation two years ago that basically says it seems he had his mind set on the NBA and didn't want to be at Louisville anymore).

The key word with Samuels is simply work. If the guy could ever put in the work, he could become a legitimate rotation player in the NBA. That's where this offseason comes into play. If you've seen pictures of Samuels, he literally looks like a different person. He reportedly lost 30 pounds this offseason by transforming his diet and working out harder. Not only did he lose the weight and work out harder, but also he also added a mid-range jumper to his game. It even led Austin Carr (never one for hyperbole, of course) to say that his "jump shot is almost automatic now" last night during the Cavs' preseason game. His range appears to be out to 17 feet now, and if he can make that consistently come the regular season, he will be the guy to play. There's almost no point in going over his statistics and weaknesses from last year. He's no longer the same player. He's transformed his body and added the thing that was considered to be his biggest flaw upon entering the draft (in college, an almost unfathomable 92% of his half-court possessions came around the hoop).

Last night we saw the changed Samardo in action. He played more minutes than any other Cavalier, which at least makes the statement that the team wants to give him a legitimate look to see what he can do. He led the team in scoring with 14 points. He also showed off that new-look jumper, making at least two 17-footers that I remember hearing about while listening to the radio broadcast. He even had seven rebounds, which for a guy who has never been a particularly strong rebounder is an encouraging sign. It is very possible his improved conditioning could lead to better rebounding numbers.

Now, I'm not going to take a whole lot away from a preseason game against a team from Italy. It's just not prudent. But I will say that it is possible we could finally be seeing the realization of potential here from a guy who was a high-school phenom. He's always had the skills; he just never wanted to put in the work to get the most out of them. If he can continue to stay in shape throughout the season and make that jumper consistently, he becomes a legitimate threat to teams offensively. He becomes a real option off the bench in the NBA. It's a situation that the Cavaliers are lucky to have picked up on two years ago by signing him to a small, partially guaranteed contract. By putting in the work, Samardo may become another good get for a team that has been fairly successful over the last ten years late in the draft.

Due to Byron Scott's glowing remarks about Leuer so far this preseason, I assume both of these guys are pretty solid bets to make the team. So when it comes down to Leuer vs. Samuels for who should see minutes, it pretty much all comes down to the new Samardo. Does he stay in shape? Does he continue to realize the skills that made him one of the most highly sought after players upon completing high school? Can he improve his rebounding numbers against NBA-level competition? If it was last year's Samardo, Leuer wins this competition easily in my mind. He's a more efficient player who brings a skill to the table that none of the Cavaliers' big men have: the ability to space the floor with three-point range. In my opinion, he'd be a really effective player to pair with Varejao offensively in the half-court. Varejao would have even more space under the hoop to get offensive rebounds because of Leuer's ability to bring big men away from the basket, and Leuer would bring the pick-and-pop element with Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters.

With the game last night, Samuels appears to have taken the lead in this positional battle. Leuer is expected to see time tonight against his old team, but with Samuels leading the team in minutes last night it's hard not to envision him as winning at the moment. But in the end, it all comes down to if Samardo really wants to be good. If he's in shape, he's just flat out the better player even if Leuer is a better fit. Can he become the player he's capable of, or will he forever be another high-school phenom who busted because he didn't want to work hard enough?

This is a Fan-Created Comment on FearTheSword.com. The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at FearTheSword

X
Log In Sign Up

forgot?
Log In Sign Up

Forgot password?

We'll email you a reset link.

If you signed up using a 3rd party account like Facebook or Twitter, please login with it instead.

Forgot password?

Try another email?

Almost done,

Join Fear The Sword

You must be a member of Fear The Sword to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Fear The Sword. You should read them.

Join Fear The Sword

You must be a member of Fear The Sword to participate.

We have our own Community Guidelines at Fear The Sword. You should read them.

Spinner

Authenticating

Great!

Choose an available username to complete sign up.

In order to provide our users with a better overall experience, we ask for more information from Facebook when using it to login so that we can learn more about our audience and provide you with the best possible experience. We do not store specific user data and the sharing of it is not required to login with Facebook.

tracking_pixel_9347_tracker