Though many younger NBA players go on to sign multi-year, non-guaranteed contracts, such a pact seems to benefit an organization more so than it would a player. If such a young gun continues to play well, a team can keep him in the fold. If he's playing poorly or there's no longer a need for him, however, the team has the ability to cut him loose at a minimal cost.
With this said, it's sometimes difficult for players to earn their worth and prove that they indeed warrant sticking around for the duration of the contract. Still, former Cavaliers' forward Samardo Samuels appeared to have defied the odds a little bit as he continued to catch on with Cleveland, well into the third year of such a pact.
As a rookie in 2010-11, the big man displayed some staying power by putting forth the type of effort necessary to roll with the punches and play with the big boys. Going on to start 10 contests through the campaign, Samuels filled in while his Cavs' teammates were dealing with injuries, and undoubtedly made the most of his own opportunity. He averaged 7.8 points and 4.3 rebounds through 37 games.
There's no doubt Samuels represents the type of big body that NBA teams look for when it comes to filling out their respective rotations. But even though Samuels' appeared to be a defensive banger who enjoyed fighting for rebounds, he was bit more of a cleaern player on the offensive end. The big man doesn't display that rawness that may come with other prospects. Instead, he's a more polished player under the glass who knows how to cash in on the things he does best offensively.
Despite his immense amount of promise, Samuels' minutes went on to decrease during his sophomore campaign. And though he went on to appear in 18 games to start this season (his third year), Cleveland decided there may be better options to explore for his spot, and cut the big man loose. Though he was also a mainstay in the team's early rotation, the team also let go of Donald Sloan in a similar fashion.
Now, just like his former Cavaliers' teammate Sloan, Samuels has moved on to ball in the D-League as he proves he deserves another shot in the NBA. Though Cleveland may indeed be one of the league's weaker teams, the fact is that Samuels managed to prove he has the ability to play minutes within an NBA team's rotation.
And after proving that much over parts of the last three seasons, Samuels is putting all that he's learned thus far to good use with the Reno Bighorns. Playing alongside fellow NBA alum Marcus Landry and Jerome Jordan in Reno's frontcourt, the former Cav looks like a man among boys in the NBADL.
Samuels has averaged 19.9 points and 8.9 rebounds since joining the Bighorns, but as he dominates the competition, he's really showing just how developed his offensive game is. He's come a long way. Not afraid to take the jump shot here or there, Samuels also knows how to use his husky frame to work his way inside and cash in on easier buckets too.
His potential path to a call-up may indeed be intertwined with that of Jordan's, his new teammate. Samuels has been showing an improved effort on offense, and though his defensive skills are more than capable, Jordan is instead the one who stands out for some extra prowess on the defensive end. Samuels has been putting forth a nice overall effort on both ends on the court, there's no doubt about that, but Jordan has emerged as a "Defensive Player of the Year" candidate.
Both players can offer NBA teams plenty of positive things if given another chance to hit the hardwood, but granted a direct comparison of the two while they share the court, big league executives may favor Jordan because his defensive abilities may prove to be a better fit in order to balance a potential rotation.
Perhaps what matters most, however, is not only the fact that Samuels has more experience, but that he's also been able to make strides along the way. He's grown, developed, and improved his game season after season. Now he plays the waiting game as NBA teams ponder giving him a shot to truly strut his stuff.