Adam Levitan

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Sneaky Samardo Samuels

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The unknown is almost always more exciting than the recycled. If Shawn Marion was suddenly the starting power forward for the Cavs, no one would give it much thought. But since Samardo Samuels is such a mystery, it's riveting. I mean, the big clumps of hair on my neck/upper back are tingling as we speak.

So who is Samardo Samuels? The Jamaican-born wide body was among the best high school players in the country in 2008. He was solid, but not spectacular, for two seasons at Louisville. Then he inexplicably went undrafted on draft day last April. Now, he is one of the hottest adds in fantasy basketball.

Coaches are constantly tinkering, toying and yanking around with rotations. Sometimes it has to do with injuries, like in Samuels' case. In other instances, it's a result of ineffective play from a certain player. The effect this has on minutes played and thus statistical production is where we come in.

Each week in this space, I'll explore the rotations of half the league's teams while attempting to get inside coaches' heads. The idea is not to tell you what Kevin Durant and LeBron James are going to do --- it's to decipher how much production we can get out of fringe players. Last week, I hit rotations impacted by the trade deadline. This week, we explore the East and start in Cleveland:

* Note that the lineups listed reflect the starters in the team's previous game. Stats are through Monday's games.

PG Ramon Sessions
SG Anthony Parker
SF Alonzo Gee
PF Samardo Samuels
C J.J. Hickson

The first major story here is Samardo Samuels, who will start at power forward for the rest of the year in place of Antawn Jamison (finger). Considering he is a raw undrafted free agent, Samuels' first three starts can be viewed as nothing short of a major success: 16.3 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks, 52.8 percent from field.

Those rebound and block numbers are sustainable thanks to the 30-32 minutes Samuels will play nightly. I am skeptical about the points as teams get a scouting report on him, but a regression there is not my biggest concern. Free-throw shooting is. Samuels has taken 22 free throws in these three starts, and made just 11.

For a player that plays down low and goes to the line so often, that Shaq-like rate can kill a fantasy team. There is some hope as Samuels shot 66.7 percent from the line as a freshman at Louisville and 70.6 as a sophomore. Bottom line: He is worth an add in most formats if you can handle the free-throw shooting. With starter's minutes on a team devoid of talent, Samuels will produce. Think of him as an extremely poor man's Paul Millsap.

The other big story out of Cleveland is the arrival of Baron Davis. Coach Byron Scott is already on the record saying Davis will eventually start over Ramon Sessions, but that it won't happen tonight. For now, there is still value in owning both as they both figure to play around 30 minutes. Eventually, Davis will become the preferred play by a significant margin.

PG Kirk Hinrich
SG Joe Johnson
SF Marvin Williams
PF Josh Smith
C Al Horford

Kirk Hinrich is a great fit in Atlanta. He is an excellent 3-point shooter just like Mike Bibby, but can actually play defense. Hinrich will play 32-35 minutes a night the rest of the way as a very nice fantasy option. For his career, Hinrich makes 1.6 treys and gets 1.3 steals per 36 minutes. Buy up.

Marvin Williams is back in the starting five and doing his mediocre thing. Anyone expecting a breakout is not watching close enough -- his averages of 10.6 points and 5.1 boards while playing 31 minutes a night in 39 starts this season is what it is.

Jamal Crawford just can't seem to find that trademark tear that he almost always goes on. I still think it will come at some point. Crawford's minutes have been consistent, but he is shooting 38.2 percent from the field over his last 10 games. He'll balance that out with a 45 percent 10 game stretch at some point and be well worth starting.

PG Rajon Rondo
SG Ray Allen
SF Paul Pierce
PF Kevin Garnett
C Nenad Krstic

Even with Shaquille O'Neal, Jermaine O'Neal, Glen Davis and Delonte West all sidelined, Jeff Green and Troy Murphy are non-factors. That won't change unless one of the Big Four here suffer an injury and The reason is that coach Doc Rivers is not crazy enough to play Kevin Garnett or Murphy at center for long stretches.

Therefore, Nenad Krstic is going to play more minutes than the more talented Green and Murphy. His 12.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 25.5 minutes with no blocks or steals upside is a reasonable expectation until Shaq gets back.

Is Rajon Rondo getting worn down? Maybe. In seven games since the All-Star break, Rondo is playing 39.2 minutes per night and the offense runs through him in every one of those minutes. Still, owners should not really be concerned. The Celtics are battling for home-court throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs and Rondo is just 25-years-old. No reason to worry.

Editor's Note: Draft a hoops team just for tonight and win real cash in SnapDraft!

PG D.J. Augustin
SG Gerald Henderson
SF Dominic McGuire
PF Boris Diaw
C Kwame Brown

Tyrus Thomas (knee) will make his return Wednesday. Although coach Paul Silas said that Boris Diaw could be removed from the starting lineup, it's hard to really see that happening. Diaw showed his upside Monday night and Thomas fits perfectly as an energy guy with the second unit.

I expect Thomas to ramp up to 25-27 minutes off the bench quickly, making him well worth an add. As I mentioned in Friday's Dose, Thomas blocks 2.7 shots per 36 minutes this season. With Gerald Wallace gone and Kwame Brown struggling, there is plenty of room in the rotation for Tyrus. As coach Paul Silas said: "He's very talented and that's what we need. We need talent."

Stephen Jackson (hamstring) is not going to shut it down no matter what the Bobcats say. He is simply too tough and proud. Look for a full complement of minutes out of Captain Jack Wednesday, sending Dominic McGuire's unfriendly fantasy game back to the bench.

Gerald Henderson is locked in to 32-24 minutes nightly as a building block of the future. His inability to make treys is a real downer, but he is an ideal bottom of roster guy in fantasy. You know he is going to get minutes and shots.

Even though Joel Przybilla started the second half two games ago, Kwame Brown is still the starter. But he just is not playing well enough to be used. In his last 10 games: Brown is averaging 6.0 points, 6.2 rebounds and 0.5 blocks in 25.0 minutes.

Editor's Note: For weekly projections, daily pickup advice, exclusive columns and much more, check out Rotoworld's Season Pass!

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Adam Levitan is in his seventh season covering football and basketball for Rotoworld. He won the Fantasy Sports Writers Association award for Best Series in 2011 and 2009, and ESPN's overall fantasy football title in 2000. Find him on Twitter.
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