The Cleveland Cavaliers will be signing Sam Merrill to a 10-day contract. Merrill spent training camp with the Sacramento Kings before being one of the last cut. He’s spent the season with the Cleveland Charge where he is averaging 16.4 points on 43.2% three-point shooting on 8.2 attempts in 35 games.
Merrill has the potential to fill an obvious void, if he plays at all or is perhaps kept around with a chance to make the team next season. The Cavs currently only have three players shooting above league average from distance. One of those is Dean Wade who is attempting just 2.9 threes per game and has displayed an increased hesitancy to pull the trigger.
That isn’t an issue for the newest Cavalier. Merrill is an active off-ball mover who isn’t afraid to launch if there’s a slight opening. He has shown to be the movement shooter the Cavs desperately need during his time with the Charge.
Here are a few examples that show he does his damage. In the below clip, Merrill comes off a double pindown to get an open look at the top of the arc. There isn’t a shooter near him when he receives the pass, but he still catches and rises in one, fluid motion to get the three off.
Merrill’s ability to relocate in an effort to find an open shot is how he’s able to generate 8.2 threes per game. In this example, he has the ball at the top of the key, takes his defender off-the-dribble, kicks it out to the wing, and then sprints back out to the three-point line to get an open look.
Him not needing much space time to get off a shot allows him to get clean looks off of simple plays like a simple dribble-handoff.
Someone who shoots and moves off-ball as much as Merrill does opens up looks for his teammates. This is a good example of that. Merrill sets a screen for Sharife Cooper, Merrill’s defender is hesitant to switch the screen which allows Cooper to get into the lane leading to the basket.
Lastly, the Charge found interesting ways to use this gravity to open up things for their bigs. Here, we see him set a backscreen for Mamadi Diakite. Diakite’s ability to beat a mismatch and Merrill’s shooting creates confusion. Merrill is able to use this confusion to sidestep the closeout and knock down the three.
At 6’4”, Merrill has the body of a shooting guard more than a wing. He has the ability to put the ball on the floor and is a solid team defender, but neither are his calling cards.
Charge head coach Mike Gerrity doesn’t think either will be an issue at the next level.
“He’s just a team guy that’s tough and competes,” said Gerrity when asked about what Merrill would bring to an NBA team. “Because he’s a great shooter people just focus on that. They don’t realize all thing other things that he provides. He’s able to make plays off the dribble and defensively he’s as good as it comes. The guy doesn’t miss an assignment, he’s always in the right spot. He’s tough as nails.”
Merrill will undoubtedly provide the shooting and off-ball movement the Cavs desperately need. Whether or not he’s able to last beyond a ten-day contract or eventually crack the rotation will depend on if he’s able to do the things Gerrity says he can for the Cavs.