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J.B. Bickerstaff says will do his best to keep Sam Merrill on the floor with Cleveland Cavaliers healthy

The Cavs glut at guard will make it difficult to find minutes for everyone.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Orlando Magic Photo by Rich Storry/Getty Images

The Cleveland Cavaliers are the healthiest they’ve been all season which is presenting a different problem for J.B. Bickerstaff: How does he keep what’s made them 15-4 the last month and a half going while reintegrating Evan Mobley and Darius Garland into the lineup?

The increase in three-point shooting is one of the things that’s helped buoy the team through the injuries. That, in part, is due to the emergence of Sam Merrill and his willingness to fire away from anywhere on the court. He’s averaging an impressive 7.9 three-point attempts per game since Dec. 15 in just 21.8 minutes. More impressively, he’s knocking them down at a 43% clip.

“I’ve got to do my best to keep him on the floor,” Bickerstaff said before Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons. “I think he’s earned that right. He’s impacted us on both sides of the ball.”

The issue is the number of players he will be competing for minutes with.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Bickerstaff said. “Just if you look at the makeup of our lineup with Darius, Donovan [Mitchell], Max [Strus], Isaac [Okoro], Caris [LeVert], Sam. Evan coming back moves Dean [Wade] to some of the minutes at the three. You’ve got seven guys that are playing for three spots. Everybody’s opportunities and minutes may just have to shrink a little bit to allow everybody an opportunity. It’s going to come down to matchups, guys have to be prepared for that.”

What the Cavaliers have now that they didn’t have last season is the ability to throw together different lineup combinations depending on the matchup. On Monday, Merrill wasn’t a good fit against the long and rangy Los Angeles Clippers’ defense resulting in no second half minutes. Last week, against the Milwaukee Bucks and their drop defense, Merrill started both fourth quarters making an impact with his off-ball movement.

Merrill is somebody who has repeatedly stated that he’s at his best when he’s given consistent run and not feeling like he has to force it in the minutes he’s out there. Bickerstaff wants to give him that opportunity, but his minutes distribution will likely come down to how he plays in the short burst at the end of the first and beginning of the second quarter.

“We’re gonna try our best because he’s worked his tail off,” Bickerstaff said. “He’s helped us become a different type of basketball team on both ends of the floor. We don’t want to just put him on the shelf.”