Sam Merrill could give Cavaliers an infusion of shooting next season

Sam Merrill, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)
Sam Merrill, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by David Richard-USA TODAY Sports) /

The NBA Playoffs came and went for the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was meaningful for the Cavaliers to be back in the playoffs, which is no small thing. Cleveland hadn’t been there since 2018, and this was the first time a Cavs team was on that stage without LeBron James on the roster since 1998.

Unfortunately for the Cavaliers, it was a short lived experience. The New York Knicks eliminated the Cavs in just five games, and closed the door on Cleveland’s home floor on Wednesday night 106-95.

It was a disappointing showing by a Cavs squad that won 50 games in the 2022-23 regular season, and was second in the Association this season in net rating. Cleveland was the favored club going into the series, which was a No. 4-No. 5 matchup, with the Cavaliers having home court advantage.

Despite those things, it was the Knicks that played far better. They were more often the aggressors in the series, Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland were up-and-down, and New York crushed Cleveland on the glass, especially offensively.

Throughout the regular season, though, and going into the playoffs, even with expectations Cleveland would fare better, it was evident that aside from their star backcourt duo, the Cavaliers could use more perimeter shooting around them. Caris LeVert, whether he was in a starting or bench role, was much better as a catch-and-shoot presence than in most of his career, and he could seemingly be back this offseason.

That said, Cleveland had inconsistencies as far as wing/perimeter shooting, and while guys such as Cedi Osman had their moments, one sleeper of sorts who should have his chance as a shooter next season would appear to be Sam Merrill.

Merrill should have his perimeter shooting chances for the Cavaliers next season.

Merrill has bounced around in his NBA career, having been the last selection in the 2020 NBA Draft by the New Orleans Pelicans, and was then eventually involved in a multi-team deal sending him to the Milwaukee Bucks. He spent his rookie season with the Bucks, making 30 appearances with the 2021 title winners that season, playing in 30 games, at 7.8 minutes per outing.

He then played in six games with the Memphis Grizzlies after being dealt there by Milwaukee before last season, was waived mid-season, and prior to the start of this season, was essentially with the Sacramento Kings in training camp/preseason.

Merrill hasn’t played much in NBA action, but he played initially in the G League with the Memphis Hustle (the Grizzlies G-League affiliate) and this season, got extended action with the Cleveland Charge, the Cavaliers G-League affiliate. With the Charge, Merrill had 18.4 points per contest, to go with averaging 3.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.5 steals, in 22 starts.

What jumped out from Merrill’s play was what he could bring to the Cavaliers rotation if given meaningful opportunities next season, in his perimeter shooting abilities. Merrill connected on 44.1 percent of his 8.9 three-point attempts for the Charge, and he could feasibly aid Cleveland’s horizontal floor spacing for stretches as a catch-and-shoot wing, and potentially give the team a quality movement shooting option.

There weren’t really opportunities for Merrill with the Cavaliers in the closing stretch of the season, given the circumstances with him first signed via 10-day deal and the playoff push. Merrill was later signed to a multi-year deal with the rest of last season guaranteed, as an aside; his next two seasons are non-guaranteed.

It’s not clear if Merrill will be with the Cavs at the start of next season, with that in mind. And there’s set to be others involved, such as potentially Isaac Okoro still, Caris LeVert if he is re-signed, and Cedi Osman could be around. Osman’s deal is non-guaranteed for next season, though, and LeVert is set to be an unrestricted free agent.

Granted, the Cavaliers could very well look to alter the wing mix with seemingly rumored possible trade targets such as Dorian Finney-Smith or Royce O’Neale, and/or seek help there via free agency. So, the looks for Merrill might not be there, and whether he is on the roster at the outset of 2023-24 is an uncertainty it seems, for now.

Cleveland would also need to find ways to carve out minutes for him, with those potentially at the 2 or in some lineups at the de facto 3 for stretches. Merrill is 6-foot-4, to that point, and could be targeted at the other end. Defensively, he has some on-ball limitations.

For a Wine and Gold team that needs an infusion of shooting, however, Cleveland would be in the right to have Merrill as a potential depth player that could provide an offensive boost for stretches.

Next. 3 Cavaliers players who definitely shouldn't be back next season. dark

Will he get the chances? That’s another story.