Cleveland Cavaliers secret weapon never fails to surprise with every opportunity

Sam Merrill, Cleveland Cavaliers
Sam Merrill, Cleveland Cavaliers / David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Since he's been regularly involved since mid-December, Sam Merrill has connected on 43.7 percent of his 7.2 three-point attempts per outing and has had 11.4 points per contest in that span. He flashed impressive movement shooting prior to that, too, but how Merrill has taken full advantage of his game action has been one of the biggest storylines of this season for the Cleveland Cavaliers thus far.

With the Cavaliers getting their previously injured guys back in the fold in Darius Garland and Evan Mobley alongside the rest of the in-season improvements already displayed, Merrill's chances could be affected.

While Garland has been on a minutes restriction since his return from injury, it's reasonable to have questions about how a bench guy of Merrill's ilk could be impacted, and looking onward as the season and post-All-Star break play from there plays out. The trade deadline or the buyout market could also be something to keep in mind from a rotational outlook.

All things considered, with minimal opportunities before these past two or so months in the big league, it's safe to say Merrill is never going to take any game for granted. He recently emphasized that in media availability, via Spencer Davies of Cavs Insider.

Sam Merrill makes the most of his opportunities no matter what

Merrill recognizes how his chances could be scaled back with other Cavs being back in the fold, with guys such as Isaac Okoro and Caris LeVert also locked into the rotation. A player like Garland reacclimating to the squad could play into Merrill's minutes decreasing.

What's reassuring is how Merrill is handling that possibility, given what he stated above via Davies. Merrill's opportunities have largely been limited at the NBA level to this point, but he's continued to stay the course, and really since mid-December, he's given Cleveland a sizeable boost in his bench minutes.

In two wins in Cleveland's last back-to-back, he has also grasped chances from three-point range. Merrill had 11 points and cashed in on three three-point shots versus the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday, and his movement shooting led to him making a difference with nine points on Thursday at the Memphis Grizzlies.

Merrill was a minus-nine and minus-five in those two games, but his constant movement, deep shooting and multiple efforts, including with ball denials defensively, all showed in that time. Those plus-minus splits didn't seem to necessarily indicate how he played in those instances and his off-ball play.

Given what Merrill has been showcasing as a shooter, there's not always going to be tons of looks for him. He had just three shot attempts in Cleveland's win over the San Antonio Spurs. He's been shooting the lights out of the ball, forcing defenses to respect him on the perimeter every night. This has forced him to take fewer shots some nights, but he consistently capitalizes.

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Regardless, it's encouraging to know that no matter what the circumstances are, Merrill is going to do what he does for Cleveland. He's been a revelation as a big-time off-ball and movement target, and his shooting versatility and seemingly underrated off-ball defense have been icing to go with his range.