Sam Merrill has become a hero in Cleveland in Week 9
Although the Cavaliers have been lethal from 3-point range in total over this latest stretch, no player has been more electrifying from beyond the arch than 27-year-old wing Sam Merrill. After joining the Cavs last season via the Cleveland Charge G-League affiliate team, Merrill signed a multi-year contract. This year, he is on a non-guaranteed $1.9 million salary, making his sudden burst into the limelight that much more impressive.
When the Cavaliers hosted Merrill's hometown team in the Utah Jazz, Merrill unleashed a barrage of 3-point attempts, making 8-of-14 from deep and scoring a career-high 27 points in Cleveland's 124-116 victory. Only one game earlier, Merrill connected from deep 5 times in 10 attempts, ending the night with 19 points.
Merrill's heroics have allowed his teammates to find open attempts for themselves, creating a new dynamic that opponents had not anticipated. Over the last four games, Merrill has shot a shocking 52.4 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers, including a 58.3 percent shot from deep with defenders within 4-6 feet.
Though Merrill has not been a lockdown defender or shifty playmaker for the Cavaliers, he has been the perfect long range threat for Cleveland to punish late defensive rotations in their current situation.
Jarrett Allen is holding down the paint and showing his value
Defensively, one Cavalier has stepped up unlike any other since the departure of Mobley. At the start of the season, the redundancy of Cleveland's frontcourt with two non-shooters in Mobley and Allen has been a topic of much discussion. Many of the best lineups for the Cavaliers have only included one of the two bigs, leaving critics with plenty of reason to doubt the long-term fit and suggest an Allen trade is only a matter of time.
Allen has remained undeterred from the noise, showcasing his perpetual All-Star value in Cleveland's current 1-in, 4-out set. In the last win against the Bulls, Allen ended the night with 19 points, 17 rebounds and 7 assists. Jarrett Allen has averaged 15 points, 9.5 rebounds and 3.8 assists with 64.9 percent from the field in the last week.
With so many shooters on the court at all times for the Cavaliers, the interior paint has been wide open for Allen to operate, looking comfortable in his current role. Although Cleveland's defensive rating has dropped as a team since Mobley's injury, Allen has looked just as dominant as ever.
Whether or not the rest of the Cavaliers will be able to continue their confidence and success without two of their best players, Allen has already proven his ability to consistently produce over the course of a full season. Allen will surely maintain as one of the Cavs' leaders alongside Mitchell and Strus.
Dean Wade has been the ideal stretch big for the Cavaliers
Dean Wade has left and re-entered Cleveland's starting lineup numerous times already this season as the team continually falls to injuries. In this last week, though, Wade has been the starting big next to Allen in every game. Over that stretch, Wade has shot 50 percent from deep and has grabbed 6.5 rebounds per game.
For a team that seemed on the brink of collapse, Wade's sudden improvement has helped the Cavs stay competitive in a stacked Eastern Conference. In Cleveland's only loss this week, Wade led the Cavaliers with a season-high 20 points alongside 9 rebounds and 2 blocks. In that performance, Wade shot 6-of-8 from deep.
While Cleveland's undrafted rookie Craig Porter Jr. has equally shown up for the Cavs in the starting five this last week, Wade has made a major impact to help the frontcourt stay intact. Wade has secured nearly 2 offensive rebounds per game, playing a critical role in the Cavaliers scoring the most second chance points in the NBA over the past week. Before his injury, Mobley was leading the Cavs in offensive rebounds (2.7), making Wade's efforts a crucial piece in Cleveland's fight to stay afloat.
The Cavaliers will visit the Dallas Mavericks on December 27 at 8:30 PM Eastern Time for their next game, followed by a return to Cleveland as the Milwaukee Bucks come to town to end the year. With four games between their last game and their next game, the Cavaliers will hope to see Donovan Mitchell return to the lineup as both of their next games will be against two of the league's powerhouses.