How the Cleveland Cavaliers have evolved this season in the face of defeat

Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks
Cleveland Cavaliers v Milwaukee Bucks / Stacy Revere/GettyImages
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Confident shooting is making a difference for the Cavaliers

Speaking of guys that have made marked improvement in their shooting efficiency, Sam Merrill is quietly having a fantastic season. After losing to the Knicks last playoffs, the Cavaliers made it an emphasis to bring in more outside shooting. Little did they know, they had a guy on the roster already that was ready to break out. Last season, Merrill averaged 11.8 minutes per game and 5.5 points per game while shooting 27.8 percent from three-point range in only five games played. This season already he has played 28 games with 8.8 points per game while shooting 42.8 percent from deep. There is even a campaign out there trying to get Merrill into the NBA All-Star Three-Point Contest. 

Merrill and his deep shooting has been one of the reasons that the Cavaliers have been winning games while missing DG and Evan Mobley. He has not been the only one contributing with better distant shooting, as Georges Niang’s shooting and leadership have been a welcome addition to the squad as well. The veteran forward has averaged 22 minutes off the bench and 9.5 points per game.

Along with Merrill, Niang's distance shooting has greatly improved Cleveland’s bench contributions. Last season, the Cavs’ bench averaged 34.1 percent on three-point attempts (ranked 19th), and this season they are averaging 37 percent from beyond the arc (ranked seventh). Niang’s consistency has not been there all season, but his 33-point outburst on January 17 against the Bucks has fans thinking that the newly-dubbed "G-Wagon" could win a playoff game or playoff series with that kind of contribution off the bench.