On Wednesday, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers plan to sign Sam Merrill to the roster on a limited contract.
“The Cleveland Cavaliers are planning to sign guard Sam Merrill to a 10-day contract out of their NBA G-League Charge affiliate, sources tell me and @kelseyyrusso,” Charania tweeted.
Merrill, who won a championship with the Milwaukee Bucks during his rookie season, addresses a key area of need for the Cavaliers this season: shooting. But what precisely will be Merrill’s role down the stretch for the Cavaliers?
Chris Fedor of cleveland.com contextualized one fan’s frustration that Merrill will likely be exiled to the bench, arguing that such a move is probably best for the team considering Merrill’s experience and the high-stakes portion of the Cavs’ schedule.
“Well … yeah … they are in the middle of a playoff push and he was just signed from the G League to take the last available roster spot on a 10-day. He isn’t coming from the Charge to be in the every-night rotation,” Fedor tweeted.
That said, Saturday’s contest against the division rival Detroit Pistons might be an excellent chance for Merrill to get his sea legs.
The Pistons are well entrenched in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes; an early lead for Cleveland might convince head coach JB Bickerstaff to give time to the recently promoted Charge member.
Merrill Addressed Key Area of Need for Cavaliers
It comes as little surprise that the Cavaliers promoted Merrill given a recent report from Cavs beat writer Evan Dammarell.
“#Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said that they’ll have internal conversations with Koby Altman about addressing the open roster spot based on what the team needs the most,” Dammarell tweeted last week.
Ultimately, Cleveland decided that shooting is “what the team needs the most,” and it’s easy to see why.
Despite adding an offensive supernova in Donovan Mitchell via trade this summer, Cleveland is still one of the league’s least-effective three-point threats. According to Cleaning the Glass, Cleveland’s 36.5% make rate from beyond the arc ranks just 14th in the league this season.
Coming out of college at Utah State, Merrill was expected to contribute in the big leagues primarily as a shooter, given his career 16.6 PPG on 42% from three.
Since entering the league, however, Merrill has seen limited action on the pro level. In 30 games with the Bucks, Merrill shot a strong 44.7% from three. But he was let go by the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season after his scoring numbers declined.
This season has been something of a renaissance for Merrill. With the Charge, the third-year guard is putting up 17.5 points per game on 43.7% from three. He’s been an integral part of the Charge’s roster, as well, with a commanding 33.8 minutes per game tally this year.
Bickerstaff Issues Warning to Cavs’ Rotation
But Merrill will also be fighting for playing time during a period in which everyone outside the starting five is looking to cement their status in the team’s playoff rotation.
“Eight, nine will probably be the most,” Bickerstaff told Fedor when asked how many players will make up the Cavs’ postseason rotation.
While the familiar names — Donovan Mitchell, Jarrett Allen, Evan Mobley, and Darius Garland — won’t go anywhere, the same can hardly be said for the rest of the Cavaliers’ rotation.
“It could depend on our opponent and what we need in the moment. Four of the five starters I think are going to end up playing heavy minutes. So now we’re just trying to piece the guys around them that night to fit the matchups best,” Bickerstaff concluded.