Sam Merrill, Guard, Utah State University
6’5”, 205 pounds, 24 years old
2019-2020 season (Senior Year): 32 games played, 35 minutes per game, 19.7 points per game, 4.1 rebounds per game, 3.9 assists per game, 0.9 steals per game, 46.1% from the field (41% from three), 89.3% from the free throw line.
ADVANCED STATS STRENGTHS: AST/TO (2.50), Off Win Shares (.186), Off Rating (129.7), True Shooting Percentage (62.5%)
ADVANCED STATS WEAKNESSES: Age (24), Rebounds Per 36 (4.2), Steals (0.9)
CURRENT BIG BOARD RANKINGS: Tankathon (55), The Athletic (37), ESPN (62), CBS (51)
Sam Merrill was an extremely productive player at Utah State over the past four seasons. Unfortunately for him, he’s fallen victim to the trend that teams value high upside, younger prospects over those who have had great production at the college level but may have physical limitations. Due to his age, Merrill is being projected as a late second round pick by most major media outlets despite having outstanding all around numbers. Sure, the Mountain West isn’t the pinnacle of college basketball, but Merrill was still an outstanding basketball player.
The Grizzlies lack many players who can create their own shot, and though Merrill likely projects as a 3-point specialist to begin his career he has shown the ability to create offense for himself and his team. The Grizzlies were also a below-average 3-point shooting team this past season and bringing in a guy who averaged a career 42% from beyond the arc in college would certainly help.
With the Grizzlies already having a multitude of shooting guards, does it make sense to bring in another?
What he does well
Merrill did it all for Utah State in his 4 seasons as an Aggie. He was best as a scorer, averaging over 15 points per game his final 3 seasons. He was an elite 3-point shooter, averaging a career 42% on nearly 6 attempts per game. Merrill wasn’t just a 3-point specialist either as he was able to score from the mid-range as well as attacking the basket.
Merrill was also a solid facilitator for the Aggies as he was their primary ball-handler. His 2.50 assist to turnover ratio is fantastic, and should translate well to the NBA level where he will be more of a secondary ball-handler instead of the team's primary guy. Still, Merrill’s biggest strength will be his ability to simply get a bucket at an efficient rate.
Where he needs to improve
The unfortunate thing with Merrill is his areas of improvement may very well be out of his control. At 24 years old, Merrill is probably already who he will be physically as he’s not likely to grow the way younger draft prospects do in their first few years. Merrill isn’t short by any means, but he lacks NBA-level speed, quickness and length.
These physical limitations will likely cause Merrill to be a much less impactful defender at the next level. Merrill has the basketball IQ to be a decent NBA defender, but more athletic players should be able to take advantage of Merrill’s physical limitations. Merrill’s solid rebounding numbers for a guard at the collegiate level will also likely not translate over to the NBA, especially considering he’ll spend much of his time on the perimeter.
The Fit and Verdict
I am a big fan of Sam Merrill but must admit his fit isn’t ideal with the Memphis Grizzlies. Primarily a shooting guard, Merrill doesn’t make sense if the Grizzlies plan on bringing back both De’Anthony Melton and John Konchar. Merrill could theoretically be used as a 3rd point guard but there also figures to be more pure point guards available when the Grizzlies are on the clock at 40th overall.
Verdict: The Grizzlies pass on Merrill at 40th overall, but he will be a prime target should the team trade for a pick in the later part of the second round.