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The unlikely Sam Merrill

What does Sam Merrill bring to the table? Will he even get the chance to show it off?

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2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

The Grizzlies acquired some championship experience when they sent Grayson Allen to the Milwaukee Bucks in exchange for Sam Merrill and two future second round picks. Merrill wasn’t a key factor in the Bucks championship run, as he appeared in just 30 regular season games for Milwaukee averaging 3 points per game on 44% shooting from the field and beyond the arc.

While the Merrill acquisition was mostly a means of picking up assets while offloading Grayson Allen (who is due a pay raise after this coming season), Merrill can still bring some Allen-like qualities to the Grizzlies.

Merrill may have played limited minutes for the Bucks last season but he proved in those minutes his best ability, which is his shooting ability. Merrill shot 21-47 from beyond the arc with the Bucks in his 233 minutes. Merrill also had the chance to shine some of his abilities with the Memphis Hustle early last season as he was on a flex-assignment from the Bucks.

Oklahoma City Blue v Memphis Hustle Photo by Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images

In 5 games with the Hustle, Merrill averaged 11.2 points, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Merrill’s shooting percentages weren’t great as he shot 34.9% from the field and 34.4% from beyond the arc. Although his efficiency wasn’t up to his standards, Merrill flashed his all-around potential with the Hustle last season, showing he can do a little bit of everything on the court. Merrill’s numbers in Vegas were comparable to his Hustle stint, with a little better shooting from the field (42.9%).

Merrill would provide the Grizzlies with a bench guy who is a knock-down shooter who can help rebound and facilitate on the offensive end. Still, the jury is still out on Merrill’s ability to consistently provide that at the NBA level. Merrill didn’t have much opportunity on a championship contending team in Milwaukee, but doesn’t figure to have much opportunity on a deep Memphis squad either.

2021-22 Memphis Grizzlies Media Day Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Merrill is currently in an unofficial battle with Kris Dunn for the final roster spot on the Grizzlies roster. Merrill has been dealing with an ankle injury that has kept him out of the Grizzlies preseason games so far, and it is unknown how limited his participation in practice has been with the injury. That said, the simple goal for Merrill for this season would be simply to beat out Dunn and be on the Grizzlies roster come October 20th.

If Merrill makes the squad, he’ll provide shooting off the bench. Where he can really improve at the NBA level would be to have a higher focus on other areas of his game. If Merrill can flash the rebounding and passing ability he showed with the Hustle, he might be able to fight for minutes if the team picks up a few injuries. Merrill is also a candidate for a Hustle assignment to keep him fresh, should he make the final roster. A Hustle assignment seems like something a young guy like Merrill would be open to and would allow him to work on his game, while also being recalled to the Grizzlies for practice or extended road trips.

Overall, Merrill isn’t the flashiest player the Grizzlies could have gotten in a return for Grayson Allen - the real prize is the two second round picks - but he could be a diamond in the rough if given the opportunity to really showcase his skills. We’ll find out over the next two weeks if Merrill’s time in Memphis will come to an early end.

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