It’s no secret that the Memphis Grizzlies aren’t afraid to trade away anybody. They made this clear when the front office decided to ship off Jonas Valanciunas in exchange for a trade package that has netted them a long list of players.
In a direct way, this trade gave them Steven Adams to replace Jonas Valanciunas and allowed Memphis to take Ziaire Williams with the 10th-overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. In a weird, non-direct way, this deal gave them players like Kris Dunn and Jarrett Culver.
It also gave the Grizzlies Sam Merrill, who was somewhat of an afterthought in a busy Grizzlies offseason.
Memphis Grizzlies shooting guard Sam Merrill was considered one of the last players on the depth chart
The Grizzlies still have 16 rostered players, leaving at least one individual at risk of either being traded or cut. On a deep Memphis roster, this could be anybody ranging from the aforementioned new acquisitions in Kris Dunn and Jarrett Culver to an existing player like Kyle Anderson.
That said, one player seemed particularly at risk of losing his job with the Memphis Grizzlies. That player was Sam Merril, who did win an NBA Championship with the Milwaukee Bucks in his rookie season but hadn’t proven himself as a player in the league yet.
Merrill was as sharp of a sharpshooter as you’ll find in the NBA. At 44.7% from three-point range, you could cut diamonds with his three-point shot, so to speak. The issue here was lack of playing time — Merrill played under eight minutes per game with the Bucks, so naturally, he only averaged three points per game with no other impressive statistics to speak of.
On Wednesday night, Sam Merrill made the fight for the last Grizzlies roster spot a lot more interesting
Prior to the Grizzlies’ preseason game against the Indiana Pacers, it was clear that some unique players would have to step up in the game. With a few sporadic injuries and a handful of players resting, the Grizzlies were missing Steven Adams, Kyle Anderson, Desmond Bane, Dillon Brooks, Kris Dunn, Jaren Jackson Jr., Tyus Jones, De’Anthony Melton, Sean McDermott, and Ja Morant. If that sounds like the entire team, that’s because it practically is.
This made the Grizzlies starting lineup look like this:
- PG Sam Merrill, SG John Konchar, SF Ziaire Williams, PF Brandon Clarke, C Xavier Tillman Sr.
It was an interesting night and it almost paid off for the Grizzlies, who fell by two points to the Pacers in a close game.
In that same contest, however, Merrill emerged as an unstoppable scorer. With 30 points on the night, the second-year guard knocked down eight three-point shots out of just 13 attempts. He looked like the second coming of Stephen Curry.
And it wasn’t just on the offensive end, either as Merrill recorded a blocked shot and a pair of steals in the game. Overall, he played 33 minutes and turned the ball over just twice as one of the team’s primary ball handlers.
If Merrill can continue to play like this, the Grizzlies may have just found another diamond in the rough. Sam Merrill didn’t just give Memphis a single reason to keep him around — he gave them 30 of them.