Milwaukee Bucks: Sam Merrill searching for rhythm while on assignment

MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 29: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FLORIDA - DECEMBER 29: (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks are currently searching for their rhythm, the same is true of one of their rookies, Sam Merrill.

It’s been a little over two weeks since Merrill, along with his fellow Bucks rookies Mamadi Diakite and Jordan Nwora, had been sent down on assignment to the G League. Nwora has since been recalled by the Bucks after suffering a nasty ankle sprain in his first game while Diakite has shown flashes of his potential while with the Lakeland Magic.

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Meanwhile, Merrill hasn’t had the same rosy path since joining the Memphis Hustle, even as he has flashed his own potential through his ups and downs while in the bubble.

In his five G League appearances so far, Merrill is averaging 11.2 points on .349/.344/.167 shooting splits, 4.4 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.8 steals in 28.9 minutes per contests.

Clearly, the highly efficient scoring and sharpshooting that Merrill thoroughly displayed throughout his time at Utah State hasn’t yet translated to the professional level just yet.

Some of that is certainly due to the speed of the game catching up to Merrill, especially after playing four seasons in the Mountain West Conference. Some of it is also due to Merrill having a far less ball-dominant role than he was accustomed to while with the Aggies. After having a 22.8 career usage percentage at Utah State, Merrill currently has a 19.2 usage percentage, per the G League’s stats database.

Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sam Merrill has exceeded expectations elsewhere on the floor.

While Merrill’s own offense has been a rollercoaster thus far, the 24-year-old has played up to and beyond expectations in other areas of the game.

That first applies to his playmaking when on the ball, whether initiating sets or within the flow of the Hustle’s offense. Merrill’s patient and precise penetrating of the opposing defense has opened up many drive and kick opportunities for Memphis’ offense. Along with his 3.4 assists, Merrill is also posting a sparkling 3.4 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks 10th of G League players overall.

Perhaps most impressive about Merrill’s growing time in the G League has been his performance on the defensive end.

Merrill’s reputation as a defender wasn’t exactly glowing on the college level as he does have his athletic and speed deficiencies. What the Utah native lacks in those qualities, he makes up for with his competitiveness and his high IQ of knowing when to rotate, which has helped him becoming a charge drawing savant and break into passing lanes.

Although those traits more apply to when Merrill is off the ball, his ability to stay in front of opposing playmakers as well as stay attached to their hip when navigating through the paint. And his active hands led to this highlight of straight up snatching the ball away from Melvin Frazier of the Oklahoma City Blue Wednesday night.

Now after just scoring 10 points and fouling out in 28-and-a-half minutes against the Blue last night, it will surely get better for Merrill. The fact that all areas of Merrill’s game outside of his scoring and shooting have played up to standard is certainly promising in many ways.

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Eventually, those shots will start to fall for Merrill, but it’s all a matter of consistency at this point. With this run in the G League serving as his first extended run of game action in nearly a year, an adjustment period was going to occur in some fashion for Merrill and he has plenty of time to overcome these hurdles.