Milwaukee Bucks: Checking in on the progress of each rookie prospect

Jan 30, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports)
Jan 30, 2021; Charlotte, North Carolina, USA (Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Mar 11, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports)
Mar 11, 2021; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA (Michael McLoone-USA TODAY Sports) /

As the Milwaukee Bucks have found their stride this 2020-21 season, minutes have been hard to come by for their rookie prospects.

It’s through that lens that the Bucks’ 102-96 loss to the New York Knicks so refreshing in a sense as all Bucks fans got to see what the kids can do, so to speak. With multiple Bucks starters out for rest and injuries, the shorthanded Bucks were powered by a gutsy effort from their youngsters as well as Thanasis Antetokounmpo, who went on to have a career night himself.

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While playing time on the NBA level has come few and far between for every Bucks rookie, it’s performances like Saturday night they show just where they can fit into the picture beyond this year.

So without further ado, let’s go into the potential of each Milwaukee Bucks rookie as their development was on display Saturday night.

Sam Merrill offers more than shooting for the Milwaukee Bucks

Sam Merrill is the rare Bucks rookie to have gotten some rare time in the rotation, as evidenced by his career night in the Bucks’ loss to the Boston Celtics Friday night.

Standing as one of the few bright spots in that game, Merrill finished with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting (3-for-5 from three), two rebounds and a steal and was a +5 on the night while playing nearly 20 minutes off the bench. That career night was highlighted by Merrill’s quick shooting trigger and he’s now up to 13-for-28 from three (46.4 percent) over his 145 total minutes with the Bucks this season.

Although Merrill’s sharpshooting is the exact ingredient that will make him a true threat when playing alongside the likes of Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton, it’s Merrill’s defending that will keep him on the floor under Mike Budenholzer.

It’s here where Merrill has acquitted himself better than the expectations that followed him coming out of college. While the 24-year-old is clearly limited athletically, Merrill’s high IQ and reading of the game helps him make crisp rotations like when he drew the following charge on Jayson Tatum.

After having his struggles while on assignment with the Memphis Hustle earlier this year, Merrill has shown just what kind of role he could carve out for the Bucks beyond this season. But being able to stay the floor is the biggest key and his ability to think the game at a high level certainly mitigates some of his physical deficiencies.