The Kings have put a major emphasis on improving their outside shooting this offseason. After finishing 24th in the league and winning just 30 games last season, it’s obvious how significant three-point shooting is to a team’s success in the modern NBA.
Just as good perimeter shooting gives any team a chance to win, it’s apparent that the organization also feels shooting gives any player a chance to make a case for a roster spot.
On Friday, Sacramento signed sharpshooter Sam Merrill, completing what looks to be their twenty-man training camp roster.
Merrill will be thrust into a talented positional group that includes both new additions in Kevin Huerter and Malik Monk as well as Terence Davis. Along with guys like KZ Okpala and Chima Moneke, there is an uphill battle ahead for Merrill if he wants to make this roster.
It’s one thing for there to be a battle between Matthew Dellavedova and Quinn Cook because they’re at least competing for the open spot as the third point guard. On the other hand, Merrill, Okpala, and Moneke are kind of trying to steal a spot.
And both two-way contracts are filled with second-year man Neemias Queta and undrafted rookie Keon Ellis, who both project to be part of that training camp roster.
But one thing that separates Merrill from Okpala and Moneke is the fact he has that shooting touch, which gives any guy a chance.
Through four years at Utah State—where he played alongside Queta for two years between 2018 and 2020—the 6’4″ Merrill shot 42% from beyond the arc.
Despite not being an exceptionally great athlete nor a versatile scorer, Merrill’s NBA-level three-point shooting range and his feel for the game got him drafted 60th overall in 2020 by the New Orleans Pelicans.
Prior to the start of the season, he was moved to the Milwaukee Bucks in the trade that landed them Jrue Holiday. Merrill played mostly in the G League, but he did play 30 games for the Bucks in their championship run, averaging 3 points and a rebound in under 8 minutes played per contest. But what stood out was that he shot 44.7% (21 of 47) in that time from deep.
The next offseason, he was moved to the Grizzlies in exchange for Grayson Allen. He played 6 games with Memphis, averaging 4.2 points on 33.3% from the field and 30.4% from three as well as 1.2 rebounds in under 10 minutes played.
With the turn of the new year last season, the Grizzlies waived him.
Now comes his chance to make a case for himself when training camp starts next month.
Sam Merrill has the ability to be an effective shooter from beyond the arc, but at age 26 and without overwhelming ability anywhere else—aside from his well regarded basketball IQ—he will really have to prove beyond all doubt that he is worthy of a roster spot.
The probability he can secure that spot with the Kings is pretty low, but shooting range gives anyone a fighting chance at the very least.