Up next in our NBA Draft feature series is Sam Merrill of Utah State. Merrill is ranked 68th on ESPN’s Draft board, but beyond his basketball skill, his clutch gene alone is worth taking a late-round flier on this mid-major stud. Merrill was last seen hitting the buzzer-beating game-winner to take down heavily favored San Diego State in the Mountain West conference championship game. Over the course of the season, Merrill posted 19.7 points per game, and he turned it up a notch in the postseason, slapping 27.7 points per game on his opponents in the Mountain West Tournament. A 46.1% shooter, Merrill has been lauded with Mountain West awards, including Player of the Year after his junior year campaign.
As mentioned before, Merrill saved his best for the brightest moments of the season. His best game of the season wasn’t even his 27-point performance against SDSU in the title game, but rather, his semifinal contest against Wyoming. Merrill put up 27 points on 9-15 shooting, closing out an upset bid by going 6-6 at the free throw line. Merrill shot 55.7% in the postseason, and he scored in bunches all season long. Merrill’s ability to drill three-pointers and his clutch gene are perfect matches for the evolving style of play in the NBA.
Merrill ranks #68 on the draft board, and he is the fourteenth-ranked shooting guard in this draft class. He may not hear his name called during the draft, but teams will regret that, and whoever snares Merrill, be it late in the second round or as an undrafted free agent, will be getting a steal, and a gutsy player with some solid upside.
Prediction: Undrafted, Signs with San Antonio Spurs
Gutsy and clutch. It’s the type of player that makes me think of Greg Popovich’s system. I like the idea of Merrill playing in that San Antonio system. He may need a little polishing, but if Merrill keeps improving as the lights get brighter, he’ll find himself on an NBA court more often than not.