It has been seven years since the Cleveland Cavaliers last had a participant in the 3-Point Contest at All-Star Weekend. But Donovan Mitchell is hoping the drought ends this year, endorsing Sam Merrill as a potential Cavs representative.
— Donovan Mitchell (@spidadmitchell) January 21, 2024
The last Cavs player to enter the contest was Kyrie Irving in the 2016-17 campaign. The franchise’s former star put on a show in that season’s shootout, joining Eric Gordon and Kemba Walker in the final round.
Unfortunately, if he had just scored one more point, he would have become a two-time winner (as he was the 2013 champion). Instead, he and Gordon had 20 points apiece in the final round, leading to an overtime session that Gordon won 21-18.
Perhaps Merrill will provide Cleveland with someone to cheer for again in the competition. However, he may not be sold yet on putting his name on the list of entrants, as he told Cavs reporter Chris Fedor that his most recent performance showed that he needs to be better.
I mentioned the possibility of participating in the 3 Point Contest to #Cavs Sam Merrill after the game. His response? "Not with tonight's performance. I went 5 of 14. That wouldn't be good enough." He clearly has high standards.
— Chris Fedor (@ChrisFedor) January 21, 2024
The Utah State University product may have had an iffy performance from long distance against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, but he did equal a game-high in 3-pointers made with five, tying Dean Wade. Merrill also added four rebounds and six assists for good measure.
His impressive shooting touch has been on display this season. He is sinking a career-high 2.3 triples per match, which ranks third on the team behind Mitchell (3.1) and Max Strus (2.6). However, Merrill is shooting more efficiently from deep than them, converting 41.4 percent of his outside shots.
It remains to be seen if the league will extend an invite to the fourth-year pro. After all, a handful of other players around the NBA have been more prolific than Merrill from 3-point land.
Perhaps Mitchell should also hope to be considered to fill one of the spots in the event. He had an opportunity to join last season, but he said he politely turned down the invitation, citing Stephen Curry’s absence as the reason.
Merrill still has some time left to prove his case, with the NBA not yet announcing the list of participants for the contest.