Sam Merrill made it back-to-back career scoring highs Wednesday night, hitting 8-of-14 from behind the arch and finishing with 27 points, 3 boards, 2 assists and a steal, helping the Cavs pull away from the Jazz in the fourth quarter. 

The casual NBA fan would hear the name Sam Merrill and just assume we’re talking about a financial advisor. Then, you’d see a picture of him, and then further assume we’re talking about a financial advisor. So let’s do a quick background check:

Merrill was a big fish in the little pond of Utah State. He was the Mountain West Conference Player of the year his junior year and conference tourney MVP his last two years. He missed out on a second trip to the NCAA Tourney because of COVID, then headed into the NBA as a late second round pick. In his rookie season with the Bucks, he averaged 7 minutes in 30 games while shooting 45% from three, and got a little run in the playoffs when the Bucks won the title. The next two years were spent on waivers and in the G League, until Cleveland signed him to a multi-year deal last March. 

Ok, so, nice story, eh. But, do we care? While Garland is out, there’s definitely a role for Merrill. If anything he’s a solid threes streamer. The guy has hit over 40% from three at every level (this season he is 29-of-61, 47%), and there’s always a place for that in the NBA. 

It’s worth noting Merrill was extra motivated playing against the Jazz, the team he grew up rooting for. Also worth noting, it was the Jazz, one of the worst defensive teams in the league. 

It’s not like he’ll be moving in front of Caris LeVert in the rotation any time soon. But, [insert punny Morman nickname here] scraps together enough counting stats to be fantasy relevant with enough minutes. And, again, there’s a role for any guy who can jack the ball up like Merrill does and consistently find the bottom of the net. So if you want to snag him in the short term to see if the heater continues, go for it.

Here’s what else piqued my interest Wednesday night in The Association. 

Cleveland Cavaliers 124, Utah Jazz 116

The resurgence of Tristan Thompson! Hyperbolic, for sure, but a solid 10-5-4 and 4-steal night. He’s getting the backup C minutes, and it’s not like the play of Jarrett Allen (17-8-3 and 2 steals) is demanding 35 minutes a night. So Thompson could be carving out a decent deep league role at the moment. Craig Porter Jr. started with Donovan Mitchell out, and posted 6 points (2-7 FG, 2-2 FT), 7 boards, 6 dimes and 3(!) blocks in 24 minutes. He was a fun story a month ago, but even with Garland out, I don’t see much fantasy relevance out of Porter. 

The THT Experience kept jamming as Talen Horton-Tucker contributed 19 points and 11 assists, but Keyonte George is nearing a return. John Collins came off the bench for the second night in a row, posting 16-5-0-1-1 in 22 minutes. Tough situation for his owners; but kind of deserved given it’s common knowledge Collins does nothing but disappoint in the fantasy realm. Losing a starting spot to Simone Fontecchio (9-7-2 in 35 minutes) is a new low, but let’s see what the Jazz do going forward. Just hold Collins and hope he gets his spot back, or at least produces well off the bench. 

Philadelphia 76ers 127, Minnesota Timberwolves 113

I guess if a guy drops 51-12-3-2-1 on 17-of-25 shooting (17-18 FT), it’s worth a mention, even if we’re used to it from Joel Embiid. Kelly Oubre Jr. started in place of Batum, but posted a meh line of 7-2-0 and two steals, and just an 11 usage rate. De’Anthony Melton left with a thigh contusion; likely nothing, but if he misses time, Patrick Beverly (5-3-3 and a block in 18 minutes) might get a call to the streamers box. 

In the points line, a semi-breakout from Jaden McDaniels, who scored a season high 21 points (8-12 FG, 2-3 3-PT, 3-5 FT). But he produced just 3 boards and a steal elsewhere, and remains unworthy of standard league rosters until further notice. 

Indiana Pacers 144, Charlotte Hornets 113

Jalen Smith returned for Indiana with 10 points and 4 boards in 8 first half minutes, then sat all the second half. Isaiah Jackson sat the first, then posted 10-3-1-1-2 in 15 second half minutes. The two backup centers are both in the Top 30 in Per 36 rankings, but neither has a path over the other for enough minutes to make it count … unless maybe one gets traded. 

A nice night from Brandon Miller (21-6-3, a steal and 2 threes, 9-17 FG), who’s threatening to make me lose the bet I made with myself that he wouldn’t finish as a Top 150 player. And nothing else from this blowout. 

Miami Heat 115, Orlando Magic 106

No Jimmy in this one, so Jaime Jaquez Jr. got the start, but underwhelmed with a 10-3-1-1-1 line in 30 minutes, just 3-for-10 from the field. Classic story of a young guy playing well in the bench role, then folding when given the chance to start. Otherwise, just the same quagmire of role players for the Heat. Kevin Love also sat, so Haywood Highsmith got 30 minutes and scored 15 points (5-12 FG, 4-8 3PT, 1-2 FT) with 6 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals. Caleb Martin started, but played just 18 minutes and little to show, and should be greasing the wheels on the waivers at this point. 

Another center returns causing a backup log-jam. Wendell Carter Jr. moved right into the starting lineup, posting 8-6-1 in 23 minutes, while Mo Wagner played 18 (11-7-1) and Goga Bitadze 12 (4-6-1 and 2 blocks). The Franz Wagner shooting woes continued (5-14 FG, 0-4 3PT, 5-6 FT), but otherwise not a bad 15-6-5-2-1 line. 

New York Knicks 121, Brooklyn Nets 102

Donte DiVincenzo did some things again, with 21 points (9-15 FG, 5-10 3PT), 8 boards, a dime and three steals in just 23 minutes. He’s hit-and-miss game-to-game, but has been a Top 100 player since entering the starting lineup. Hit-and-miss game-to-game, of course, describes all non-Brunson NYK guards (except Grimes, who needs a change of scenery like I need my kids to stop asking when I’m putting up Xmas lights), and Josh Hart played like it was 8 months ago, posting 10-13-3-1-0 with two threes. 

A 4-of-21 shooting night for Mikal Bridges (15-5-2-2-0). Yuck. He’s moved outside the Top 50 on the season, so certainly some buy low possibilities from an owner feeling remorse. But don’t go too crazy with offers. Bridges shined last year, but we haven’t seen enough over time to be confident he can get back to that status right away. A nice 9-15-3 line from Day’Ron Sharpe, who’s averaging 8 boards a game over his last seven games in limited bench minutes.

Denver Nuggets 113, Toronto Raptors 104

The Joker Nikola Jokic got back on track with a 31-15-6 line, 3 threes and 2 blocks. Michael Porter Jr. tweaked an ankle but still played 33 minutes, finishing with 12 points (5-13 FG, 2-7 3PT), 6 boards, 2 assists and a steal. Something to monitor there. And Peyton Watson continues to be reliable off the bench, posting an 11-4-1-1-1 line in 18 minutes. I tried like the dickens to trade for him in the dynasty offseason, unfortunately to no avail. He won’t be making any huge jump this season into standard league rosters, but steady growth and consistency is great to see for his high potential. 

Just 19 minutes for Jakob Poeltl (4-5-3 and 2 blocks) as Precious Achiuwa finished out the game (13-5-1-1-1 in 25 minutes), for some reason. Trading a 1st rounder for a center, then signing him to four years, $80 million, just to play 19 minutes in a big game is certainly a decision. Keep doin’ you, Toronto. Forty minutes for OG Anunoby, but just 9-1-3, and speaking of needing a change of scenery …

Atlanta Hawks 134, Houston Rockets 127

Onyeka Okongwu gets 33 minutes! He finished with 19 points, 11 boards and 2 assists. This was mostly a matchup scenario, me thinks, but clearly he’s still worthy of a roster spot everywhere. Clint Capela still contributed a 15-9-2-2-1 line despite only 21 minutes. Trae Young kept the heater going with his third 50%+ game in 4, posting 30-4-14 and hitting 5-of-8 from deep. For those tired of dealing with his topsy-turvy field goal percentages, now’s a good time to sell if the price is right.  

Jabari Smith Jr. broke out of his slump with 34 points (8-14 FG, 4-7 3PT, 14-14 FT) to go with 13 boards, a dime and 4 blocks in 40 minutes. And I guess Fred VanVleet just gets all the minutes, playing 44 last night, and matching Trae’s output with 32-4-15 and a steal on 50% shooting.

LA Clippers 120, Dallas Mavericks 111

Anytime one of the Big 3 sit, Normal Powell is an auto streamer if he’s available. He went 21-3-2 and a steal (7-10 FG, 3-6 3PT, 4-4 FT) as Paul George took the night off. Amir Coffey got his second cup of coffee as a starter and played a ton – 39 minutes – with a modest yet usable 12-5-3 line and a steal.

The Mavs are sorely missing Dereck Lively, who remains without a timetable to return from his ankle injury. Hopefully they’re just being extra cautious with him. And it’s been a few weeks since I mentioned my Wednesday Night Dude Derrick Jones Jr.: a 19-3-2-1-2 line with 2 threes on good efficiency will do, DJ. 

Boston Celtics 144, Sacramento Kings 119

Tatum took the night off to get his head right, I mean, to rest a sore ankle. Derrick White took the opportunity to let everyone know that he is in fact the second best player on this team, producing 28 points (10-13 FG, 6-9 3PT, 2-3 FT) 2 boards, 7 assists, a steal and 3 blocks. Normally a guard getting 3 blocks would deserve a (!) with it, but this is Derrick White, no surprises. And Jrue Holiday had a get-right game, posting 21-8-10-2-1 with great efficiency. 

Meh night for the Kings roster in this blowout. 

Chicago Bulls 124, LA Lakers 108

We got Alex Caruso back in the starting lineup, who went 15-6-2 and a block with 3 threes in 28 minutes [touches every rabbit foot in the room for good luck on the health side]. A season high 21 minutes for Dalen Terry (2-5-3), who’s not very good at basketball [relatively speaking], but is being given a chance to earn a rotation spot, so monitor in deep leagues. Solid game from all the starters, as Coby White (17-7-5) continues to be one of the best success stories in both real and fantasy ball this season. 

Anthony Davis tweaked an ankle but still put up 19-14-3-2-2 in 38 minutes. I have a lot of Brow stock this season, but I’m even hoping he soon gets a couple weeks or rest to mend his body. Unfortunately, not sure the Lakers can afford that. Of course, they also can’t afford running him into a long-term injury. 

Maybe the stinkiest of stinkers on the night: D’Angelo Russell with 2-1-2 on 1-of-6 shooting in 28 minutes. Silly me, I thought he could stabilize his game this season, which he did at the start. But he’s outside the Top 200 in the last two weeks. Might be a good occasion to Sell Low, and include him in a deal to some sucker who believes he can stabilize his game this season. [“You mean you?” Shut it voice in my head!]




That’s it for this week. Wishing you all lots of booze-fueled unnecessary conversation with family in the coming day, and of course a Merry Christmas and awesome sports watching over the holiday weekend. Cheers!