Cavs Notes: Donovan Mitchell, Sam Merrill, Pete Nance, win streak

Count Donovan Mitchell among those who believe rising Cavaliers guard Sam Merrill belongs in the 3-point shooting contest at NBA All-Star Weekend next month.Donovan Mitchell and Sam Merrill

“Good Morning… put Sam Merrill in the 3pt contest!!” Mitchell posted to X (previously Twitter) alongside a video of Merrill’s game-winning shot for Utah State against San Diego State in a Mountain West Tournament championship game.

Merrill has become a regular and important part of the Cavs’ rotation since the injury to starting point guard Darius Garland. And even when Merrill isn’t knocking down shots, he’s forcing opposing defenses to be aware of him on the perimeter. They can’t leave him open — and that creates scoring opportunities for everyone else.

Merrill, 27, is 6-foot-4 and is having a breakout season individually. In 25 games, he’s averaging a career-high 8.5 points and 2.2 rebounds, shooting 41 percent both from the field and on 3-pointers.

He also holds the distinction of being the final pick of the NBA draft (2020 by the Milwaukee Bucks) and first overall pick of the G League draft. But that’s all ancient history, as all most Cavs fans know is that Merrill has helped them stay afloat despite the injuries to Garland and Evan Mobley.

For the record, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is with Mitchell all the way.

“Could not agree with you more,” Gilbert wrote above Mitchell’s post on Merrill.

Nance Debuts

Revere High School product Pete Nance became the latest Akron native to make it to the NBA, playing two minutes in the Cavs’ road win over the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.

The rookie forward is also the latest Nance to play for the Cavs. His father, Larry Nance, has his jersey hanging from the rafters at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Brother Larry Jr., now with the New Orleans Pelicans, also spent time with the Cavs.

“Obviously, I’m from right down the road, grew up a lifelong Cavs fan, and so to be able to be in practice and just be around the team and be around these guys; obviously, it’s a dream come true,” Pete Nance told reporters. “Something I’ve thought about my whole life for sure. So it’s just a really awesome moment for me.”

Nance was signed to a 10-day contract after averaging 15.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.7 blocks with the Cleveland Charge of the G League. He went undrafted out of North Carolina.

“It’s awesome. Part of what we do is about making dreams come true, and anytime a guy gets the opportunity to be in the NBA, it’s a dream come true,” coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “His circumstances here, with his brother being here and his father being here, it’s even more unique and special. So you can’t be happier for him. It’s a guy who’s worked his tail off to get here. But again, just to be a part of that is special for all of us.”

Cavs Notes

  • As you know, the Cavs (25-15) are riding a seven-game winning streak. That’s best in the NBA. They’ll put it on the line Monday on the road against a quality Orlando Magic squad. The Magic (23-20) started strong but have faded a little lately, in part because of an injury to starting forward Franz Wagner.
  • I said on the Cavs on the Break podcast that Cleveland just needed to win one game on its current four-game trip to feel OK. They accomplished that by pummeling the Hawks. After the Magic, they visit the Milwaukee Bucks — twice. Why the Cavs have had to play both Boston and Milwaukee twice in three days on the road, I’ll never know. 
  • Mitchell is averaging 27.8 points, 5.9 assists, 5.5 rebounds and nearly two steals a game. It doesn’t look like he’ll start in the All-Star Game, but that could change. He’s definitely in it again.

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