by Daniel Olsen | Yoeli Childs and Sam Merrill are familiar foes. Merrill got the better of Childs in high school when his Bountiful Braves beat Childs and his Bingham Miners in 2013. The final score of that game was 79-65. Since then, Childs never lost to Merrill in college as he continued BYU’s win streak over Utah State.
Now, the two find themselves waiting for a possible phone call on Wednesday night. The two play different positions and bring unique skill sets that could become an asset for several NBA teams. It’s time to do an analysis to see where each player will possibly go.
Strengths – He has decent size for a shooting guard he is listed at 6-5. That gives him an advantage over other great but undersized Aggies who went undrafted (see Jaycee Carroll). Merrill has become a great play-maker as his passing and ball-handling ability has greatly improved in his time as an Aggie. His greatest strength, which is a big asset in the modern game, is his shooting ability.
Merrill finished his career with an Aggie record 89 percent free throw percentage and second all-time in career scoring with 2,197 points. He finished his career as a 42 percent shooter from beyond the arc. He was still able shoot over 40 percent his senior year despite hoisting up a career high 6.8 triples per game. One need only watch the Mountain West tournament to know how much of a clutch shooter he is when the game is on the line. He is a player you can count on when his name is called in the NBA playoffs. Count Merrill as one of the sharpest shooters in the draft with a high basketball IQ as well.
Weaknesses: There are concerns about his athleticism. He may be a liability on the defensive end at the NBA level. There is some question as to how ready he is to play at the next level when he thrived in a mid-major conference. He doesn’t have an elite vertical so that may limit him to mostly outside shooting. Merrill is one of the oldest players in the draft at 24 years old. That will count against him since he has less time on his “basketball clock”.
Best Player Comparison: Tyler Herro
These two players are the same height and both had concerns regarding their athleticism coming out of college. Herro might be a stretch due to his meteoric rise on a championship-contending team this year. Herro was also drafted much earlier at 13th in the draft while Merrill would be extremely lucky to even be drafted in the first round. Both are talented shooters. If Sam could be even close to Tyler Herro, he’d be a player similar to who Jeff Hornacek was for the Utah Jazz. Shooters like Jeff Hornacek of old and Joe Ingles in the modern day carved out roles in Utah despite going undrafted.
Prediction: Like Jordan Love did in the NFL Draft, Merrill might make us sweat a little bit. Only 60 players get drafted per year. I think Merrill will be the first Aggie in nearly 50 years to get drafted and will be selected with the 56th pick in the NBA Draft by Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Hornets. I won’t rule out him being traded up for an earlier pick in the second round.
Strengths: Childs was a clear asset to his team which became apparent as many of the losses BYU had were in games he didn’t play last season due to an NCAA suspension. He has a good deal of athleticism and potential to be a consistent shooter in the NBA. He has had the chance to shine bright on the biggest stage. His best play ever was a poster dunk in a win against the Utes two years ago. He averaged 22.2 points per game and nine rebounds in his senior season. He had a season high 38 points vs Pepperdine to end the regular season last year. He had eight double-doubles last season and only one game in which he scored in single-digits. He was a beast in the WCC and there is a potential for him to be successful at the next level as well.
Weaknesses: Childs just needs to polish his game a little more. He is a bit undersized at 6 foot 8 for a post player. He is the perfect size for a small forward but he needs to improve his ball handling to take advantage of the athleticism he does have. The stars in the NBA like Kevin Durant and Anthony Davis are taller than Childs and also more well-polished. I see Childs as a violin that’s a little out of tune. If he gets in the gym and does ball handling and shooting drills, he can be a solid player to play to the tune of beautiful basketball. Last year he did shoot his best percentage from three at 48 percent but he attempted his fewest amount of threes (45) since his freshman year when he did not attempt any shots from deep. It was a vast improvement from his sophomore year though when he made just 31 percent of his threes in 48 attempts. Childs needs to get to the point where he can connect on at least a couple threes per game in the opportunities he does get on a professional basketball team. The 3-and-D player is increasingly valuable in today’s NBA. Childs has the D but with the NBA line being a little further back than college, he needs to prove he can hit the three.
Best player comparison: In the NBA this is tough. He can rebound and score as he was the only BYU Cougar to ever record over 1,000 boards and 2,000 points. He is a bit smaller and needs to keep improving his shot but he almost reminds me of a more athletic Kevin Love early in his career. Time will tell if this ultimately comes to fruition as Love was an All-Star earlier in his career.
Prediction: Childs is projected anywhere between early second round and undrafted. I’m guessing he either gets drafted along with Sam Merrill or neither gets drafted. Let’s make things interesting and put them both on the same team. The Hornets will surprise some people and Draft Childs with the 32nd pick. This is a bit optimistic but if they don’t get him that high there is still a chance he lands there in a trade. There is some intrigue for him in the national Hornets media.
Write it in stone. Merrill and Childs make the trip from the Beehive State to The Hive out East known as Hornets nation!