On Thursday, the Phoenix Suns hosted six more prospects in for their fourth workout. Once more, which has been the trend, is versatility playing major factors in their session in Phoenix. Keita Bates-Diop (Ohio State), J.P. Macura (Xavier), George King (Colorado), Chimezie Metu (USC), Malik Newman (Kansas), and Devon Hall (Virginia) were the latest group in and length was an underlying theme.
Headlined by Bates-Diop, who possesses a 7’3.25” wingspan atop his 6’8.5”, 224 pound frame, all were also plus shooters on the perimeter. It seems likely that Macura and King will go undrafted while Newman and Hall carry late second round grades on my board. The main focus on Thursday focused squarely on their only near-consensus first rounder in Bates Diop (No. 21 on my board) alongside Metu’s second round lock (No. 44 on my board).
Diving further in on Bates-Diop, he’s another NBA-ready prospect who’s proven himself in college by winning Big 10 Player of the Year after averaging 19.8 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, and 0.9 steals. Bates-Diop’s freakish measurable make him a hot commodity to many NBA franchises.
After improving his three-point percentage from 20% all the way up to 35.9%, Bates-Diop’s stock continued to soar during his final year with the Buckeyes. Suns GM Ryan McDonough was impressed by Bates-Diop’s length up-close but he also proved himself shooting the ball from the outside.
With his length, McDonough could envision Bates-Diop as someone versatile enough to score from all three levels while also guarding from all three with no issue. That’s something not many players on this Suns roster can currently do, at least efficiently outside of Devin Booker.
“Yeah, boy, he’s really long and versatile,” McDonough said. “One of the things that stood out in the workout today and here at Ohio State was him being able to step out and make shots from the perimeter with his length. He can get in the paint or the post area or over the top and get to the basket and extend. Defensively, he's really versatile. Again, that length, that freakish wingspan helps and he also slides pretty well.”
From an advanced metrics point of view, Bates-Diop alongside his tantalizing physical attributes shows him to be very valued. The only prospects outside of Bates-Diop who had +3.5 offensive win shares and 2.5 defensive win shares are Jevon Carter (West Virginia) and Gary Clark (Cincinnati). Bates-Diop also is the only wing who carries block and steal percentages above 5 and 1, respectively.
When asked if he believes Bates-Diop could cover up to three positions on the next level, McDonough replied that it could go even higher than that. We have seen it with PJ Tucker in Houston during the playoffs playing center, but McDonough alluded to Bates-Diop in a similar role if opposing matchups allow it.
“Yeah, maybe even four. I think with his length some small-ball 5 as well,” McDonough said. “You can switch him on just about whoever defensively so he's a unique player. Versatile player that every kind of team is looking for.”
Bates-Diop would allow the Suns to avoid mismatches on both ends with him being a plus on both ends. Not only can Bates-Diop be an optimum floor spacer, but he could also be huge in transition receiving look-ahead passes for easy dunks alongside Josh Jackson.
After turning heads at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, Bates-Diop knows his versatility, especially his three-level two-way upside, will pay off in spades during this lead up towards June 21.
“I like the feedback on my versatility,” Bates-Diop said. “My length is pretty big offensively and defensively.”
Indeed length is important for Bates-Diop, but also Metu as well. Metu is a sneaky name to keep an eye if the Suns keep their pick at No. 31 because he could be an athletic rim protector who can also pick-and-pop off screens at an above-average clip.
During his junior season at USC, Metu began to add more perimeter touch into his arsenal. After only attempting two three-pointers his first two years, Metu jumped it all the way up to 40 while hitting 30% on average.
Even though he improved from the outside, it didn’t help his stock all that much compared to when he tested the waters this time last year. Metu was receiving looks in the early second round and it’s happening again, but the elite crop up top might push him down further.
Metu averaged 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.7 blocks, and 0.8 steals under head coach Andy Enfield, but he lost his captaincy mid-season and was suspended for one half after intentionally hitting a shooter in the groin after his attempt.
Metu fits the mold of a modern small-ball 5 who can maybe develop consistency from the NBA three down the line. After his workout Metu mentioned that he’s been hitting NBA 3s rather consistently throughout this predraft process. Like Bates-Diop, Metu can switch an slide guarding multiple positions while also being comfortable enough from the mid-range to keep defenses honest.
According to The Stepien’s always valuable shot charts, Metu shot nearly 69% at the rim while also spacing the floor well hitting 43.4% of his mid-range opportunities.
McDonough said after Thursday’s workout that Metu surprised him with some weak-hand finishes that will make him want to fire up some more USC film, but he views him as someone who can play both front court slots while also having nice touch around the basket.
“Yeah, he can step out and shoot it. For me in the NBA, I think some 4 and some 5 depending on the matchup because he has a nice touch,” McDonough said. “He can step away from the basket. He’s also got some pretty good athleticism.”
Even though Metu has been trying to add more tricks offensively, he knows his early success will be predicated on his defensive prowess. Metu knows his ability of being able to switch onto guards and keeping it tough will allow him instant rotation minutes and he’s ready to prove that to all the teams working him out.
“Well, I think right away just coming in and having an impact on defense. Being able to guard smaller guys, move my feet, protect the rim,” Metu said. “Offensively, just being versatile. Just being able whatever the team needs me to do. I feel like I’m capable and ready to do it.”