The numerous acquisitions made this offseason by Phoenix Suns’ GM James Jones have, due to injuries to Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, had an opportunity to get some runway and garner some early-season playing time. You know the number. 13. The number of new faces on the team. Outside of Beal and Damion Lee, everyone has had an opportunity to play; some more than others.
One player who generated high hopes following his performance in the preseason is 26-year-old power forward/center Chimezie Metu. The sixth-year big from the University of Southern California has seen just 9 minutes through the first 7 games of the season, with all of those coming in what we designate as “garbage time”.
It appears that Metu is the low man on the totem pole right now.
Metu had a stellar preseason. Entering this season as a career 29.8% three-point shooter on 1.3 attempts per game, his shot looked pure in the games that do not count.
Chimezie shot 8-of-17 (47.1%) from beyond the arc in the preseason while playing the fifth-most minutes on the team (88.2). He scored 41 points, grabbed 17 rebounds, and had 6 stocks over his 5 appearances. When the regular season began, despite injuries to his teammates that could provide playing time, his minutes evaporated like a monsoon puddle in the Arizona summer heat.
It’s quite simple, really. Frank Vogel noted at the beginning of the season, “There will be an element of winning the job but there will also be an element of, ‘This stretch I’d like to see this combination of play for the next five games or the next 10 games, or I’d like to see a smaller lineup or a bigger lineup. I want to see how these two players play with one another. I don’t want the competition to distract my purpose in exploring the roster and all the combinations that we can look at through the course of the season.”
We witnessed this in real-time as Josh Okogie has been playing the starting power forward position through the first 5 games while, during that same stretch, Keita Bates-Diop played a total of 6 minutes through the first four games. He played 17 productive minutes in the Suns’ fifth game, a butt-kicking at the hands of the Spurs, which prompted Vogel to start him for the next two games.
The same could happen for Metu, albeit most likely not into the starting lineup.
Drew Eubanks has been stellar in spelling Jusuf Nurkic at the backup five, a position the 6’9” Metu could fill, which makes it an easy decision for Vogel not to play him in that capacity. A small-ball five approach from the second team unit hasn’t presented itself as of yet, and seeing as Vogel is in — and will probably continue to be in for quite some time — the experimental phase of roster combinations, it may be a while until Metu sees consistent playing time.
His turn will come. What he does with that opportunity will determine how much we see of him going forward. The Suns’ depth, which is questioned regularly on the national level, will be in flux for the first half of the season as Vogel and his coaching staff determine who can do what and when.
Will Metu be a factor? Perhaps. If not, he is someone the fanbase will chant when a loss occurs, believing that he could have turned the tide. In reality, he is someone who will have a chance to contribute and his playing time rests purely on the production in those minutes.