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Getting to Know You: Chimezie Metu brings a high motor and athleticism, but may frustrate with shot selection and defensive awareness

The Kings Herald’s Tony Xypteras breaks down the pros and cons of Chimezie Metu’s abilities.

Sacramento Kings v Portland Trail Blazers Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

There are plenty of new players and smiling faces on the Phoenix Suns roster as we approach the 2023-24 NBA season. James Jones has been active in resetting the roster whilst committing to his vision. It appears that that vision is to have athletic wings in their prime who are willing to come to the Valley and play on a minimum contract.

How do you sell that? You put them on a roster with Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant, and Deandre Ayton. You let them know that there will be plenty of playing time. You let them know that they will be competing for a championship and have numerous opportunities to play on national television.

That strategy appears to have worked, as the Suns’ roster has been expertly filled. Keita Bates-Diop. Drew Eubanks. Yuta Watanabe. Eric Gordon. Chimeztu Metu. While all have something to prove, they appear (on paper) to be more talented and athletic when compared to last season’s bench squad in Phoenix.

Our final edition of ‘Getting to Know You’ features the newly acquired Chimezie Metu from the Sacramento Kings.

Taken 49th in the 2018 NBA Draft, he’s entering his sixth year in the league and has made stops in San Antonio and Sac Town. He stands 6’9” and could see some time as the third-string center. That is, unless the Suns chase down Bol Bol, which would most likely lead to Metu having minutes as a small-ball five or a backup four.

So who is Chimezie Metu? We reached out to Tony Xypteras, writer and podcast host for The Kings Herald. He’s experienced what it is like to route for Metu over the past three seasons and gives us some valuable insight as to what we should expect.

John Voita: Metu played in 66 games last season, but only for 10.4 minutes. What do you attribute this to?

Tony Xypteras: Inconsistency from Chimezie Metu and his peers. Outside of Trey Lyles, the Sacramento Kings could not settle on a bench rotation behind frontcourt starters Domantas Sabonis, Harrison Barnes, and Keegan Murray. Mike Brown tried everything. Richaun Holmes, KZ Okpala, Kessler Edwards, Alex Len, Chimezie Metu, and nothing really stuck.

To Metu’s credit, for most of the year he was the best option of the bunch, particularly as a smallball center where he used his motor and athleticism to beat lumbering centers down the court and score some easy buckets, but it wasn’t enough to convince Coach Brown that he shouldn’t keep tinkering with the rotation.

JV: How would you describe his contributions to the “Beam Team” last season? Offensive, defensive, or blend of both when it comes to strengths? Weaknesses?

TX: Metu was, at times, a valuable offensive player for the Beam Team. It took the Kings longer than you’d like to convince him to stop settling for 3s, but once Brown was able to get that through to him, Metu’s efficiency skyrocketed. He’s a very athletic above-the-rim finisher that can outwork better players when you can get him to focus on what he’s good at, and eliminate everything he isn’t.

The problem is Metu often thought he deserved more. More shots, more playing time, more opportunity. I don’t fault him for that, really, but what he wanted did not always align with what the Kings needed. I do think this mindset can get better with age, and he’s joining a Suns team where his spot on the pecking order could not be more clear.

Metu’s athleticism can cover for some of his defensive mistakes, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there were a lot of mistakes. The Kings were a poor defensive team across the board last season, so a better defensive team may be able to hide him with more effectiveness than the Kings could. To put it bluntly, he looked pretty lost on most defensive possessions.

JV: Who would you compare Metu to, past or present?

TX: Andray Blatche comes to mind, but you could insert any athletic NBA forward/small ball center that really likes to shoot the ball and has just enough offensive skills to be dangerous for both the opponent and his own team.

He also reminds me of former King Willie Cauley-Stein, not for a direct skills-to-skills comparison, but WCS also struggled to accept a role that highlighted what he was good at, and suppressed all the stuff he loved to do but didn’t help the team win games. Those guys never really figured it out.

I thought Metu made some progress there last season. Getting him to largely eliminate the 3-point shot was a huge development that took the Kings almost three years, but it still wasn’t enough for Mike Brown to trust him with consistent minutes.

JV: What can you tell us about his journey as an NBA player?

TX: I have to give Metu credit for his grind. He was drafted 49th by the Spurs in 2018, cut in 2020, and subsequently signed by the Kings, waived by the Kings, and signed again by the Kings over the last several years. They put him through it all: summer league, G-League, training camp invites, and he survived it all. You’ve got to respect that.

The fact that he was able to resurrect his career into an NBA contract with a Finals contender is a huge win.

JV: What was the most frustrating thing watching him play as a fan? Is he a “glad he’s gone” or “wish he stayed” kind of guy?

TX: If I could boil it down to two main points of frustration, it’s this: shot selection and defensive awareness. I think most Kings fans are happy the team appears to have a few better options off the bench heading into next season.

JV: Any final thoughts?

TX: Metu is going to have some exciting moments on the court next season. He is a legitimately great athlete, and you’ll probably be surprised by some of his offensive skills. Kings fans have been waiting for him to put it all together and develop into a consistently helpful player, but we just haven’t seen it yet. Could he figure it out in Phoenix? Sure, maybe. I’d bet against it, but he probably needed this change of scenery to find out.

Playing time will be at a premium for Metu, and the hope is that his high motor and anxiousness to contribute does not equate to poor possessions and bad shot selection. He is the type of player that Frank Vogel can work with and mold into someone who can make an impact on the defensive side of the ball.

How will Metu be utilized within the Suns’ system. Time will tell. Training camp will be his chance to make an impact on the team and an impression on the coaching staff. But he’s young. He’s hungry. He’s talented.

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