Our Suns Player Preview series continues, this time introducing the newest member of the Phoenix Suns to wear jersey number 4. Chimezie Metu wore the same number in his college days playing for the University of Southern California, and the power forward/center of Nigerian descent became a member of the Suns when he signed with the team in early July. Metu was an unrestricted free agent after playing three seasons with the Sacramento Kings.
Metu’s addition to the roster will give Phoenix some depth at both power forward and center, although other moves in free agency have diminished the potential returns he was slated to provide. Drew Eubanks and two-way player Udoka Azubuike will bring the size Metu lacks while Bol Bol, Keita Bates-Diop, and Toumani Camara will bring the wing depth. Chimezie must rely on his athleticism and blue collar approach to crack the rotation and earn minutes.
He does appear to be a Frank Vogel type of player, however. He works and plays hard and, if his defensive acumen increases, that is where he could make his mark. Given the Suns have plenty of offensive firepower, it is on the defensive end where fringe players such a s Metu can earn their keep.
Wing, 6’9”, 225 pounds, 26-years old
In his first two seasons with the Kings, Metu averaged 18.4 minutes, 7.9 points, and 4.7 rebounds. He attempted 223 three-pointers, which accounted for 35.5% of his total shot attempts. Last season, which saw Sacramento introduced new head coach Mike Brown, was much different for Metu. Under Brown, who Chimezie had played for with the Nigerian men’s national team, his minutes diminished and his role changed. He shot only 38 three-pointers – 17.4% of total shot attempts – as Brown attempted to morph his role from floor spreader to interior presence. Someone needed to backup All-Star center Domantas Sabonis and initially the hope was that it would be Metu.
Only one time did Metu play more than 20 minus in a game as Brown tried playing multiple players to fit in behind Sabonis’ 34.6 minutes. Chimezie played in 66 games at 10.4 minutes and averaged 4.9 points and 3 rebounds, and with him roaming the interior, he had some stellar slam dunk highlights. He had 64 dunks which was second on the team despite playing the 10th most minutes.
You may remember this ‘lil dunk over Jock Landale:
As his season progressed, his playing time was less valuable to a team attempting to break a 16-year playoff drought. Alex Len ended up assuming the role of backup center and Metu played a mere 6 minutes in the Kings’ First Round loss in seven games to the Golden State Warriors.
His highest scoring output of the 2022-23 season was a 15-point performance against Golden State on April 7. In is 19 minutes played, Metu scored 15 points, including 2-of-2 from deep. It was the second to last game of the season, so we know how those things go.
Metu signed a one year deal with Phoenix for $2.3 million on July 2. He cannot be traded until December 15 if Phoenix chooses to go that route.
Strengths and Weaknesses
James Jones constructed his roster, not with veterans on the back end of their career looking to snipe a championship, but with tough, gritty players looking to prove something. Metu personifies this as he is someone who has scratched and clawed his way into the league. Originally drafted 49th overall by the San Antonio Spurs in the 2018 NBA Draft, he was waived multiple times before playing himself onto the Kings. He turned that two-way contract into a multi year deal.
He once again finds himself in a situation in which he needs to prove himself to keep his basketball dreams alive. He possesses athleticism and, although he isn’t a great defender, is someone who will play with all of his heart in an effort to stay in the league. His length is his strength as is his ability to finish around the rim. He is a solid cutter, ranking in the 88%tile per B-Ball Index in movement attack rate (The percentage of half court, non misc. and putback possessions that a player derived from off-screen possessions and cuts).
He will give the Suns some semblance of a post presence and is a quality screen assister. His work on the boards isn’t elite, but with 7.7 defensive rebounds per 75 possessions last season, good for the 87%tile, he will contribute. His challenge? He’s behind drew Eubanks, who is a monster on the glass on both ends of the floor.
As for weaknesses? He isn’t a great three-point shooter, so the “thee-and-D” moniker does not apply to Metu as much as we’d like it to. He is a player who will have a hard time finding his role, just as he did in Sacramento. If Frank Vogel can conjure up the right lineups that will accentuate his skill set, he stands a chance.
One Key Factor
Commitment to defense.
Metu will play hard and has a 7’ wingspan. Those are two key components to catching Vogel‘s eye. I can foresee Chimezie being like Jock Landale last year, where we’d see him for a while as the head coach attempted to make sense of who and what he is. The difference between Metu and Landale is the head coach. Monty liked his guys and, despite their performance, he would negate consistency by not allowing them opportunity. Metu’s hustle and effectiveness on the defensive end will ultimately determine how much playing time he sees.
Metu is a player in between. He’s good at many things but not great at anything. He’s a solid defensive rebounder but his rim protection is sub-par. He’s a quality interior rim running offensive player who can’t really shoot. Too small to be a big and not quite athletic enough to be a wing.
As for stats? Let go with the following:
45 games played, 13.4 minutes per game, 5.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, 0.6 assists. With plenty of dunks.
He will get his chances this season as injuries are inevitable. It will be up to him, just as it was in Sacramento, to keep those minutes. My guess is that he will be buried on the bench, come in sporadically and savagely throw down a highlight dunk that will get the casuals questioning why he isn’t playing more, and then he’ll return to the pine.