Get to know: Chimezie Metu brings high motor skills and athleticism, but can frustrate with shot selection and defensive awareness

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 while committing to his vision. It appears 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 it? You put them on a list with Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Durant and Deandre Ayton. You let them know there will be plenty of play time. You let them know they will compete for a championship and have numerous opportunities to play on national television.

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

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

Recorded as number 49 in 2018 NBA Draft, he is 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 a third-string center. That is, unless the Suns chase Bol Bol, which will most likely lead to Metu having minutes as a small-ball five or backup four.

So who is Chimezie Metu? We reached out to Tony Xypteras, author and podcast host of The King’s Herald. He has experienced what it’s like to drive for Metu over the past three seasons and gives us valuable insight into what to expect.

John Win: 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 couldn’t 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 sticks.

To Metu’s credit, he was the best option in the pack for most of the year, especially as a small-ball 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 to convince Coach Brown not to keep tinkering with the rotation.

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

TX: Metu was a valuable offensive player for Beam Team at times. 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 finisher above the rim who can outplay better players when you can get him to focus on what he’s good at and eliminate anything he’s not.

The problem is that Metu often thought he deserved more. More shots, more playing time, more opportunities. I don’t really blame him, but what he wanted didn’t always line up with what the Kings needed. I think that mindset can improve with age, and he joins a Suns team where his spot in the pecking order couldn’t be more clear.

Metu’s athleticism can cover up some of his defensive flaws, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you there were plenty of flaws. The Kings were a bad defensive team across the board last season, so a better defensive team might 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 can insert any athletic NBA forward/small ball center who really likes to shoot the ball and has just enough offensive ability to be dangerous to both the opposition and his own team.

He also reminds me of former King Willie Cauley-Stein, not for a direct skill vs. skill comparison, but WCS also struggled to accept a role that emphasized what he was good at and suppressed all the things he loved to low, but did. not help the team win games. Those guys never really figured it out.

I thought Metu made some progress there last season. Getting him to virtually eliminate the 3-point shot was a huge development that took the Kings nearly 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 laugh. He was drafted 49th overall by the Spurs in 2018, cut in 2020, and subsequently signed by the Kings, waived by the Kings, and re-signed by the Kings over the last several years. They put him through it all: Summer League, G-League, training camp invitations, and he survived it all. You have to respect that.

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

JV: What was the most frustrating thing about 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 that 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 field next season. He’s a legitimately big athlete, and you’ll likely be surprised by some of his offensive abilities. 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? Perhaps. I’d bet against it, but he probably needed this scene change to find out.

Playing time will be at a premium for Metu, and the hope is that his high motor skills and desire to contribute do not equate to poor possessions and poor 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 used in the Solar system. Time will tell. Training camp will be his chance to make an impact on the team and make an impression on the coaching staff. But he is young. He is hungry. He is talented.

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