Within one week, the Kings have tipped their hand as to what their depth at power forward will be this upcoming season. They drafted Keegan Murray out of Iowa, then they picked up the option on Trey Lyles’ contract, and now they’ve guaranteed the $1.9M for Chimezie Metu.
As an athletic guy with size, Metu has what it takes to be a spark of energy off the bench that can hit shots with confidence. Though the outlook isn’t seeming to promise Metu many minutes in the rotation, a smaller role may be perfect for him to establish a more consistent reputation.
After minimal and forgettable play in three seasons for the Spurs and Kings, Metu had his best season last year with Sacramento. While being his best, it is vital to note that it was nevertheless marred by inconsistency.
In 60 games last year, which included 20 starts, Metu averaged 8.9 points on 30.6% shooting from three in addition to 5.6 rebounds.
From the end of the bench, he didn’t play at all in the first 8 games last season, but with the theme of everything going wrong in Sacramento in full swing, Metu suddenly found himself in the starting lineup in his fourth game played.
Metu was consistently a starter from November through about Christmas, but like many of his teammates at the time, he just wasn’t part of the bigger answer. By the end of December, Metu was shooting 26.8% from deep.
To put it in the simplest terms, for Metu to succeed, he has to hit three-pointers successfully and convincingly. As soon as he outed himself early on last year as an insufficient threat, he sacrificed any reasons for coaches to keep him out there and self-sabotaged his opportunity to carve out a specific role.
However, given the low level of talent on the Kings roster then, minutes weren’t completely taken off the table.
In January and February, Metu continued his inconsistent play and thus maintained his less predictable usage. But after some time following the Domantas Sabonis acquisition, Metu began to smell a chance for some minutes. With a major roster shakeup that bore witness to Buddy Hield’s departure, there were shots to be had for those on the bench.
It wasn’t like Metu came out on a tear in late February or anything like that, but with a slow influx of opportunity, Metu began to rectify his season. In the time between the Sabonis trade and Sabonis’ bone bruise against the Suns on March 20, Metu provided 42.9% three-point shooting on about 2 attempts a game.
In the aftermath of what was Sabonis’ final game played against Phoenix the role for many guys expanded, including for Metu, and there was a clear opportunity to showcase some value in the final stretch of the season.
The Kings played in Indiana for that first game without Sabonis, and it was then that Metu had the best game of his career in terms of shooting. In 25 minutes off the bench, he scored 22 points on 8 of 11 shooting, including 3 of 4 from three, offering a glimpse into his potential to erupt and transform into Mezie Mamba.
He closed out the season from beyond the arc nicely by his standards—fairly well by typical standards—by shooting 36% in those final 9 games.
It’s that post-deadline timeframe that serves as the closest thing fans will see from a best case version of Chimezie Metu for next year’s team. In the games following the acquisition of Sabonis, Metu shot 39.6% from deep in 22 games played. This also happened to include his 41.7% clip on catch and shoot three-pointers.
What Metu proved in the final two months or so of the season was that he can be a great piece if he can be a legitimate threat from beyond the three-point line. His athleticism and the energetic mark he leaves are obviously components of his value, but his place in a rotation, again, rests heavily on his deep range shooting.
At the start of next season, Chimezie Metu may again be at the end of the bench fighting for minutes, but if he can keep things simple as a spot up three point shooter off the bench and take advantage of opportunities, then he’ll be able to make the most of his minutes and possibly earn some more time.
Who knows? Maybe his future is brighter? Metu played for Mike Brown on the Nigerian National Team for the most recent Summer Olympics, and in 3 games played in the group phase, the 6’9″ forward hit 7 of 11 attempts from beyond the arc for a 63.6% clip.
Maybe there’s a huge wealth of potential that is hard to see, but that’s not worth betting on.
Sure, he may not tap into perpetual Mezie Mamba level at any point, but there’s still a chance for him to post a respectable NBA career if he can settle in as a consistent shooting threat.