Are Kings in Buyout Market or Bought-In to Metu?

SAN ANTONIO, TX - FEBRUARY 1: Chimezie Metu #7 of the Sacramento Kings reacts during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on February 1, 2023 at the AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

When the trade deadline came and went, many Kings fans were left to wonder about what they view as holes on their team’s roster. Chief among them—considering the amount of perceived options ahead of the deadline—was at the backup 5.

It’s no wonder then that many have pivoted with enthusiasm to the buyout market.

The problem with the buyout market is that once a player and their team agree on the buyout, the player becomes a free agent. Thus it is the player’s decision to choose which team he’d like to play for. This is why those who are bought out—whether it was Sam Cassell to the Celtics in 2008, or Markieff Morris to the Lakers in 2020—generally pick a heavyweight contender.

Sure, the Kings sit at third in the Western Conference at the all-star break, but a 57-game stint without previous playoff experience does not make a team a championship contender overnight, even if that team is undeniably on the right track.

So the age old issue of attracting free agents to Sacramento remains. 

There is little doubt that the Kings are on an upward trajectory that is attracting the attention of those around the league, but many of these players in question are a little more set on the here and now in terms of timeline.

On the most recent episode of our Kings Talk podcast, this issue was laid out as one of several hurdles, yet the idea of adding a semi-lucrative name to bolster the third-ranked team in the conference is one that’s nearly impossible to refrain from, even if it is unlikely.

There, names like Nerlens Noel were discussed. The former first-round pick is certainly regarded as a buyout candidate after the Pistons were unable to find the right deal to include him in. 

Along with Noel, Dario Saric came up. After being moved to Oklahoma City, the Serbian has been highlighted as a buyout target. While not regarded as a center the way Noel is, Saric offers a compelling argument given the fact Chimezie Metu—who, in his own right, could arguably more a 4 than a 5—is currently backing up three-time all-star Domantas Sabonis. Comparing Saric and Metu, they stand at about the same height and are both listed at 225 lbs, but Saric is simply the more skilled player in terms of offense and rebounding.

However, both Noel and Saric likely fall under the category of a player looking for a contender. That isn’t ruling Sacramento out entirely, but reality likely dictates that the Kings won’t be floating near the top of such players’ considerations.

The same goes for Kevin Love, who also makes a ton of sense, especially considering Metu’s place in the rotation.

Wednesday night, Shams Charania reported that Love and the Cavaliers were coming to an agreement on a buyout. The rumor prior to the news was that the 34-year-old big was not pushing for an exit out of Cleveland, but here it is.

Kevin Love would provide veteran (and championship) leadership, adequate three-point shooting, and rebounding, but the Kings are not likely to be atop his list. The vet is connected to other teams, such as the Suns in order to join that party or the Warriors because of his childhood connection to Klay Thompson. (Isn’t it hilarious recalling that 2014 NBA rumors were ruminating on the idea of Golden State trading Thompson to Minnesota in exchange for Love and an over-the-hill Kevin Martin?)

Of course, as the Sacramento Kings, being subjected to the idea that “x player doesn’t want to play there” is not an unfamiliar phenomenon, but another factor in all of this is what Sac’s front office wants to do. That may just as well nip buyout candidate talks in the bud.

Put another way, outside of struggling to attract names, perhaps the Kings view Chimezie Metu as part of their core.

To start, this is not an endorsement of that notion rather than an observation. 

Mike Brown came into training camp and into the season with high expectations for three members of the Nigerian National Team that he coached for the Olympics the summer prior. In addition to KZ Okpala and Chima Moneke, Metu was the third.

In fact, with more than twice as many NBA games under his belt than Okpala, Metu was likely viewed as less than a project than the other two, especially considering he closed last season out playing consistent minutes for this team. His place in this league was the most secure.

In hindsight, the concept that Metu could be utilized in the rotation should never have been completely ruled out. And that is particularly true when considering the fact that Richaun Holmes was not the  surefire answer at the backup 5 as many had hoped.

In one sense, the fact the majority of the fanbase is engaging in discourse focused on improving the backup center role is within itself a great illustration of Metu’s standing.

However, in another, Metu has exceeded expectations this season and has stood out as the most consistent option out of him, Holmes, and Neemias Queta. 

Who would have realistically thought Chimezie Metu would be a nightly rotational guy for the foreseeable future here at the break?

Despite closing last season strong (40.5% on 2.6 attempts per in his final 16 games), his three-point shooting is a complete non-factor, but even still, he’s utilized his athleticism to run the floor well and play, at times, above the rim. Plus, he’s shown at least some grasp of the defensive fundamentals Mike Brown wants to see.

Combine coach Brown’s trust with Metu’s slight yet discernible improvement and there’s a possibility that the Kings view him as part of the organization’s “core” that Monte McNair talked about last week. He fits in terms of age, athleticism, and length. 

Though, if one’s being honest, it’s clearly the head coach’s trust in the player that stands out the most. There’s little doubt that if McNair gets the opportunity to find a great backup to Sabonis that can fulfill that role for a few years without disrupting the core, he’ll find a way to add him, but it won’t be in the buyout market. 

For now—until the offseason, at least—Metu’s their guy, for better or worse.

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Dan Smith
Dan Smith
1 month ago

I’d really like the Kings to make a move for Saric or Noel. Either would be good in my eyes, Saric brings rebounding, passing & shooting…and Noel provides defense, rebounding & inside scoring. I’d consider releasing Len to pick up one of them, and still hang onto Metu. Hopefully one of them would be interested in coming to Sac. I like Mezie and his game, just think they’d be better with a guy suited for center rather than running out two PFs in Lyles & Metu.