The San Antonio Spurs recently signed forward Chimezie Metu to a three-year rookie deal after an impressive summer league.
San Antonio’s scouting department has worked wonders over the years, finding value deep in the NBA Draft. With the 49th pick in the 2018 Draft, they took a flier on a talented combo big man from USC.
Metu led the Trojans in a highly efficient junior year where he averaged 15.7 points and 7.4 rebounds on 52.3 percent shooting from the field. The rim-running big man was drafted for his potential as a versatile two-way player.
Both general manager R.C. Buford and head coach Gregg Popovich have found valuable spark plugs in the PAC-12 over recent years. They’ve selected players from the Conference of Champions in four of the last five drafts including forward Kyle Anderson and guard Dejounte Murray. The duo seems to be operating under the mindset of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
It’s almost guaranteed that Metu, like most Spurs rookies before him, is in for significant playing time with the team’s G-League affiliate Austin Spurs over the course of his rookie year. With a full roster set on competing in the Western Conference, it’s safe to say that Metu will be a long-term project for San Antonio. This doesn’t mean that they don’t have high hopes for him.
Both this year’s pick and last season’s selection of forward Jaron Blossomgame are proof that the Spurs are in pursuit of a modern big man. Versatility is key for bigs in 2018 and San Antonio has yet to truly capitalize on the trend. With the exception of Davis Bertans, the Spurs’ frontcourt rotation consists of traditional big men such as Pau Gasol and Jakob Poetl.
Their franchise player LaMarcus Aldridge fits the role as well, mainly focusing on post-game and paint play. The addition of Metu provides a spark of energy that may help transition to a faster pace of play.
Summer League gave a great glimpse into the potential of Metu’s game. Despite playing just three games, the second-round pick averaged 12.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in 23.5 minutes per game. The stats don’t jump off the box score at first glance, but it was the on-court product that truly justified Metu’s three-year deal.
All things considered, athleticism is only a compliment to Metu’s game. His fluidity with the ball and obvious knowledge of the game showed why Buford and Popovich believe in his potential. Instincts are just as important as production in Summer League. Metu clearly understood his role and executed the game plan better than anyone imagined. His knack for setting screens and finding lanes to the rim was reminiscent of a young Clint Capela.
In addition to his skills as a screener, Metu exemplified incredible ball handling skills for a forward/center. His size may give the impression of a sluggish big, but Metu does a great job of creating his own path to the rim quickly and easily.
Potential is the keyword when looking at Metu. At just 21 years old, he’s only just begun his development into a legitimate NBA player. With the proper training and guidance, San Antonio may have found their future starting center deep in the second round.