For the San Antonio Spurs, forward Chimezie Metu provides the opportunity to develop a modern big man.
After drafting guard Lonnie Walker in the first round of the 2018 NBA Draft, general manager R.C. Buford selected 6-foot-10 forward Chimezie Metu from USC. The 21-year-old power forward dominated the PAC-12 in his junior season as a Trojan, averaging 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game.
His potential as a rim-runner could dynamically change the way the San Antonio operates on both ends of the floor. Not only can he create his own opportunities around the basket, but his switchability and versatility may take some of the defensive pressure off of All Star LaMarcus Aldridge near the rim.
For years, center Tiago Splitter took on the role of defensive anchor in the painted area as Tim Duncan aged. Metu could fulfil that kind of role for Aldridge in the latter stages of his career.
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It can be deducted that Metu, like many of the team’s young players before him, will spend a significant amount of time in the G League before earning a consistent role off the team’s bench. Playing with the Austin Spurs eases the transition from college to the NBA for players like Metu who serve as long term prospects rather than ‘win-now’ players.
Playing time may also be scarce because of the emergence of center Jakob Poetl, who was acquired in the swap of forward Kawhi Leonard and guard DeMar DeRozan. The 22-year-old has more to prove but will step into a consistent role whether it be off the bench or in place of current center Pau Gasol.
Metu may become a valuable spark plug in the long-term, but the bar is set very low in his first season. He’s got many players ahead of him on the roster, so his playing time is extremely flexible. Head coach Gregg Popovich tends to prioritize veterans over young players when distributing minutes, but if Metu proves that he’s ready for a consistent role, he could provide one off the pine by as soon as December.
San Antonio opted to commit to Metu over their previous second round pick, forward Jaron Blossomgame, who had a very strong Summer League in Las Vegas. Clearly, Popovich and his staff see the potential for Metu to be something special if they’ve brought him in on a three-year rookie deal.
Over the course of the next three seasons, Metu can learn and grow from some of the best brains in basketball. Whether or not that translates to the league immediately is to be determined.