Chimezie Metu: Can Spurs’ Young Big Man Make the Jump?

When Chimezie Metu was drafted with the 49th pick of the 2018 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs knew the player were getting. After intensely scouting him for the final two seasons of his college basketball career at USC, the Spurs understood Metu was a project but they believed in his potential. Metu signed a three-year deal before his rookie season, which is unusual for a second round pick.

There is a low success rate among second round picks but Metu has tools that may be able to translate to the NBA. It is unclear, however, whether he’ll be able to show enough development to reach his full potential.

Chimezie Metu: What He’s Done So Far

Two seasons into his NBA career, Metu has play just 166 minutes in 35 games for San Antonio. He has divided his time between the end of the bench in the NBA and the G League. The results have been mixed.

In the NBA, he has been hyperactive and mistake-prone. But Metu has been better in the G League, particularly this season. In seven games in Austin, he’s averaging 16.3 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks in 26.1 minutes per game.

Possessing impressive athleticism, much of his potential lies on the defensive side of the court. Metu’s mobility allows him to move his feet well on the perimeter and his leaping ability allows him to block shots at the rim. Offensively, he shows flashes as a post player, an athletic roll man and even as floor spacer.

Metu is still a work in progress but he has already looked better this season compared to last season. Perhaps some of the improvement can be attributed to playing over the summer in the FIBA World Cup. Metu averaged 9.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 18.8 minutes per game for Nigeria. He also shot an impressive 5-for-9 on three-pointers, albeit with a closer three-point line.

What the Future Has in Store

Against the Boston Celtics earlier this season, the 22-year-old had the best game of his short NBA career. In just nine minutes, Metu had seven points, eight rebounds, two blocks, two assists, no turnovers and no fouls and showcased a more controlled level of activity.

Metu has a very thin frame, weighing in at 225 pounds — much closer to the size of Marco Belinelli than that of LaMarcus Aldridge. He’ll have to continue to bulk up in order play center.

He’s flashed some interesting perimeter skills, including being able to attack a closeout while out on the perimeter and knock down pull-up shots off the dribble, which could allow him to play power forward in the NBA.

Metu is a capable passer and displays a promising post-up game, with a fair amount of skill.

Metu is capable of facing-up and knocking down a jumper over his defender or utilizing spin moves and his athleticism to get off a solid-looking hook shot. Despite his impressive athleticism, he’s been a poor finisher in the NBA, converting only 55.6% of his shots within three feet.

Metu’s path forward is unclear with Aldridge, Jakob Poeltl, Trey Lyles and Rudy Gay all ahead of him. Barring injury, it seems unlikely that Metu will carve out a role this season. With a full roster, there is also the risk that he may be waived if someone the Spurs want to add becomes available.

As long as he’s on the roster, Metu will need to continue to work on his game to prove that he is worth the investment ahead of the final, non-guaranteed year of his deal. He will have to show that he is capable of making the jump to contributing in the NBA. If he can’t, it will be a gamble that didn’t pay off. If Metu can, however, then it would be another Spurs success story.