A center not named Ayton: Suns work out USC big man Chimezie Metu
PHOENIX – With Tyson Chandler entering the final year of his contract, Alex Len due to become an unrestricted free agent and Alan Williams signed to a non-guaranteed deal, the Phoenix Suns most definitely need to address the center position for next season.
Of course, many expect that need to be addressed with the selection of Deandre Ayton with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.
That day, however, is still three weeks away. In the meantime, the Suns are doing their due diligence.
On Thursday, that meant working out USC junior center Chimezie Metu.
At 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, Metu became the first true big man to visit the Suns during the predraft process.
“Well, I think, right away just come in and have an impact on defense, being able to guard smaller guys, move my feet, protect the rim. And offensively, just being versatile,” he said. “Whatever the team needs me to do, I feel like I’m capable of doing it and ready to do it.”
Metu was part of a six-player workout that included Ohio State’s Keita Bates-Diop, Virginia’s Devon Hall, Colorado’s George King, Xavier’s J.P. Macura and Kansas’ Malik Newman.
In 2017-18, Metu enjoyed his best season at USC, averaging 15.7 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks per game. Also, he added some range to his game, going 12-of-40 from beyond the arc after attempting just three 3s over his first two seasons.
Suns general manager Ryan McDonough believes Metu’s role in the NBA will either be at the 4 or the 5 depending on the matchup “because he’s got a nice touch, he can step away from the basket. He’s also got pretty good athleticism.
“I was impressed today,” McDonough continued, “with a couple of his weak-hand finishes, a couple of his left-hand finishes. I guess I have to dig into the film a little more at USC. I didn’t see that as much in college, but he did it out here today. He’s a unique player.”
This year’s draft class is deep at the center position, though it’s considered top-heavy with Ayton leading the group.
”He’s good,” Metu said, when asked for a scouting report of Ayton.
After Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba and Wendell Carter are among the bigs expected to hear their names called early on June 21.
“Well, I think I’m just as good as them; maybe better than even some of them,” said Metu, who also met with the Suns at the NBA Combine. “But I’m not really worried about those guys. I’m just worried about myself and just trying to show the scouts and the GMs what I can do, and show them that I’m worthy of being picked in the first round.”
The Suns were Metu’s fifth workout, following visits with the Jazz, Lakers and Nets, and ahead of scheduled stops in Chicago, Denver, Minnesota and Portland.
“They’ve all been five-star hotels so (all the traveling) hasn’t been that bad,” he said, smiling.
The freakish length of Bates-Diop
At the combine, Bates-Diop caught a lot of people’s attention with a wingspan that measured 7foot-3.25 and a standing reach of 8-foot-10.5.
“I didn’t think I’d be that long” he said.
That length has drawn more eyes to Bates-Diop in the days leading up the draft.
A Big Ten Player of the Year and second-team All-America, according to several publications, Bates-Diop nearly averaged a double-double in his fourth season at Ohio State.
Perhaps more impressive than the 19.8 points and 8.7 rebounds per game was his ability to shoot the ball, especially from beyond the arc where he made 35.9 percent of his attempts.
“One of the things that stood out in the workout here today and then watching him at Ohio State was he’s able to step out and make shots from the perimeter with his length. He can get in the paint or in the post area and score over the top and then get to the basket and extend,” McDonough said.
“Defensively, he’s really versatile (able to guard 2 thru 5). Again, that length, that freakish wingspan helps and he also slides pretty well.”
J.P. Macura hurt during workout
The post-workout three-minute run had five of the six draft prospects participating. Macura did not run after hurting his shoulder during the workout.
“He actually had a heck of finish. He drove to the basket, lowered his shoulder, created contact and kind of spun in a left-handed finish for an and-1,” McDonough said, adding it appeared Macura suffered a stinger with 20 minutes left in the workout.
“He was feeling better at the end of the workout, but obviously in this scenario, with the draft three weeks away, we had gotten through most of the workout at that point so we were cautious with him. We hope he’s OK. I think he has a few days before his next workout, so our training staff will do whatever we can to get him ready to go for the next team.”