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The Low-Risk Upside of Chimezie Metu and Damian Jones

Can Chimezie Metu and/or Damian Jones follow in the footsteps of Richaun Holmes?

Sometimes the only thing that young NBA talents need is a consistent role, opportunity to fine-tune various aspects of their games, or a change of scenery. Just because a player has seen multiple rosters throughout the infancy of their careers does not mean they are undeserving of roster spots -- Richaun Holmes is a prime example.

Holmes was unable to find a long-term home in the association before the Kings awarded his performances with increased minutes and opportunity. It wasn't until Richaun's fifth year, his age 26 season, that he came into his own and he is now months from a hefty payday as one of the best starting centers on the open market. The Kings recently inked two low-risk deals with under-25 centers, Chimezie Metu and Damian Jones, where they are likely hoping for a similar growth path. 

Metu, the 49th pick in 2018 out of USC, was acquired this offseason by Monte McNair on a two-way contract after spending his first two seasons in San Antonio. April has been the best month of Metu's short career that resulted in him being rewarded with a non-guaranteed three-year contract that extends into 2022-23. The Kings are Jones third stop of this season alone, having performed multiple 10-day deals throughout the Atlantic Division with the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers. A former first-round pick by the then-defending champion Golden State Warriors, Damian Jones could certainly benefit from consistency and opportunity, and Sacramento may be the team to offer that, having signed him through at least the 2021-22 season (full details of his contract have not been disclosed). 

Metu and Jones offer variance in their styles of play, while sharing a refreshing energy and effort level, on a team that too often lacks in that aspect, and impressive athleticism. If offense is your preference from big men, then 6'10€ Chimezie Metu is likely your cup of tea. In the aforementioned career-best month of April, he has seen the floor in 13 of 14 games (including one start) and averaged 6.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 0.5 blocks on 51.5 percent from the field in 13.8 minutes a night. 

In his junior and final season at USC, Metu led the team in scoring (15.7) and rebounding (7.4) while advertising his offensive versatility primarily playing power forward by knocking down 30 percent of his 40 total attempts from beyond the arc. It is unusual for a player of Metu's size to be as quick and mobile as he is, which has been on full display this season both in the open court and pick-and-roll situations. Converting 69 percent of his attempts at the rim (albeit on a limited sample size) is nothing to scoff at - Holmes finishes 71 percent of those same looks for reference. Tyrese Haliburton certainly must be a joy for big men to engage in a two-man game with, but Metu has proven to be a threat in his own right with an impressive catch radius around the rim, exceptional hands, and ideal timing on his rolls to the basket.

Notice how Chimezie does not mindlessly spring towards the rim after setting a screen but lurks and stutters to remain in the passing lane as to allow proper spacing for ball handlers. Additionally, he expects a pass at nearly all times, with his hands in position to catch then subsequently attempt a shot or dunk at any given moment. Effort and size often convert into offensive rebounds, and Metu is no outlier in that regard either.

Where the big man could eventually separate himself is shooting from beyond the arc or the mid-range, and making plays after putting the ball on the floor. Flashes of both have been displayed on multiple occasions throughout his debut season in Sacramento, and are truly eye-catching.

Aside from the moments of Marvin Bagley at center, the Kings have not rostered a center that could properly space the floor for elite driver and engine De'Aaron Fox. It is unlikely that Metu develops into an offensive hub that requires a high level of decision-making, but continuous progress in those two areas could lead to a role as a reliable backup in the modern NBA if he is not abused on the defensive side of the ball.

Metu's relatively slender frame has led to occasions of him getting bullied in the post and while his footspeed is impressive, he has struggled at times to contain wings on the perimeter. Luke Walon did experiment with Metu at the four against Dallas, which was somewhat successful due to Dorian Finney Smith being the opposing matchup. Effort, athleticism, speed, and a willingness to be physical can certainly be enough for competency at that end and competence should be enough with his adaptable offensive skill set.

If the opposition is running the offense through their big man, as Minnesota does with Karl Anthony-Towns, then the defensive-oriented Damian Jones is likely the more appealing option. Standing at 6'11€ with a 7'4€ wingspan, Jones is no slouch in the athleticism department himself and McNair is notably intrigued by his defensive upside. €œDamian provides a defensive presence and has fit in nicely with our group,€ the rookie GM stated after Jones inked his new deal in Sactown.

In a recent back-to-back against the aforementioned Timberwolves, Jones quite literally made game-winning defensive plays against Towns, the all-star big man. His strength is apparent and this Sacramento roster is desperate for rim protection, currently allowing 67.7 percent at the rim, per Cleaning the Glass, ranking 29th in the league. 

The size that Jones possesses may be beneficial in denying opponents at the rim, as he has seemingly surpassed Hassan Whiteside in the rotation throughout the time of his multiple 10-day contracts. He will need to clean up the fouls as he currently averages exactly six personals per 36 minutes, which may be cleaned up with increased repetitions. Also, we may see Jones look more comfortable when the Kings are no longer running a switch everything defensive scheme leading to him guarding the likes of Bradley Beal, Luka Doncic, and Stephen Curry in isolation.

Jones's athleticism is not apparent in his lateral quickness, although plenty of above-average defensive big men struggle in this aspect, it's crystal clear in his movement up and down the floor, and his verticality. He is currently leading Sacramento's roster in field goal percentage with an impressive 70.8 percent from the field. While the sample is notably low this season since he has floated around with various 10-day deals, Jones attempted 178 field goals last season in Atlanta and converted 68.0 percent of those looks.

Entertaining seems to be a fitting descriptor for Jones, as he has already had numerous highlights or near-highlights throughout his mere six games wearing royal purple. You can see his ability and willingness to sprint in the open court and space the floor vertically - which is poetic considering two attempts were against former rim-running King Willie Cauley-Stein.

 

Similar to Metu, offensive rebounds are not uncommon for Jones due to his refreshing effort levels paired with size and athleticism. Damian Jones has only recorded upwards of 500 minutes in one of his five NBA seasons, and if he can continue to progress in the nuances of the pick-and-roll, rim protection, and defensive discipline then he could work his way into a prototypical rim-running and protecting backup big man. The 318 minutes Metu has logged this season in Sacramento tops his previous two years combined.

While neither Metu nor Jones are going to drastically change the trajectory of the Sacramento franchise, they both carry the potential of backup centers in this league (maybe power forward, in Metu's case?) if given an opportunity to develop their games.

Richaun Holmes came into his own in Sacramento partially due to him earning his first consistent role on an NBA roster, and there is hope that the 25-year-old Damian Jones and 24-year-old Chimezie Metu can follow in his footsteps, likely on a lesser scale. Even if they do not pan out, both of their deals are minimal financial commitments being non-guaranteed in future seasons leaving little risk for Monte McNair.

If either develops into being capable of handling regular (15-20) NBA rotation minutes, then the Kings have value contracts on their hands. If not, little impact on the future or present of the roster will be felt.

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andy_sims
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April 29, 2021 12:54 pm

I had thought that Metu was only 6’9″ at the most, but liked what he did as a small-ball center. Power forward is probably his natural spot, but it sure looks like he’s going to be a reliable threat to stretch the floor with more reps. I’m incredibly grateful that he got his first two years out of college in the Spurs organization. That’s got to go a long way in explaining the soundness of his game.

If he and Jones become solid bench assets, that would be a real boost to whatever plan is being executed here, if any. Really good pickups, I think.

MidtownMike
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April 29, 2021 1:17 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Yeah if you look at the roster as a whole we have some big holes to fill but are doing a decent job of putting together a roster.

Fox, Wright
Hali, Buddy, Davis
Barnes, ?
?, Bags, Metu
Holmes, Jones

Obviously you would hope by now that Bags would have solidified the ? at the starting 4 spot but he hasn’t so we have two backup PFs in that spot. If we can get luck in the draft then the starting one of those two ?’s can be comfortably filled. Then we need a smart signing or a second round pick to develop into filling the last ? (hopefully woodard).

Last edited 6 months ago by MidtownMike
Carl
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April 29, 2021 2:36 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

but are doing a decent job of putting together a roster

No disrespect, but this is a roster that’s winning 40% of its games, or 33 games in an 82 game season. The ‘”value buyer” thing is fine strategically, and I expect a high churn of those guys, but I’m not giving anyone a lot of credit until this team starts actually winning games.

MidtownMike
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April 29, 2021 10:50 pm
Reply to  Carl

I probably attribute more of the loss percentage to the coach than you do which is fine.

I think the above list of players with a decent coach has us winning at a much higher clip

RORDOG
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April 29, 2021 1:17 pm

CBA experts feel free to correct me on this, but I believe the Kings used a portion the MLE on Metu two separate times this season. They used it to initially to sign him to a non-guaranteed camp deal in the offseason, waived him, signed him to a two-way contract, then gave him a 3 year deal with 2 non-guaranteed years. I believe the longest you can sign a player using the minimum exception is 2 years, so it seems like they must’ve used the MLE for his current deal.

andy_sims
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April 29, 2021 1:25 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

I’m utterly lame on the CBA, but Dr. Nunes noted that the contract extends to ’22-’23, so that’s a third year, guaranteed or not. No idea if MLE can be used that way.

Kingsguru21
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April 29, 2021 6:05 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Metu was signed on a ‘summer ‘ contract. That’s why he was waived. The TW deal is how he got paid.

I know Woodard’s deal was signed with a portion of the MLE. So was Ramsey apparently, and yes, Metu’s new deal was signed with part of the MLE.

IMO a good use of the MLE this year by the Kings FO.

Last edited 6 months ago by Kingsguru21
Bluejohn
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April 29, 2021 11:14 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Mayne, you continue to amaze.

RORDOG
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April 30, 2021 2:44 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Thanks. I guess theoretically they can use any exception to sign a summer contract, but it looks like Metu was originally signed for one year during the summer, so I assume it was originally on the minimum.

Kingsguru21
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April 30, 2021 7:33 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

The reason Metu was signed on a summer contract was that they had an open roster spot. Then Glenn Robinson III took that spot. That’s when Metu got waived, and got the TW contract. FWIW, Kaminsky was signed the same way. Camp invites/summer contracts are the same thing. They are make good contracts that become guaranteed once the first day of the season rolls around. Remember the timing of Metu being waived? It was at the same time GRIII contract was being guaranteed.

Now, having said that, in order to sign Metu to a multiple year deal like the Kings have done, they had to use the MLE as it was the only mechanism available to sign a player to a 3 year deal (remember this season still counts as one year). Minimum and Bi Annual only allow for 2 years, as the Room Exception only allows for 2 years as well.

Last edited 6 months ago by Kingsguru21
Kingsguru21
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