The Phoenix Suns dropped to 13-11 on the NBA season on Wednesday night, as two former players in Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson came back to The Valley to help the Brooklyn Nets get a win. This was the first game in which Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal all played together, although the reality of where they are may now be setting in.
Prior to that, the Suns carved out a 119-116 victory over the Golden State Warriors, a game that will forever be remembered as the moment when Draymond Green sold the most forceful flop of all time, and was subsequently suspended indefinitely by the NBA. Credit Suns' big Jusuf Nurkic - the player who Green hit - with how he handled the situation as well.
Lost amongst all of the dramatics of those two contests has been Chimezie Metu, who has started the last two games for the organization and performed well.
Metu has gotten these starts because Grayson Allen has been out with illness and injury for the last few games - while against the Nets - Gordon was a late scratch himself. When either of those players returns, it is probable that Metu will return to the bench. It is hard to argue with this, as Allen has been one of the team's best players all season.
But in a lineup also featuring Nurkic, Metu has done really well to play 25 minutes against the Warriors, and 20 minutes against the Nets. That Warriors game in particular was possibly Metu's best performance of the season - certainly on the offensive end - and shot selection like this when sharing the court with Booker is exactly what head coach Frank Vogel wants to see.
On the subject of the defensive end, when asked by Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic how he felt he played against the Warriors, Metu had this very measured response;
"I think just being disciplined on a guy like (Andrew) Wiggins. I think just trying to keep him in front, make him shoot contested shots, and then also my activity on defense. Just making sure that it's where it needs to be, and I feel like I did an ok job. Could be better."- Chimezie Metu
In the win over the Warriors, not only did Metu play his part defensively, but he also finished the game with a team high +28. Defensively his length allows him to do some things that Allen cannot, even if Allen is underrated defensively, and is the much better 3-point shooter.
With that being said, Metu has shot an impressive 38.5 percent from deep across four games in December, and he mentioned to Rankin in that same posst-game media availability that the five 3-pointers he took (making three of them) kind of just "came out in the wash" with how the Warriors were guarding him while the likes of Booker were on the court.
Metu might not be playing as many minutes as guys off the bench - his 20 was behind the 27 apiece of Nassir Little and Jordan Goodwin in the loss to the Nets - but he has given added length and those aforementioned defensive chops to a starting group that will struggle on that end. Especially now that all three star players are back on the court.
With other role players like Yuta Watanabe and Bol Bol struggling for consistency, and with Allen and Gordon will out, this was the perfect time for Metu to step up. In doing so, he showed the front office why they went out and got him this offseason. He is capable of playing with the stars, defending at an above average rate, and hitting some shots from deep.
He can achieve this while staying in front of some longer opponents such as Wiggins, and really his emergence can give the Suns another way to both hurt and suffocate opponents. This run won't last for ever, but if nothing else, Metu is showing coach Vogel that come the playoffs, he can be trusted in spot minutes to perform his role well.