Christmas Day was another bad one for the Phoenix Suns, as they fell to 14-15 on the season at the hands of the Dallas Mavericks. One of their main foes in Luka Doncic, going for 50 points in The Valley, to ensure the Suns will enter 2024 with a whole host of problems and no clear solution yet on how to fix them.
With Kevin Durant seemingly frustrated by how the season has gone so far - and even role players such as Eric Gordon chiming in when speaking to the media - righting this ship is not going to be an easy task. Then again, any organization that has Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, isn't exactly going to get a lot of sympathy from around the league.
It is also fair to point out however that as a result of the Durant trade, the Suns don't have either the young players or the draft picks to make meaningful trades in order to get better. Their single second round pick from this year's draft, Toumani Camara, now with the Portland Trail Blazers and having himself a nice little rookie season there.
Any progress the Suns do make then is going to have to come internally, which is why Chimezie Metu simply has to get more minutes moving forward.
On what was a tough loss for the franchise on Christmas, Metu's play was perhaps the only bright spot for the Suns. In 34 minutes played, easily his highest of the season, Metu had 23 points and a superb 19 rebounds for the team. That was second in points only to Grayson Allen's 32, and more even than Durant (16) and Devin Booker (20).
It is just unfortunate for Metu that his big game came at a time when the stars failed to hold up their end of the bargain. The deal for the role players in Phoenix all season has been, and will continue to be this - exceed your role even slightly while the stars do their thing, and good things are going to happen for this group.
So on another night when Durant or Booker have it going - and if Metu can produce as he did against the Mavericks - then the Suns are going to start to win games. Metu got so much playing time because starting big Jusuf Nurkic was missing again due to a personal matter, but it is telling that head coach Frank Vogel trusted what he saw on the court, and amended Metu's minutes accordingly.
Backup center Drew Eubanks started the game, and he finished with two points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes of action, Nice as he has been at times this season, we are getting further and further removed from the positive impact it felt like he was having about six weeks ago. This game did nothing to suggest that is going to change, which is why Metu needs more run moving forward.
He was everything the Suns needed of a backup big in this game, running the floor diligently and having a presence in the paint which has been lacking for this group. Although his points were hugely important, it is that defensive end where Metu can make a bigger difference than even Nurkic in future, and why he has to get more game time as the team looks for ways to win games.
Metu's skills are also a nice fit next to Allen or Gordon, because at the center position he combines a bit of what Nurkic and Eubanks do. He is not as good a passer out out of the post or screener as Nurkic, but he will take a 3-point shot if it presents itself. The 31.3 percent he is averaging not a good number, but the sample size is small and there's reason to believe that can improve some.
On the other end, Metu is a more agile and athletic big than Eubanks, and he has a similar motor and desire to want to get to the ball that his teammate has. When you put all of that together, it is kind of surprising Metu hasn't gotten more run this season up to this point. In pick-and-roll situations as well, he does just enough when rolling or popping to be able to make some opponents pay.
The Suns have two huge games against the Charlotte Hornets and Houston Rockets to close out 2023, and both are an opportunity for Metu to stake his claim for more minutes. He could have real joy against the Hornets - but if he can have a positive impact in that Rockets game - then he will undoubtedly be the full-time backup moving forward. This should be Metu's chance to shine.